Does your story seem a bit thin to you? Lacking in the substance you were hoping for? Or just too simple or lifeless on the page?
You’ve slaved away and there it is on the computer monitor, but it seems to need something more, maybe a more intricate plot complete with twists and turns, and surprises, and even some humor? Maybe your how-to book could use some important subpoints so that your reader gets it more clearly.
A story—or any piece of writing–is like a tree.
A strong and healthy tree can withstand most storms. A sapling often cannot. It takes growth and some time for it to develop roots and dig down deep in the soil for nutrition to grow resilient.
Very likely, your story or essay can grow too. Perhaps it needs the nutrition of insights, new ideas, connections, surprises, twists, and at times to double back on itself. Does your piece need to branch out?
How can we cultivate such a story? How can we write such a book?
First, don’t be in a hurry.
Second, think it through.
Brainstorm it , ask yourself questions, look at your scene through your characters’ eyes. Program you subconscious mind with those questions and put them to work behind the scenes.
You can make yourself alert to any information you seek.
I do this by making a habit of looking for what I need. This tells my mind that I want that info, really want it. Here’s an art illustration: Let’s say I want to draw Victorian houses. Driving through neighborhoods, I look for them. Do this enough, and I am “programmed.” The result is that whenever I come across such houses–in magazines, on the residential block, in a movie–I take special notice.
(Anybody know the technical term for that? I tried Googling it but couldn’t find it.)
Third, carry a pad and pen with you wherever you go.
So that when those ideas come, and they can come quickly and unexpectedly, you can record them before you lose them.
Fourth, do the research you have been putting off.
It can lead to new ideas, new directions, new surprises. Maybe a whole new subplot.
Fifth, organize it!
Make it usable and readily-accessible. I summarize, write lists, and have them handy for my re-writing work. My lists and summaries contain things I want to be sure to remember as I write and re-write. Things I need to do or to include.
Now I’m a rather organized person by temperament. I love planning, sometimes more than the writing! So this all comes easily to me. I enjoy it. But it does take some work: but it’s work that pays off. I put clickable icons to my lists and summaries on my desktop. (I have quite a few of them now, and they are convenient).
Sixth, List important Points from good Books on Writing Craft.
I get some of my best ideas when reading books, blogs, and essays on how to write fiction as well as nonfiction books. The points in them often alert me to things I want to include.
Seventh, be open to fresh ideas from any source.
A couple days ago I was with friends at the movies. The latest James Bond spy-thriller. It was quite good–and long! I had been searching for an enhanced ending to my novel. And while watching this movie, I got it. Big time. There I was scribbling away with my fountain pen and turquoise green ink (a lovely color by the way) on a small notepad in the near-dark. No one even looked at me.
If you try my suggestions above, I predict you’ll get some good ideas and find your work taking on additional depth.
Tell me, what do you do to add substance to your writing?