My book seems like it’s going to be way too short. My goal was 300 pages but it seems like it’s barely gonna make 100. What should I do?
Filler is never a good thing.
It's possible that 100 pages is simply the proper length for your story.
However, it's also possible that you have too much narrative summary and too little scene.
Jane ate lunch at Luigi's. She ran into Josh, and told him about the trouble with the locusts.
The restaurant was almost empty, a forest of crisp white tablecloths. It was nearly two o'clock. While lunchtime technically extended until three, Jane always felt faintly unwelcome at this hour, as if the staff were all eyeing her, wishing that she'd eat her soup just a little faster.
"The usual table?" asked the hostess.
"Yes, thank you," said Jane. In her hurry, she led the way to the little round table by the window, rather than following. "And a glass of iced tea as soon as you can—" She broke off. Josh? Yes, Josh, just entering through the big glass doors. What was he doing here?
(And so on and so on.)
Now, scene shouldn't be "filler". There should be some reason for all this stuff. Jane's discomfort about potentially inconveniencing others, her familiarity with the restaurant, her upcoming conversation with Josh—they should all earn their keep.
Some semi-random links about summary versus scene:
Without reading a sample I can only guess as to why your novel is so short. Unfortunately the majority of popular advice for WRITING applies to ESSAYS, SHORT STORIES, AND NON-FICTION. It is generally unsuitable for NOVELS. "Delete anything that doesn't drive the story on," Is typical bad advice. You end up with a chronicle of 'this' happened then 'that' happened.
I recall a passage in the book "Jaws". The male character spends several pages taking a pee. The female character can hear him and recalls the beginning of their relationship. She was unaware that men and women have different size bladders and believed he was some kind of urinary freak.
This passage does nothing to drive the story on. Novel writing contains two major components, plot and character. In modern times character seems to have the upper hand. The more you can build your character the greater the interest from the reader. But you do not TELL the reader about the character you SHOW the character to the reader.
I have an example where I could have written. "The morning after the party Katlyn woke up with a hangover. She stumbled downstairs."
The reason the story runs to 400+ pages is that it takes her 1000 words to get up and stumble down the stairs.
Scenes are not required advance the story but they must have a purpose. A scene may exist to develop or show character. And because characters are dynamic you may spend several scenes showing how characters interact and effect each other in different circumstances.
One of my favourite novels is all of 92 pages. I can and do read it in a single day. It tells a simple "X goes there and does that" story but it has compelling characters and a setting that feels deep and complex without being much explored. Page and even word count really aren't an issue to my way of thinking, but you feel you have pacing issues, that's a major problem.
If an author thinks they're going too fast then odds are their audience is simply going to be lost. So you need to slow things down, the key to maintaining a solid narrative that goes slow enough to be comfortable is to focus on your characters not on the events of the tale. Characters are people, they are therefore, by their nature, messy and complex. It takes a lot more time to explain a narrative from your character(s) point of view than from the exalted heights of author/creator.
From a technical standpoint text explaining the tale from a character's particular POV could be considered "filler" but it's not words for the sake of words; it should (and usually does) create a greater depth of engagement for the reader with the POV character, and hint at greater depths to the world in which the story is set.
For those who are interested that's Andre Norton's Eye of the Monster, my paperback of which is 92 pages.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Airman's Odyssey
This advice from one of the better writers to ever grace this earth should be worth following. Now, if you are getting paid by the word or page, perfection may not be your primary goal ...
Here is a list of possible problems that lead to too short a story:
1) Did you start it too late? Perhaps you need to begin with an earlier scene in the life of the characters. You may have the wrong inciting incident.
2) Do you have a complete story? Study story structure. Yours probably closely aligns with either 3-Act, 4-Act, Hero's Journey or episodic. Do you have all the parts that are commonly found in that structure? Are some rushed? Diagram your story against the structure and count the number of pages devoted to each.
3) Are the story parts out of proportion in length? The beginning, middle and end take up different lengths. Make sure the middle is not too short. The end should cover a short period of time with many pages, the middle a longer period of time with comparitively fewer pages per time elapsed.
