Thursday, 31 October 2019

Fattening your first draft Part 10

The last instalment of my 101 tips, tricks and complete cheats to increase your word count. (Click here to read from the start.)

91. Don't stop to think about what might happen to your story after you've finished. Worries of rejection are demoralising, hopes of success are distracting.

92. Get your characters to tell each other stories.

93. Give the details even when your character is doing everyday stuff and add depth and meaning. Show their joy as they floss their teeth. Reveal their anger as they pour custard.

94. Find and replace is good. Replace 'then' with 'and the very next thing which happened was that'.

95. Introduce a child who has the irritating habit of repeating everything anyone says.

96. Show exactly how much this irritates each character.

97. Have plenty of detailed flashbacks.

98. Have your character read all their birthday cards - including the printed verses.

99. Foreshadow every major plot point.

100. Spell out numbers and dates. Without hyphens.

101. Remember it's just a first draft. They're not supposed to be perfect and no one but you will ever read it.

Getting your first draft done is an achievement. Afterwards you should take time to feel proud of yourself. Not too long though as you've now got an editing job on your hands. Good luck with that!

If you found these tips interesting or useful, you might like From Story Idea to Reader – An accesible writing guide by myself and Rosemary J Kind.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Fattening your first draft Part 9

The next instalment of my 101 tips, tricks and complete cheats to increase your word count. (Click here to read from the start.)

80. Keep your notebook or laptop with you to write in any free moments. Even a couple of extra sentences each day will add up.

81. Decide how to track your word count. Will seeing what you've done, or what's left to do, be the most motivating for you?

82. If you have a chance to write then write - don't wait until you're in the mood or have a great idea.

83. Don't give yourself an excuse. Have paper and pens ready, make sure your tablet is charged.

84. Don't waste time justifying your writing to anyone else. You're as entitled to spend your time doing it as they are to watch TV or go shopping.

85. It's just words. Write them.

86. Don't text people or post Facebook updates. If you've got time for that you've got time to add words to your story.

87. The next thing that happens to you in life - put it in the story.

88. Don't worry about spelling. Sosage ups your word count just as effectively as sausage.

89. Use metaphors.

90. Use similes.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Fattening your first draft Part 8

The next instalment of my 101 tips, tricks and complete cheats to increase your word count. The original article was written with completing NaNoWriMo in mind, but you can use the tips anytime you want to get that first draft nice and fat, ready for editing. (To read the earlier ones click on 'fattening 1st draft' below this post.)

71. You don't need to wait for NaNo to start. You can get your planning and research done in advance, or set up your own personal challenge, or do one with a group.

72. Don't think about the story - just write it.

73. Don't talk about the story - just write it.

74. If you know that 1667* words a day simply isn't possible for you, work out a realistic yet challenging target and work towards that. If it's a good result for you then it's a good result. Or if 50,000 in a month isn't much of a challenge for you, write 100k.

75. Never abbreviate anything. It's not the beeb. It's the British Broadcasting Company.

76. Don't delete anything however rubbish it might be. (You're not a good judge of quality whilst in the middle of a first draft.)

77. Write in a genre you love. It'll be far easier to keep going.

78. If you get stuck or frustrated write about it and how you'd like the story to be going. Call it 'planning notes' and include it in the word count.

79. If you seem to be near the story's end without enough words done, just throw more obstacles in the character's way or start on the sequel.

* That's the amount you need to average to write 50,000 in a month and 'win' NaNo.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Fattening your first draft Part 7

The latest instalment of my 101 tips, tricks and complete cheats to increase your word count. (Click here to read from the start.)

60. Have lots of wonderful, descriptive words and large quantities of lovely adjectives. (See what I did there?)

61. Include authorial intrusion and asides. (If you want to know more about this particular author, and three of her writing friends, then download the FREE ebook, Are We Nearly Famous?)

62. Use as many examples as possible. For example, if she loves flowers, list fifty of her favourites. If she loves chocolate list every flavour she's ever eaten. If she ...

63. Adverbs are underused. Quickly and gleefully put that right.

64. Never mind the quality - feel the word count.

65. Unplug the phone (and never mind that such a phrase will reveal your age).

66. Disconnect WiFi.

67. When writing to a schedule or deadline, don't assume you can catch up at the weekend, or tomorrow after a better night's sleep. Do today's word count today. 

68. And try to do some of tomorrow's. Think how smug you'll feel if you finish ahead of schedule.

69. If for some reason you do fall behind don't use that as an excuse to stop or fall further behind.

70. Race a writing buddy.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019


A threshold is a point of entry, either real or metaphorical. Traditionally new brides were carried over the threshold of their marital home. A scientist could be on the threshold of an amazing discovery. Threshold can also mean a limit. It's said women have a higher pain threshold than men.

