Turning A Short Story Into A Novel

Rena George Serials, Writing 6 Comments

It’s a while since I penned a writing post so I thought you might like to hear about my current project. It’s a bit different from what I’m used to,  not the content of the WIP, just the fact that I have never done anything like this before. You see I’m re-writing one of my Cornish crime long short stories, and turning it into a novel.

And it’s been much easier than I had imagined.

The first draft is finished and all ready for printing out, which I will do once I get a breathing space from important family stuff going on at the moment.

Having the printout of that all-important first draft in your hands is such a wonderful milestone in the book’s journey. It is nowhere near finished, but you know you’ve got most of the plot points and character traits in there.

Ian Rankin, author of the brilliant Rebus books, describes working on that first draft as ‘where the magic happens’ and I know exactly what he means. This is where the writer crafts his/her work, fills the gaps, works the characters, and improves the descriptive stuff.

The work on future drafts may be more mundane as we check for continuity. It’s never good when the main character’s eyes change from blue to green, or he/she unintentionally ages ten years from one page to another. The author might miss such oversights. The reader certainly will not.

And then there are all the literals to extract, the over-used words and phrases to weed out, the spelling to check, etc…etc.

But back to the beginning. The first thing I did to build a short story into a novel was to print out the story, which I then read through. I scribbled down details of each scene/chapter on yellow Post It notes. Each one was numbered and stuck onto the A4 sheet of printer paper in the picture.

I then found a smaller pad of pink Post It notes and used these to jot down additional ideas / scenes / chapters. The smaller notes were tucked in and amongst the big yellow ones containing the details of the original chapters.

This was the fun bit, for I could see my whole developing plot at a glance. It also allowed me to spot where the plot gaps were, and what scenes needed to be shifted to new places.

Needless to say just about everything, except the characters, changed. The plot has new twists and turns, and a completely different ending. I also plan to give it a new name.

The big mistake I made was not setting all this up on Scrivener from the outset, which meant I had to copy and paste everything from my word docs into a new Scrivener project.

The wonderful Scrivener software allows you to display chapters and scenes on a virtual cork board, and lets you move them around at will. You can import pictures and research documents into your project. There’s a template to create character profiles, colour code scenes and notes.

And…it can compile your chapters into a book, all ready for publication.

It’s MAGIC! Are you surprised I’m such a huge fan of Scrivener?

If you want to know more about how to use it, then please check out Joanna Penn’s post on her blog www.thecreativepenn.com where she explains it all so much better than I ever could. Joanna’s website (that’s her above) is a treasure trove of invaluable help and advice for writers, and well worth a visit.

I’ll let you know how the new novel turns out – hopefully in the not too distant future.

Comments 6

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  1. It all sounds very exciting, Rena and what a great idea to turn a short story into a novel.

    Thanks for the link. I’ve heard of Scrivener, but never really knew what it was xx

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      Scrivener is a revelation, Teresa. Like most things, it takes a bit of getting used to at first but once you’ve got your head around the basics it really is brilliant.

  2. Glad you’re enjoying your project, Rena – I’ve also turned a short story into a novella (which became the first in my Aphrodite and Adonis series). Really enjoyed doing it as it saved me writing the whole thing from scratch! I’ve always enjoyed the editing process. I’ve been looking into Scrivener for a while now and will no doubt take the leap at some point.

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      Yes, really enjoying it, Rosemary. In fact it’s made me keen to do the same with another of my short stories. Quite easy to do since all the characters and the nucleus of the plot are already there. Scrivener is an adventure. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but I love it.

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