And now, Scary-Crayon presents...
How to write
a 50,000 word novel
in a month
If you regularly visited Scary-Crayon during November 2004, you probably noticed a number of changes in the site's focus. For one, text articles took a backseat to Dusty Plastic HELL: Hot Flash comics, and, among other things, if you read the Site Talk block on the sidebar of the contents pages, you noticed that I mentioned participating in National Novel Writing Month. For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, the premise is simple enough -- during the month of November, participants are challenged to write an entire novel that consists of at least 50,000 words. At first glance, that may not sound so bad to some of you -- after all, it only amounts to logging 1,667 words a day -- but it really is a daunting task, especially when one considers all of the other commitments that demand our time on a regular basis. There were very few text articles on SC during November because I was pouring the vast majority of my words into my NaNoWriMo project -- The Strangest Christmas Story Ever Told -- and even then, if you recall that Site Talk blurb, I wasn't very optimistic about being able to finish it. By Nov. 22 I only had 26K words. However, buckling down and using the tips detailed below -- and taking advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday -- I was able to pen just under half of the 50K word requirement in a week, pulling through with 50,463 words on the night of Nov. 29. Sugoi!
Since writing the novel kept me from giving Scary-Crayon the textual lovin' that it needed, then, it's only fair that I share some of the things that I learned writing that novel with SC and its readers -- hence the topic of this article. While it's written with the goal of successfully completing the NaNoWriMo challenge -- or writing a 50K word novel in a month, whether one chooses to do so as part of NaNoWriMo or not -- there are, no doubt, a number of insights about writing that would be applicable to even those who take their writing a bit more seriously. And, sadly, you'll note that a number of highly regarded pieces of fiction employ these very same word padding techniques. Initially I was planning to scan the covers of a handful of books and place the images next to the points that their text exemplifies, but, this being a piece about writing, I figured that the text should be the focus of this article, and as such it will be SC's first image free piece. (Try not to go into withdrawal.) Suffice it to say that these tricks appear in the works of a number of well-known authors, including J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Anne Rice, Oscar Wilde, and even Virgil. Points II and III are H.P. Lovecraft in a nutshell. This is not, of course, to say that writing that makes use of these word padding techniques is necessarily bad, but it is to say that unless these tricks are absolutely necessary for imbuing the work with a certain character -- for example, Lovecraft's eldritch diction and verbose style gives his work the feel of an achaic tome of esoteric lore -- one could write a much better novel without resorting to such trickery. That said, if you're more interested in quantity than quality -- and given the increasing length of books and the number of bestselling authors who, if quantity is not their aim, at least care very little for quality, such a priority might someday make you rich -- read on to learn... How to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. As a bonus, I'll excerpt from my own novel in order to illustrate the eleven points! So read on, reader dear. ;)
I. Embrace tangents and digressions from your story on a regular basis.
That is, ramble on about stuff that may or may not be entirely related to your story. This is, if not the most useful tip on the list for finishing that 50K word novel in a month, still damned important. Odds are, with only a month in which to plan and write your novel, you're either not going to be able to come up with a (decent) story that would actually fill 50K words or, if you can, you won't actually be able to write all of it in so little time -- so you're probably going to end up with a story that, written smartly and to the point, would only fill up 20K words or less. And since that's 30K fewer than what you need to accomplish your goal, you're going to have to find something to fill up that space -- and by far, tangents are one of the easiest ways to do that, since virtually anything you write is tangentially connected to something else. For instance, I could've drawn a tangential connection between the final clause of the previous sentence and one of the laws of Physics and then gone off on a tangent discussing various physical laws as they manifest themselves in practical, everyday situations. The possibilities are endless! Consider the following excerpt from my novel, The Absolute Strangest Christmas Story Ever Told. After Santa Claus steps into the living room of a home while delivering toys on Christmas Eve, I segue into the following passage:
By the way, if you think about it even a little bit, you'll come to realize that the term "living room" is really a silly name for a particular room in a singular residence, given that, assuming that one spends any time at all in a room and performs any activity in that room with the exception of keeling over and dying on the spot, any room in a residence can be appropriately referred to as the "living room". And for that matter, what does one actually do in the living room that is any different from what one would do while spending time in the family room? For some would argue that, when they are spending time with their families and delighting in the joys of togetherness and other such nonsense, those are the moments in which they feel most alive -- the moments in which they feel that they are truly living. Where these particular persons are concerned, then, the naming of these rooms is even more confusing -- for, in their case, at least as far as the naming of the rooms goes, the living room is the family room, and vice versa, such that to have two rooms designated for