Originally a threshold was a raised strip of wood or stone. It was placed at the entrance to rooms such as kitchens and pantries where rushes, often scented with herbs, were strewn on the floor – as a kind of temporary carpet. Once dirty or wet, they could easily be swept up and replaced.  The rushes were known as thresh and without the threshold to hold them in place, would have been spread throughout the house.

If you're on the threshold of completing something which involves new media, get it finished and enter it into this free competition to be in with a chance of winning one of 5 prizes ranging from £500 to £750.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Fattening your first draft Part 6

The next instalment of my 101 tips, tricks and complete cheats to increase your word count. (Click here to read from the start.)

51. Clarify everything.

52. Always show, never tell. For example don't just mention 'she'd never liked heights' but flash back to several scary childhood events, recall her many sessions with a counsellor, her disastrous relationship with a mountaineer and her obsession with flat shoes.

53. Compare everything with something else. It's not just sunny, it's as sunny as it was the day before yesterday.

54. No more tea or coffee* until you've done 1,000 words.

55. No bathroom breaks until you've done another 1,000.

56. Words such as 'that' and 'some' can be slipped in almost anywhere.

57. Use 'and' rather than commas in lists. Punctuation marks don't up the word count.

58. Don't fret over punctuation. You'll probably change it later anyway and deciding between a comma and a semi colon takes as long as writing the words which will complete the sentence.

59. Don't stop to read back what you wrote yesterday.

* Talking of liquid refreshments ... have you read my FREE ebook, Not A Drop To Drink?

Friday, 18 October 2019

Fattening your first draft Part 5

The next instalment of my 101 tips, tricks and complete cheats to increase your word count. (To read the earlier ones just click on 'fattening 1st draft' below this post.)

40. Have characters who are taught things and required to repeat back word for word the complicated instructions. Ideally make them partially deaf, with a stutter and have the instructor speak via an interpreter, show the scene from each point of view and be sure the characters then mention it all in their diaries.

41. When a character orders food, let us 'see' the entire menu.

42. Not sure of the best word? Get out the thesaurus and utilise, deploy and put to use every available alternative.

43. Include a lot of minor characters.

44. Give characters a pet.

45. Make sure they talk to the pet.

46. Give your characters complicated dreams and describe these vividly.

47. Have your character visit a museum and read every signboard.

48. Use lots of really short words - you can type more of them in a limited amount of time.

49. Don't omit any of the back story.

50. Use every scrap of research material.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019


A censor is an official who studies books, films, plays and the like and suppresses any parts they feel shouldn't be made public. This could be because they're illegal, obscene, a threat to security or anything else their employer doesn't want let 'out there'. They may decide a work is acceptable only to a limited audience – those over 18, or with security clearance for example.

Censor also means to make the changes the censor decided need to be made. That generally means removing the offending section. If that happens to your work, you've been subject to censorship.

We can also mentally censor ourselves. Often that's a good thing as it prevents us blurting out secrets or making inappropriate comments. I don't think it's something we should do when writing – at least not in the first draft. Get it all down first, then you can start censoring (or editing if you prefer the term) by removing anything you feel shouldn't be there.

Thanks to Kath Kilburn for passing on details of this free to enter writing competition, with the theme of The Censor. You can submit a short story or a piece of creative non-fiction. The best dozen or so will be published and the authors will receive two copies of the anthology, plus £150. The overall prize is £2,000!

Monday, 14 October 2019

Fattening your first draft Part 4

The next instalment of my 101 tips, tricks and complete cheats to increase your word count. (To read from the start, click here.)

31. Overemphasise. For example, Instead of 'do not use contractions' it's  'Definitely do not ever use contractions under any circumstances whatsoever'.

32. Be vague. 'At some point in time shortly after lunch,' is better than '2pm'.

33. Be precise. 'He made his way there on foot, as no bus was scheduled, in as direct a route as was humanly possible and at times reaching a speed of seven point zero three miles per hour,' is clearly preferable to, 'He ran straight there'.

34. Show all the thoughts of all your characters all the time.

35. Tell everything from everyone's point of view even if each version is pretty much identical.(Copy and paste speeds this up.)

36. Use long titles, lyrics or quotes as headers for every chapter.

37. Have characters write up everything you've shown into their diary. 

38. Countdowns are good in dramatic scenes. Have them start at 100 though, not three.

39. Don't be afraid to digress...

Which reminds me – I love gardening and often include gardens, flowers, plants and gardeners in my writing. All my novels include at least some of these elements to a greater or lesser extent. I've also published four collections of garden/plant related short stories with two dozen stories in each. The first of these was Up The Garden Path.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Fattening your first draft Part 3

The next instalment of my 101 tips, tricks and complete cheats to increase your word count. (To read the earlier ones click on 'fattening 1st draft' below this post.)

20. Dialogue is your friend.

21. As are almost deaf characters who need everything repeated.

22. And characters who tell long boring stories, starting again at the beginning if they get interrupted.

23. Write as people really speak with all the umms, likes and you knows.

24. Don't forget plenty of the, "It was Wednesday I think, or maybe Tuesday. No tell a lie it was Wednesday, but that's not important," stuff.
25. If characters remember poetry from school have them recite the entire thing.

