First thing’s first: Your stories do not have to be long. Do not turn a story that only needs ten thousand words into a 200,000 word epic that has your readers bored and your editors ripping their hair out.
However, if your stories seem a little bare bones and sound more like a glorified outline than a story, then here are a few tips to beef it up:
(WARNING: These tips can help you or hurt you; if utilized in the wrong way, they can make your story seem cluttered and make it drag on longer than it needs to)
How to Make Your Story Longer
1. Add description
Adding description is the main way to bulk up a story. Describe the place they’re in if it doesn’t interrupt the narrative, add little details that really make the story shine.
If they’re walking into the room, give a few lines on what the room looks like. You don’t have to describe it down to the last minute detail, but the little bits of description that you do include will definitely add up and boost your word count.
2. Add dialogue
Dialogue can be used as a long way of describing something that can easily be stated in one sentence, and for that reason it is incredibly dangerous to use this method in excess.
Instead of saying that they were all scared, have a little back-and-forth with one character making a nervous remark and the other character reassuring them.
You have to be really careful with this, but if you do it correctly, it should help you make the story longer.
Also while we’re talking about dialogue, you can add things to it to bulk it up and make it seem more dimensional.
“I don’t really know if this is a good idea, guys,” Gary said. “This place doesn’t look safe.”
“I don’t really know if this is a good idea, guys.” Gary had chewed all of the nails on his right hand down to the quick and was now diligently working on the nails of his left hand.
3. Show, don’t tell
Instead of stating what’s going on, show what’s going on. I’m not going to get into this because there are so many posts out there that describe it, so I’ll leave this up to you.
Hope this helped!
If I may, because I ran into this problem when I first started my serious attempts at fiction and got this advice:
4. Add a subplot. Or two.
If you’re clocking in at 10k words but your goal is novel length, the problem may be that you’ve stuck too close to your primary story. This works in short stories and novellas because of the length restrictions, but for a novel you will need more.
Here is some good advice on how to incorporate a subplot that isn’t extraneous junk meant to stretch your word count, but vital content that adds depth and breadth to your story.
5. Try a beat sheet
A beat sheet is essentially a structured outline. They are almost required for screenwriting and genre fiction.
I should caveat this with: just because you outline with a beat sheet does not mean you are bound to the outline. As you write, it’s almost a given that the story will evolve beyond your initial beat sheet. BUT the beat sheet is a great place to start and continuously refer back to to ensure that your story has a consistent rhythm, you aren’t leaving things out (that third act twist!), and of course to help flesh out your story if you find yourself hyper focusing on just your primary plot.
I am a fan of the Blake Snyder beat sheet. It is designed for screenwriting, but can easily be adapted for written fiction.
I hope this helps!