the same activities -- activities, I might add, that extend over and above merely living in the rooms -- is a bit redundant. This is why, of course, in most sizeable homes with both a living room and a family room, one of these rooms is almost wholly neglected and is only used for special occasions, spending the rest of its time showcasing various possessions that the inhabitants of the house wish to show off to whatever guests might happen to come calling at one time or another. (And it must be noted that this is usually a rare occurrence, for, in the cases in which it is not, that room actually gets quite a bit of use -- even if only as a showroom -- and so our objection here does not hold water, as if any complaint has ever truly held water. What a silly saying! Objections are not buckets.) Usually, as the term "living room" is, apparently, interchangeable with the term "front room", and as a room that is solely used to showcase fancy material possessions and collections would best be located in the front of a house (so that guests could pretend to marvel and be interested in these shallow trinkets upon first entering the home of the Joneses), the living room usually fulfils the role of the trophy room. Isn't it ironic, then, that the room known as the living room is chiefly inhabited by inanimate objects that, by definition, are not living at all? (That is, of course, unless these trinkets come to life under cover of night and, stealing through the mail slot in the front doorway -- assuming that the home in which they are located still has one of said mail slots -- or slipping through the pet door located on the bottom of the back door to the home -- assuming that the home in which the showcase items are located still has one of said pet doors -- take up tiny replicas of various bladed weapons and murder poor, innocent wanderers who have the misfortune to cross their tiny paths beneath the glow of lonely street lamps.) And is it not also ironic that, owing to the dysfunctional times in which we live and the truth that most persons do not spend very much time -- at least not quality time -- with the members of their family anymore, there should be a room called the family room at all, let alone one in which one rarely spends time with one's family? Of course, since people do often spend time in this room, it would probably be more appropriate to call this room the living room, and the unused room the family room, as that would make more sense, seeing as how the neglect of that room and its use as a showcase would symbolize our treatment of the family in this contemporary era -- we neglect our families shamefully, but, when at work, we gleefully show photographs from our "family" vacations to our coworkers and brag excessively about the accomplishments of our children. But lest this discussion carry us too far from our present task, let us return to the story and rejoin Santa in the living room...
The above tangent, dear reader, totaled 744 words -- nearly 1.5% of the 50K word requirement! This illustrates our point well, then -- when writing for quantity, consider tangents to be among your dearest friends.
II. As you like, use full names or lengthy epithets to refer to characters.
Of course, this is not a new technique. One finds it employed quite often in the ancient Classics -- Virgil's Aeneid, for example -- though, we assume, more for the purposes of meeting metric requirements than for padding the word count. With respect to full names, you'll want to refer to characters by their full names as much as possible. For example, instead of simply referring to the Turtles' arch-nemesis as "the Shredder", you would refer to him as "Oroku Saki" -- though here it is worth noting that nothing is gained from this, as these both contain two words. Therefore, it would be prudent to refer to the Shredder with an epithet -- as in "the cunning and diabolical armor-clad ninja master and leader of that clandestine clan of vicious ninja thieves known only as 'the Foot'". Another example, taken from my novel, appears below, with the ephithets in boldface type.
As the gory, violent scene of the rodents' demise played to completion in Santa Claus's mind, the two giant sewer-slicked wharf rats clad in black leather jackets adorned with numerous metal studs and zippers withdrew their thick tails from the sewage and began slowly creeping towards the red-suited, sack-toting exemplar of charitable feelings and unbridled good will to all good little children.
Respectively, those epithets contained seventeen and fifteen words. With respect to the latter, that's thirteen more words than "Santa Claus" -- though you'll note that we did refer to Santa Claus by his name as well, despite it containing fewer words than the epithet in that example and the other epithets employed to describe Santa throughout the novel. After all, variety improves readability, and, if you follow all of the tips offered in this piece, you won't need to employ each technique every time to hit your goal.
III. Instead of trying to state things as simply as possible, do the opposite.
This one should go without saying, but at the risk of stating the obvious I'm including it as lucky number three on our list. Naturally, the more words you write, the closer you come to reaching your 50K goal. So rather than writing, "The driver of the speeding truck lost control and crashed into the brick wall," write, "In truth, the reality of the situation was that the truck driver was driving much too fast -- exceeding the speed limit on that particular stretch of road by more than a few miles, in fact -- and, as a result, lost control of his vehicle and collided head-on with a brick wall that was inconveniently (for him) located on the side of the road." While it may be true that the second sentence does have a few more details that help the reader to better understand the action taking place -- the placement of the brick wall on the side of a road, for instance; in the first example it might have been attached to a building in a bustling city -- there's a whole lot of unnecessary padding in there too. But hey, every bit helps your word count!