26. Have them do it in an echoey place.

27. Try to include at least one character who speaks in a different language via an interpreter and include both versions in full.

28. If there's no one else there, characters can always talk to themselves.

29. Attribute all dialogue and be sure to explain exactly how it was said, e.g. "Shh, they'll hear you," whispered Pete quietly.

30. Do not use contractions (in dialogue or narrative).

Point 20 is excellent advice when writing any fiction. The other dialogue suggestions should show only very sparingly, if at all, in the finished work. They do have uses though in the first draft, other than upping the word count – they can be a great way to get to know, and to differentiate, your characters.

I made liberal use of one of these tips in my novel Paint Me A Picture. Much of it got edited out, but what's left helps define Mavis Forthright and illustrate her transformation.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Fattening your first draft Part 2

The next instalment of my 101 tips, tricks and complete cheats to increase your word count. (To read the earlier ones just click on 'fattening 1st draft' below this post.)

11. Never cut and paste. Instead copy and paste.

12. Describe everything. It's not a mug of coffee. It's a white china mug decorated with a profusion of red roses, full to the brim with decaf instant, a splash of milk and three sugars.

13. Give details. Don't just have characters read a book but inform your readers that it's a hardback, though not a first edition, of The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared.

14. Mention the author.

15. And the cover design.

16. And where it was purchased.

17. If you can do it without breaching copyright, get your character to read sections aloud.

18. Be precise in your locations. Why write 'they met in the street' when you could put 'they met in the High Street of Lee-on-the-Solent, right outside the butchers, which is opposite the opticians'?

19. Don't use hyphens. Make all compounds into separate words.

If you're starting to think following this advice will give you a pretty rubbish story, you're totally wrong. It'll give you a pretty rubbish first draft! That's good though as first drafts aren't supposed to be the finished thing, they're just the first stage in creating something people will want to read. If you're interested in everything between getting the initial idea to collecting the cash, then I suggest reading the rather excellent From Story Idea to Reader. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2019


A word is said to rhyme with another when the sounds at the end are the same. Round rhymes with sound, time rhymes with mime (and rhyme). Half rhymes are words which nearly, but not quite, rhyme. Orange and lozenge is an example. Eye rhymes are those words which look as though they'd rhyme, because the endings are spelled the same, but don't. For example tough and through. Lost rhymes are words which used to rhyme, but due to changes in pronunciation, no longer do.

A rhyme can also mean a verse or poem which contains rhyming words. These generally come at the end of lines. If they're elsewhere they're known as internal rhymes.

Rhyming slang is a way of speaking which replaces a word or phrase with another which rhymes, although the actual rhyme may be omitted. In 'taking a butcher's' the word butcher's refers to a butcher's hook, which rhymes with look, and therefore means have a gander or a shufty.

Thanks to Bea Charles for passing on the details of this free entry poetry competition. The winner will get a personalised £100 book token with their poem on and £300 worth of poetry books. The judge is Pam Ayres. I like her. (The rules don't state that the poem must rhyme.)

Monday, 7 October 2019

Fattening your first draft part 1

A few years ago, I wrote an article for Writing Magazine on 101 tips, tricks and complete cheats to increase your word count. As you've probably forgotten it even if you read it the first time, I thought I'd share it in instalments for those having a go at NanoWriMo, or otherwise wanting to get more words on the page ...

1. Switch off your inner editor (that part of you which isn't satisfied with a sentence until it's as good as you can possibly make it). They'll be working hard later so give them a nice long rest now.

2. If you're not sure you'll need a scene, write it anyway. You can always delete it if it's not required.

3. If you get stuck on a scene make a note about what needs to be done and go on. Do it in the document so it's included in the word count.

4. Same thing if you need to research a minor point.

5. And if you realise you've made a mistake somewhere.

6. Worried you're repeating yourself? Write anyway and only keep the best version.

7. Never, in a million years, pass up the chance to include cliches.

8. Give your characters titles. 'The Lord of Anytown' is four times the word count of 'Tim'.

9. Give your characters multiple names. Tim Harold Cuthbert Smith, Lord of Anytown.

10. If the genre suits, then their lineage and attributes can go in too. Try replacing your MC's name with Tim Harold Cuthbert Smith the third, son of Hippobreath, Lord of Anytown and halitosis ridden defender of the biscuit barrel, and watch the word count rise!

(To read the other 91 tips, click 'Fatten 1st draft' below this post.)

I don't just tell people to get on and write, I even get a few words down myself. Some of them eventually make it into books. So far that's 23 which are all me, and about as many others I've contributed to. The latest is Slightly Spooky Stories III - a collection of 24 short stories.

Btw, NaNo is the subject of this week's #WritingChat. To join in this weekly Twitter event just tweet 8-9 UK time using the hashtag. All are welcome.