Filling in the Gaps

There’s nothing more exciting than returning to your first draft and realising that your current draft is nothing more than just bare bones for a more exciting story. Of course, it could be absolutely terrifying as well. When approaching the daunting task of fleshing out your novel there is no formula that you can just “plug and chug” to instantly get a full fledged novel. So where do you add?

The answer is: wherever it needs to be added on to.

The easiest place to start (in my experience) is to add in scenes and chapters you need or want to add. You may have made mental notes while writing your initial draft that you may or may not have wanted to include something. For example, last NaNo, I made a decision to cut out three chapters because I initially thought they didn’t really belong anywhere in the story. After letting my NaNo draft cool a bit, I’ve decided that I’m going to go back and add those scenes rather than hold them off for another story (primarily because I have no current justification for a second novel).

Don’t try and shoehorn them in to where you think they ought to go right away – instead, tack them on to the end of your current draft and rearrange them once you have all of your scenes and chapters written. Always keep notes on where things are in your novel’s time line – especially when you’re adding scenes and chapters. Make notes on a note card. Using a writing program? Leave a note on the file reminding yourself where this fits into the story. Some programs are detailed enough in the file data that they will even let you say where in time it is in the plot. I’ve found that braving my manuscript to figure out where I had planned on writing it doesn’t always work out as planned. That’s primarily because of how my first drafts usually end up being a series of chapters that are (more often than not) out of sequence. However, I tend to reorder the story once I know I have everything I need in my story.

After you’re done adding chapters and scenes, go to scenes that require more fleshing out or needing smoother transitions to thee scenes and chapters. Now that you have everything you want in your story, adding details, crucial bits of narration and transitioning between scenes and points of view become easier. Expanding what you already have is easy because all you’re doing is tying up loose ends and clarifying ideas and events that may be unclear to your future reader. Even a story that is “to be continued” needs to be tied up in a neat enough bow that the story of that particular book feels complete while leading into then next installment. Learning to contain your story is a lot like containing the ideas you share in a blog post – it isn’t easy when your brain is running a mile a second with thousands of seemingly good ideas.

Once you’ve done this, you should find that your story as a whole is complete, so that you can move on to tightening your plot – but that’s another post.

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