IV. Address your audience!
More commonly seen in children's books than novels written for an older set, this word-padding technique involves breaking from the story to actually address the reader as if the storyteller -- whether a third person omniscient narrator or a character describing his or her exploits in first person fashion -- were actually speaking to the reader. This can be something as simple as preceding or succeding various thoughts with "you know" or "dear reader" to actually digressing from the story to talk to the reader, asking whether he or she had coffee or tea with his or her breakfast this morning -- if either, if the reader even eats breakfast -- and exploring the reader's possible motivations for his or her particular choice of beverage. Or you may attempt something even stranger. For example, consider the following excerpt from The Absolute Strangest Christmas Story Ever Told:
At this point in the story, my dear and darling reader, I imagine that you are slightly confused. Perhaps, at this very moment, you are saying to yourself, "Self, dear self, dear sweet self whom I love above all others in spite of that silly and abominable song they forced us to learn in Sunday school when I was just a wee child -- the one that went
this is what it means
Jesus first, yourself last
and others in between
and thereby admonished us to love and value Jesus above all others, then everyone else, and then finally ourselves -- as if such a thing were even possible! For example, how can I hope to love persons whom I have never even met more than myself, when I do not know these people at all -- having never met them -- and when I know myself so well, being forced to spend literally every moment -- whether spent in consciousness or fast asleep -- in my own company? (Though given the reality of multiple personality disorders and memory lapses and what have you, in addition to the veil of denial and willful ignorance with which most people shroud themselves to avoid facing the reality of who they really are, I suppose it is possible to not know oneself as well as one thinks.) And, taking this into account, imagine how much more difficult it must be to truly know the Almighty -- God incarnate! Methinks that old song asked impossible tasks of us, which is really the nature of Sunday school songs in general. Why, now that I think about it, it seems almost criminal to send children there! Such songs -- not to mention stories of horrible drownings perpetuated by the good God who loves us, no less -- are not for a child's ears. But wait, self, and consider this -- while it seems rather difficult indeed to love Jesus and God above all others, given that love of a subject seems to require a comprehensive knowledge of that subject and given the inherently unknowable qualities of the infinite -- is it possible not to love God above all others? Recall that God, being omnipresent, is in all things, such that even if the thing that I loved and cherished more than anything else in all this great, wide, crazy world were garlic bagels slathered with strawberry cream cheese, that would entail my loving God as well? Because God is in the bagels. But in such an instance, do I properly love God, or, rather, do I love to eat God? How strange that sounds! And yet when one recalls the Catholic Mass, in which rice wafers are supposedly transformed into the very flesh of Christ Himself through mystical means, it seems rather appropriate. Yes, God resides even in our food, and we receive His blessings by devouring His succulent, holy flesh. Bon appetite. And if we drink enough of his blood, we'll get drunk on his DIVINE POWER!!! Perhaps, instead of in art galleries and posh apartments, wine tastings should take place in ancient churches with high, vaulted ceilings and magnificent stained-glass windows. Yes, that would be more appropriate."
Or perhaps you were thinking something totally different. I never claimed to be a mind-reader, after all.
The above excerpt, dear reader, was 552 words. That's over 1/100th of your novel! Though if you were writing those counts in the text of the work, you would write "five hundred and fifty-two" and "one hundredth" in place of the numbers. More words, you see.