4) Did you skip important scenes, possibly because you could not imagine them in a way interesting enough to write? I wrote a story where the protagonist is a prisoner. He eventually wrangles his way out of prison. I didn't describe the scene where the Warden interviews and threatens him prior to his release. It was an expected moment in the normal flow of a prison drama that I just plain skipped over. I had to write one, and it was a good addition.
5) Are both the inner and outer character arcs given their due?
6) Are some of your secondary characters one-dimensional? Could one or more of them use additional development? Should you add additional characters? Perhaps a sidekick or person who provides comic relief.
7) Could you add another reversal or two? Increase the stakes? Add more foreshadowing or false clues?
8) Can you add more conflict? More conflict means more threads that need to be resolved.
9) Have you made effective use of setting? Perhaps you can bring the setting more to life, make it take on the qualities of a character.
10) Can you deepen the theme by introducing a related theme that complements the themes you have already chosen? Can you have the antagonist or a secondary character make the wrong decisions just as the hero is making the right decisions, as a contrast?
11) Has the protagonist paid too small a price for victory? In one novel I wrote, my initial plan was to have the heroine go on trial for a crime of which she was innocent. The whole first half of the book was her enlisting allies and fighting to be exonerated so that she would be undurdened enough to fight the true evil threatening her world. However, when I got to the trial scene at midpoint, I realized that having her lose the court case and endure additional constraints being placed upon her would make the story even better.
I have often had this same difficulty. There are three things to consider:
- Is this truly a novel-length idea? Would it be better as a short story, or a novella? Or is it just an unusually short novel? Although this might be the "right" answer, it's worth noting that novellas are very hard to place, and that both publishers and the reading public tend to prefer novels of at least 60,000 words. (At least for adult novels. Middle grade novels can be quite a bit shorter.)
- Are you really a novelist? There are a lot of different kinds of writing. Maybe you'd be personally better suited to write this as a movie, a play or a game (all of which tend to be significantly shorter in terms of word count than novels).
- Is your writing immersive? This is the big difficulty for me personally --my writing tends to be elliptical and to the point. Most good and successful novelists really luxuriate in their words, especially in things like descriptive prose. This helps the reader see through their eyes, or their mindset. Remember, nothing is there for the reader except what is on the page. A bare outline of the story might be immersive to you, the writer, because your imagination can fill in the gaps. But you haven't done your job by the reader.
You should NEVER use filler to pad out a book. The readers will always know. Either there's something important missing or there isn't.
The desired page length of a novel also varies wildy depending on genre and current publishing trends (and even where you're marketing your book). For example, doorstop-length fantasy has been the rage for a while (see GRRM or Rothfuss) while sci-fi tends to be 90-120 pages for a novel, and horror was about the same or a tish shorter. That can change over time, but as with all publishing trends, write the story so that it works, and then market it. An editor or agent will advise you if changes are needed.
I think the thing that will help most is to find some way to outline your story so that you can see it laid out in front of you. That way you can see every piece of it and how it flows.
Now, I'm giving this advice with two assumptions 1. Assuming that the stuff you have is already well fleshed out- that there aren't any plot holes and everything is pretty well put-together. 2. Assuming that once you take a look you see that your story is either incomplete or could use some more scenes. Once you have everything in front of you, take a look and see how the story flows.
How does the situation change for your protagonist? Things start off all right. Do they get worse? How much worse? Is there a bright spot somewhere in the middle of the story? Where's the point of of no return? When does your hero decide to commit to their quest? (if that's applicable) Questions like these may help you to think about your plot in Big-Picture format. How does your story fit together from beginning to end?
Once you know that through and through you can begin to make changes. You can add some scenes which push the plot forward. Put something in which digs your protagonist into trouble. It could be that your hero wasn't dug in very deep. If the problem isn't a hard one to solve, it won't take many pages to tell a story like that. I don't know anything about your story, so you'll have to judge that for yourself. In any case, I recommend doing some kind of outline to see what the problem is. That will certainly help you to see everything from a bird's-eye view and get a fresh perspective on your book.