So you’ve written a short story. You’ve revised it, edited it, and condensed it down to 3,500 (or fewer!) words of perfection. Then a thought crosses your mind: After all that work cutting out words—should I now add thousands more and turn my short story into a novel? The answer is…maybe.
Five Ways To Turn Your Short Story Into A Novel
1. Search The Main Plot To Reveal New Stories
Examine the main plot of your story to see if it lends itself to more intense development. Any additions to the story should be organic, so seek out tangential elements that could benefit from embellishment or conflicts that can be altered to further the main themes and story. Is there any part of your story that offers more possibilities for your characters to discover?
2. Explore Your Setting
Walk around the world you have created. Notice every single detail. Take what you know about the setting your characters live in and give it life. Some of the best novels use a dynamic setting that changes as the story progresses (or forces the characters to take action) to influence the main conflict and give more depth to the characters. As you get more adept at this, you’ll notice that the setting acts like a character itself.
3. Add New Characters
This one can be tricky, so be cautious. Only add characters if they can occur organically. You want these additional characters to contribute to the flavor of the story, not detract from it. If a new character is just rehashing another character’s struggle or simply functions as a “real world” narrator, it may be a sign to go in a different direction.
4. Include More Subplots
Sometimes more is better, and sometimes more is…too much. Adding too many subplots may convolute your main plot. Look at your existing characters’ backstories for something from the past that makes them act the way they do. Then, explore that underlying motivation as your character learns over the course of the story to better understand him- or herself.
5. Look Beyond Your Story’s Conclusion
This might be a little different than the other tips, but it’s just as effective. Think of your short story as a prequel to the “main” action as opposed to something that needs lengthening. What happens to the characters after your short story’s conclusion? Is the conflict really resolved? Determine the future timeline of your characters and use that as the basis for your novel.
Common Pitfalls When Turning A Short Story Into A Novel
- Overembellishment: Don’t describe a scene just for the sake of describing. Find a natural stopping point and stop. Verbose language will make your audience want to stop reading.
- Endless Dialogue: Never extend conversations longer than necessary. If a point has been made, move on. Readers will notice when the pacing of your novel changes from lively to mind-numbingly slow.
- Too Many Characters: Be selective when adding new characters, because having an overabundance of story lines will only confuse your readers and complicate the plot. Also, the more characters you introduce, the more characters you have to create resolutions for. We can’t all be George R. R. Martin.
- Unnatural Subplots: Subplots need to happen naturally and somehow relate to the main plot of the novel. If your subplot has no connection to the main conflict and/or doesn’t help the characters involved grow in some way, it’s probably worth eliminating.
Not All Short Stories Are Meant To Be Novels
The simple truth is—not all short stories are meant to become novels. Short fiction is written with one purpose in mind: To tell a story concisely and with few words. While a novel also needs to be concise, it often involves using about 25 times the number of words a short story uses to do so. The easiest way to know if your story can become a novel is to use the tips noted here to determine your story’s potential. If they don’t yield the right results, the only words you should add to your short story are: The End.
QUESTION: Which of the above five tips strikes you as the strongest advice? Would it work for you?
Look beyond your conclusion. It has made me rethink one of my endings and possibly extend it from 2.5k to 5k.
I like all the suggestions, but the first one got my attention. I like the idea of more possibilities for my characters to discover. Very nice post. Thanks, Margo
These are great tips! I really like tip 5 about short stories being ‘prequels’ to novels.
The facts are that: these tips generally are good for writers, especially, newbies, because, even if one knows them or any of them before,but now by revisiting them frequently, particularly at the time of writing, must refresh the person, and by the time you are refreshed, you put in most of your best, resulting into more quality and quantity outputs.
As such, on behave of all, I say thank Relief Board Staff, for these tips.
The saying goes thus: nobody ever knows all, and more heads are better than one.
All the five points are very useful
I like the points, but I don’t understand how writers go on for 20 pages on the same topic.
This is wonderful. Thanks for the tips!