V. Explore hypothetical scenarios at length.
Are there things in your novel that could go one way or another (or another, or another)? Of course there are! That's the case for every event, after all -- assuming that determinism is false, it's quite possible that things could play out in a number of different ways. So why not pad your novel's word count by exploring one or more of these alternate possibilities? Even motion picture classics such as The Wizard of Oz can be shown to have put this technique to use, for dream sequences can fall under the banner of hypothetical scenarios since they essentially ask the question, "What if some really crazy shit that could never happen in reality happened anyway?" Hell, technically every fictional novel employs this technique, but that's not what I meant. You get the idea. Let's look at an example from my novel, The Absolute Strangest Christmas Story Ever Told, in which Santa Claus encounters a pair of leather jacket-wearing wharf rats while wading through the sewer:
The monstrous rats regarded him for a moment in silence, their eyes narrowing and their noses twitching as they seemed to size him up and assess the threat of the red-suited fat man with the bulging sack slung over one shoulder. For his part, Santa Claus braced himself for the fierce battle that he expected to ensue momentarily. For while it is true that he could have destroyed the wharf rats with only the slightest exertion of his holy might, that would be rather unfair to the creatures -- and Santa Claus, being a good power, would hate to be seen as a cheater by anyone, even a couple of dying sludge-gelled rats clad in leather jackets. Besides, Santa was well aware that he was overweight, and fighting off the wharf rats would, at the very least, make for a good bit of exercise. He imagined them rushing forward on all fours, snarling, their tails whipping back and forth in the air, flinging lingering moisture and forming vapor trails as they sped towards him with murderous intent. Santa imagined swatting the first away as it leapt for his face and, moving out of the way of the second rodent's flying attack, catching it by the tail and slamming it hard against the grimy green sewer wall. At this point the first rat would begin to attack his left leg from behind, whereupon Santa Claus would kick forward, bringing with it the clinging rodent and positioning the creature in such a way that he could easily grab its tail with his right hand and hurl it into the sewer water, momentarily making the battle a one-on-one bout between the great Saint Nick and the second vicious wharf rat.
Here Santa would take the offensive, stomping forward as if to smash the rat but really using his charge to force the rodent to dodge left or right, whereupon he would turn in the appropriate direction and stamp down on the tail, thus pinning the rat in place so that he could spin on his heel -- painfully grinding the rat's tail against the rough brick floor beneath the muck (though the thick goo would, admittedly, make the pain less intense than it might have been on a dry floor) -- and then, repositioned, fall backwards and deliver a crushing elbow drop to the rodent's back. This blow, he reasoned, would probably break the rat's spine, killing it and making Santa Claus the winner of this singular match. And then, just as he got to his feet, he envisioned the first wharf rat rising, raging mad and dripping wet from its recent plunge into the murky depths of the thick, waste-filled sewer canal. And the stench! Despite his incredible powers of focus, Santa imagined the sheer potency of the awful smell staggering him just for a moment, thereby allowing the soaked wharf rat to leap into the air and score a hit across his face with its thick, ropelike tail, leaving a throbbing red welt across his pink cheek and staining part of his snow-white beard red with a tiny bit of blood -- but not Santa's own, for in the heat of battle the normally soft beard hardened to brushlike bristles, and for anything to lash this coarse hair with such force would undoubtedly have caused injury to the striking instrument -- in this case, the attacking rodent's thick, segmented, pinkish-grey tail. And then, both Santa and the rodent smarting from the attack, the rodent would land and discover the corpse of its fallen comrade.
At this point in the imagined battle, Santa Claus could foresee one of two very different outcomes obtaining. In the first scenario, he saw the lone leather-clad wharf rat menacingly ambling towards him and then, as it came within striking distance, raising a clawed, fur-covered hand, and thanking Santa sincerely for ridding the giant rodent of its hated sibling and rival. But in the second scenario, Santa Claus imagined the wharf rat throwing its head back and howling with fury and grief, swearing in its native rodent tongue to avenge the death of its brother and turning its full viciousness on the fat man with quintupled intensity. But Saint Nick would be ready. When the beast came scrabbling down the sewer corridor towards the not-so-jolly old fat man, snarling angrily and hissing curses that it would avenge its dead brother or die trying, the great Saint of Christmastime would simply leap over its charging attack and, hitting the ground and turning, heft his great magic sack of toys over to his left shoulder. He would perform this action not because this would shift his balance or make him able to combat the rodent more easily, but in order to mock the creature -- for this would be akin to a fighter who favored right-handed strikes suggesting that his opponent was so weak that he could successfully take on his opponent using the weaker left hand as his primary striking instrument. It is also worth noting that, in Santa's vision, the sack had never once touched the slime-coated floor of the sewer -- despite the fact that in reality, the bag would likely have touched the ground during the crushing elbow drop that killed the other rodent (unless, of course, Santa repositioned the bag onto his stomach for the maneuver, which he did not do in this imagined battle) -- such that to swing it around to the other shoulder would also be to display its pristine splendor to the remaining attacking rodent. This, then, would effectively be saying, "I don't even have to get my sack dirty to beat you and your brother," which, to the wharf rat, would be like boasting that one's nuts didn't even sweat in the least, for it is commonly known that in heated battles, even if one's forehead or armpits do not break a sweat, one's underwear will always be at least a little damp when the fight is over. Unless, of course, one's opponent were a complete and utter weakling, in which case it would hardly make sense to call it a heated battle. In which case the total absence of sweat on one's testicles would make perfect sense. Hence the offense. To say such a thing, then, would be to tell the rat that its skill as a warrior -- not to mention it itself, and its sibling, and even its sibling's life -- was worthless, which would naturally only serve to infuriate the rat even further. This, you see, would have been Santa's reason for taunting the huge rodent in such an insulting manner -- not because he actually disliked the rodent or were, himself, an extremely cocky fighter, but because he would wish to provoke the rat into undertaking a rash assault attempt, thereby making fatal error in judgment and leaving himself open to a devastating counterattack by Kris Kringle. And here, in keeping with his favored strategy for fighting rodents -- which you must now have noticed, nor was Santa thinking of this on the fly; he had battled giant rodents in the past -- Santa would duck low, roll, and catch the rodent by the tail as he moved. Then, with the rodent's path following his own, the great Claus would spring up from the ground and hang suspended in mid air, facing the ground, stopping such that the momentum of the giant rat would swing it directly underneath his massive gut. Then, just as the rat reached that point, Saint Nick would drop from the air and smash the rat against the gross subterranean walkway with his full weight, crushing bones, squishing organs, vital or otherwise, and sending a wave of blood splashing a radius of several feet in all directions from the point of impact. The battle would be over, and Santa Claus would stand victorious over the two wharf rats. He would then remove the two leather jackets from the intact corpse and the pile of smashed flesh and guts and, after cleaning the blood and bone fragments and fur and other biological goo from them with a bit of magic, tuck the tiny black coats into his wondrous sack. Upon his return to the North Pole, he would raffle them off as prizes to the elves during their annual post-Christmas celebration. German chocolate cake and spiced apple cider would be had by all.
Note that the above 1,402 word excerpt (that's 2.8% of the novel!) contains a hypothetical within a hypothetical -- and note also that the hypothetical scenarios needn't come across as entirely random and unnecessary, since you can always relegate them to the thoughts of one of the characters in your novel. ;)
VI. Lengthy stretches of dialogue are a good thing.
If you want to pen a 50K word novel in a month, that is. The thing about dialogue is that, owing to the fact that conversations needn't always be relevant to what's going on in the lives of the characters at the time -- for example, despite being on the job, two hitmen might sit down to describe the names of hamburgers in foreign countries -- conversations can become excellent ways of accomplishing the first tip on the list, which was to pad your work with digressions and tangential discussions. It works even better in dialogue! If your third person omniscient narrator goes off on a tangent about lawnmowers chopping up baby chipmunks in the yard and then complaining about guts being stuck to its blade, your novel sounds batshit insane (not necessarily a bad thing, but still), but if a character says the exact same thing in the context of a discussion taking place while she and another character are walking through a department store, your character comes across as quirky and interesting -- and your readers will eat that shit up. If the third person narrator talks at length and in excruciating detail about one character's morning routine, which consists of three minutes of aerobics and three hours of putting on makeup and playing with her hair, your story will come across as bland and uninteresting, but if the character herself is narrating and describes her morning routine in the same detail, suddenly it's more forgivable because this is just the character being the shallow and superficial bitch that she is and, as a result, offers the reader more insight into her person. And given the reality of the fact that people often talk about nothing, the dialogues needn't even be interesting or relevant to be viewed with a certain air of legitimacy. The more dialogue with which you pad your work, the more believable your fiction will be!
VII. Description, description, description!
You'll find this one in so many novels -- and respected novels at that -- that you may even be convinced that excessive description of the scene makes one's writing better -- and, indeed, there are a number of writing professors out there who place quite a bit of emphasis on the "art" of showing instead of telling. In truth, like the majority of the points in this list, it's a bullshit technique of padding your story's word count, though in this case it tends to make readers think that your work is more profound and impressive than it actually is. They'll rave about how your flowing prose and attention to every single detail in a particular scene really makes the reader feel as if the reader were there at the exact moment that the action was taking place; they'll praise your writing and call you a first-rate purveyor of visual portraits through the medium of words. They'll love you. But here's the rub -- no matter how many details a writer notes in his or her descriptions of a scene; no matter how "voluptuous" the language and its particulars; no matter how completely the scene is rendered for the reader, unless the reader is actually familiar with what is being described, all of that sensuous description only amounts to a bunch of pretty words that ultimately have no meaning. To list a litany of flowers that appear in a bouquet does nothing for a reader who has never seen those flowers, and even if one listed the richness of the colors and noted that the petals were still wet with fresh dew, the reader still cannot properly visualize the sight unless the writer describes the flowers in terms of geometric shapes -- which again will mean nothing if the reader has never seen whatever the hell shape accurately describes the shape of the petals of some obscure flower. But in truth, though they may endlessly praise the descriptive efforts of the writer, I doubt that very many readers are actually sitting there trying to visualize the scenes in all of their complicated glory. No, they read through the description, finding faux delight in words that mean nothing to them, and then concentrate on the action of the story -- which is, of course, the most important thing. If you witness me kicking an elderly author who writes exceedingly verbose novels and for some reason manages to garner critical acclaim down a spiral staircase, you're not going to describe the Rorschach-like designs that grace the stained wood of each step on that flight of stairs that spirals downward like the curled ringlets of a smiling young Shirley Temple when you report the incident to the police. You're going to say, "Wes kicked Tom Wolfe down a staircase!" Simple. Effective. To the point. No lengthy descriptive bullshit necessary. But you've got to get to 50K words in one month, so you don't care about that. Describe away!
VIII. Make up myths and backstories to explain certain details in your novel.
This one could technically be included under the banner of lengthy descriptions, as such backstories technically constitute descriptions of certain details of your story insofar as their content helps one to better visualize these details and developments as a result of understanding their causes, but this one's actually a little bit more legitimate than mere lengthy description. For example, a fifty word description to describe the simple fact that a man walks with a limp is excessive and unnecessary, whereas to state that a man walks with a limp and then describe the accident that resulted in this man's hobbling gait is not only more interesting but can serve to give us a valuable glimpse into this man's past. Or it can be used towards humorous or strange ends, as we see in the following excerpt from The Absolute Strangest Christmas Story Ever Told. Here, we join a family of werewolves as they watch a Christmas special on television...
The werewolves clapped their paws together and howled with delight as "Santa Corpse Saves Christmas" cut to a commercial break. The next scene -- as they well knew, for they watched this program every year (never missed it!) -- would show Santa slipping down the chimney of an old, dilapidated mausoleum and delivering the fresh body of the murdered woman to a poor, starving family of imps living within. Oh, to us it seems grisly, but to a monster? This was the ultimate act of charity. The murder of a human being, after all, is not an act that goes unnoticed, nor is it an act that takes place without retaliation, for some relative or friend of the deceased victim will always seek revenge and, in the final minutes of the film, destroy the monster responsible for the killing -- and, indeed, this was the case even in "Santa Corpse Saves Christmas", with the titular hero being trapped in a chimney and roasted to cinders at the film's close. To be sure, this seems to be a very sad ending for a special meant to glorify the virtues of this holiday figure, but no program created with monsters as the target audience has an entirely happy ending, for it just wouldn't make sense to give creatures responsible for causing suffering and misery wherever they go an ending in which suffering and misery were completely absent, even from a monster's perspective. As well, even films made with monsters in mind must appeal to the human audiences, so the endings were usually made such that humans would be satisfied with them, for if they were not they could call station managers during the day and demand that the programs be pulled from the air -- and the monsters would not have the opportunity to give their second opinions and support of these shows, given that the complaint line operators only worked during the day and the monsters were fast asleep or otherwise dormant at this time. It is also worth noting that "Santa Corpse Saves Christmas" was actually created with ulterior motives, for the program was made during the Great Holiday War -- a four month-long period of bloodshed in which the monsters rose up against the humans in an effort to overtake and "spookify" the fall-winter holiday rush. "Santa Corpse Saves Christmas", then, while it had the effect of rallying human forces and ultimately turning the tide of battle in the favor of the naturals (as they were called), was actually intended as propaganda for the supernaturals, given that the titular hero -- Santa Corpse, the symbol of everything the monsters hold dear, especially in the Yuletide months -- was defeated in the end by human trickery. But that is another story for another time, though it must be said that that tale, too, would be in the running if a contest were held to determine the absolute strangest Christmas story ever told. But there is no such contest, and that story already has a name -- The Tale of the Great Holiday War -- and it is this story that we have deemed worthy of being called The Absolute Strangest Christmas Story Ever Told.
At 534 words, a history lesson like that constitutes over another hundredth of the 50K word novel.
IX. Explore the exploits of characters whose actions and experiences have no direct bearing on or relevance to the central thread of the story.
This is probably one of the best ways to pad your word count as well, as it's not only a very useful trick that'll keep you writing even when you reach a snag in the story, but a number of readers will even think your book all the more rich for exploring these non-central characters, as they will read a depth into these wayward portraits that you didn't necessarily intend to convey in the least. If your main character is walking down the street, for example, and you're not exactly sure where your character should be going next, have your character pass by a depressed woman wearing a plastic yellow poncho and carrying a wet newspaper underneath one arm and proceed to describe the various circumstances that brought that unfortunate woman to this point. Then, when you're satisfied with your exploration of this character and have come up with somewhere for your protagonist to be, simply jump back to his adventure -- possibly even with a line to the effect of, "Alas, the story of the sad yellow woman is not our present concern. Therefore, let us return to..." Then continue your story. Note that, in the excerpt accompanying the eighth point, a family of werewolves is mentioned. After I cease talking about them and "Santa Corpse Saves Christmas", none of these things is ever mentioned again in the story, because they are ultimately irrelevant to the action that follows in the novel. They do, however, contribute to the appropriateness of the novel's title -- The Absolute Strangest Christmas Story Ever Told. And they padded the word count significantly, which served my purpose well.
X. Write about things that flow easily off the top of your head.
This exceedingly important point hearkens back to the first point we noted in this piece -- as you write, make it a point to explore tangents regularly -- though it easily applies to the novel as a whole. You're writing against the clock, after all, and it's going to be a lot easier for you to reach that 50K goal within thirty days if you're constantly writing instead of thinking about what you should be writing. Of course, if you're not especially adept at pulling lengthy and coherent stories out of nowhere, you're going to have to find something else to write about while you wait for your plot developments to write themselves. Usually, this is going to be something that you enjoy talking and thinking about -- a hobby about which you are very knowledgeable, perhaps, as one can more easily write about what one knows. In my case, having majored in philosophy and being quite prone to thinking deep and/or analytical thoughts, the bulk of my novel consisted of various rambling commentaries on and critiques of a number of tangential topics. For instance, at one point in the novel, after being chided by his brother for stating the obvious, one of the wharf rats, Rattoo, launches into an involved speech about the value of having someone around to state the obvious. In the following excerpt, Rattoo discusses Hans Christian Anderson's "The Emperor's New Clothes" to support his point. (Note also that this draws upon the sixth point as well.)
"That story, entitled 'The Emperor's New Clothes' and authored by that famed author of a number of children's stories, Hans Christian Anderson, is about an emperor who loved to change clothes and show off his garments to his lowly subjects, for he was quite the vain and egotistical bastard. Unlike us, you see, he was not content to simply wear stylish black leather jackets adorned with metal zippers and studs. At any rate, one day a pair of thieves masquerading as tailors convinced him that they had made him a fabulous outfit from the most marvelous fabrics and that shined with dazzling colors, but in reality had made him nothing. The emperor's vanity, however, prevented him from admitting that he saw nothing, because, he reasoned, that would make him look like a fool, since something was obviously there. And so he was paraded around the town quite naked, and since none of his subjects wanted to appear foolish as well -- for he was obviously wearing something, otherwise he would not have been so confidently riding about and condescendingly waving to the people below -- they all pretended that they saw these remarkable garments when, in truth, none of them saw anything except his flabby, naked flesh, stringy brown body hair, and his tiny little pecker. And the rest of him too, mind you, but I needn't name every body part of the emperor -- suffice it to say that he was naked, yet because of his and his subjects' inability or unwillingness to state the obvious, all pretended that he was clothed in the most regal garments that they had ever seen. All except a small boy in the crowd, mind you, for, as I've said -- and as was my reason for mentioning this story in the first place -- children have an uncanny knack for stating the obvious, and here this little boy cried aloud, "The emperor is naked!" And that is what it took for the majority of the subjects to realize the truth -- a simple child's statement of the obvious -- though even then the emperor continued to go about as if he were wearing the greatest of all sets of clothes and looked upon those who believed him to be naked with the utmost contempt. That, then, is the abridged version of Hans Christian Anderson's 'The Emperor's New Clothes', Brother Wonrat. So, you see, if one is not made aware of the obvious -- and by a trusted friend, at that -- one might run the risk of parading around naked in public and causing oneself a great bit of embarrassment, even if that person refuses to acknowledge the shame in his or her predicament."
Of course, if summarizing and drawing upon children's literature in order to argue in favor of the value of stating the obvious is not something that comes easily to you, you'll want to pad your novel with other types of digressions. If you have no trouble at all talking ad infinitum about food -- which, given Americans' obsession with eating, is not all that unlikely if you live in the United States -- have your characters attend dinner meetings and discuss at length the richness of their meals and even go so far as to fully report the recipes for the various items on their plates. If fashion interests you and you find yourself able to ramble on about it at length, your tangents may take the form of involved discussions stemming from your descriptions of your characters' clothing and lengthy critiques of their individual fashion senses. In fact, I think the superficiality of this modern age accounts for quite a bit of the emphasis placed on description in writing, despite the fact that it does very little to advance a story or add to the overall depth of the work. And see, if I were writing a 50K word novel right now, this would be the point where I would explore that idea over a series of paragraphs.
XI. Don't actually set out to write something good.
By far, this is the most important point to remember if you're going to reach your 50K word goal. Oh, I know what you're thinking -- if you don't intend for your novel to actually be worth reading, why bother writing it at all? Isn't that kind of pointless? Well, yes and no. Ultimately -- it's true -- though your novel may contain some interesting insights here and there, in all likelihood you'll probably be left with 50K+ words of absolute garbage. Now, that may not be a total loss for you in this life -- after all, garbage sells, and you may end up cranking out a National Bestseller -- but if you somehow profit from spreading filth you're just going to go to Hell when you die and will come to regret ever writing that book when Satan is shoving sleeping porcupines up your asshole and then plaguing them with nightmares that cause them to toss and turn like Caesar salads under wooden spoons wielded by escaped mental patients. Besides, if you're actually trying to write something worthwhile, you're not going to want to follow the above guidelines. You'll want to write a coherent narrative, you'll want to state things as simply as possible -- unless, of course, your particular subject requires complexity, as with philosophical writing -- and, unless it's absolutely necessary to achieve the desired effect, you'll want to avoid lengthy, unnecessary, rambling tangents. You'll probably also want to take longer than a month writing the thing, because -- let's face it -- it's pretty silly to place such a limited time constraint on yourself and expect yourself to crank out something worthy of a Nobel Prize in Literature (which is not quite the same thing as writing something that actually does win such an accolade). Writing something good requires one to edit one's work, to make cuts when necessary, to take one's time and let the story tell itself -- all things you can't afford to do when you're trying to get 50K words written in a single month. After all, no matter how much it improves your story, every cut diminishes your word count! With each improvement, you're effectively sabotaging your quest! Don't bite the hand with which you write, dude. :(
I could probably go on, but even most of the points mentioned above are variations upon the same theme -- get more words into your novel by any means necessary, whether it's by roundabout phrasing or lengthy and pointless dialogues or weird tangential discussions or the use of long and rambling epithets to refer to the characters in your story. We didn't touch on them in the list above, but epic similes -- as seen in the Classics -- are also a good way to pad your word count while actually making your work sound like it's good. But your novel doesn't need to sound like it's good -- it just needs to have 50,000 words. And trust me, if you follow the above advice it will. Assuming you actually write the thing, of course, because the novel's not going to write itself, you know. But then, if you're not writing it, then you're not really following the above advice, are you? Therefore this and the last two sentences are totally unnecessary and, in a better piece of writing, would not appear at all. But the simple fact of the matter is that these words and sentences do appear here, because the title of this article is How to write a 50,000 word novel in a month and I thought I'd conclude the piece with a final example of how it's done, baby. Did you get that? Great! So the next time someone says, "Gyur hur hur, ah shoah betcha cain't wraaht no fitty kay werd novel in no month!" you tell that ignorant, moonshine-swilling bastard to put his or her money where his or her rotten-toothed mouth is and get ready to pay the Piper, 'cause you'll have that novel finished in thirty days or less! No free
pizza signed copy for that biatch. ;)
-- Wes --
P.S. HEY PUBLISHERS AND AGENTS! Art thou, for some bloody insane reason unbeknownst to me, interested in seeing The Absolute Strangest Christmas Story Ever Told in print? (Maybe you just want to see me roasting for all eternity with porcupines up my ass?) If the answer is a resounding and enthusiastic YES, hit me up with an e-mail! I won't hold my breath, though. ;P
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