Word Padding for Fun and Profit

Word padding is an important part of National Novel Writing Month.  When you’ve got 50,000 words to go in only 30 days, how else can you hit that mark?

There are tons of ways you can go about word padding, but here are my favorites.

  • Chapters with really long names or really long subtitles.  All of my chapters are titled “Chapter (Number): In Which Something Happens.”  Some of my chapter titles get fairly lengthy, such as “In Which a Young Engineer Professor Meets the Gentry.”
  • Referring to people by their full name.  This could be fun: name a character Mary Ann, and then you have to refer to her by two words instead of one each time you mention her.  (Someday, I’ll actually use the name “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” in a NaNo project just so I can use all four names when I mention him.  Or rather, two characters named John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, since his name is my name, too.)
  • Long, practically superfluous descriptions.  Of everything.  So far, I’ve given a luxurious number of words over to lengthy descriptions of the character’s new clothing, an alleyway, and the college journalism instructor.  I’ll probably edit them out later, but for now it’s a lot of fun – it helps me better envision the world my characters inhabit – and it’s great for my word count.
  • Use the word “that” all the time.  As a journalism major, using the word “that” is actually almost physically painful for me, but I do it anyway.  It’s just one more little word I’ll use to pad my word count that will disappear when I edit.
  • Plan on doing something different with your novel when it’s done.  I want to use my current NaNo project as a baseboard for a graphic novel script.  In this case, I need to describe all visual elements to a T so I can keep that in later when I change it over.  The same principle also applies to novels adapted to screenplays: make sure you graphically and explicitly describe every sight and sound so you can pick and choose what you want to keep when you adapt it.
  • Make a prompt jar.  Use it.  Scribble down random situations, characters, or locations and drop them in a jar.  This is actually a really great exercise to use whenever, and you can constantly add to or subtract from the prompt jar as time passes.  You can even write down a specific challenge, like “Use the phrase ‘banana cream pie’ fifteen times.”  Not only do you have to use a three-word phrase fifteen times – a grand total of 45 words – but you’ll also have to construct scenarios and situations around it, which will add up to much more than 45 words.

Word padding seems evil, but it’s totally necessary for fiction writing – especially NaNoWriMo.  The nice thing about word padding?  It’s a thousand times easier to edit down than to edit up.  Trust me on this one.


Published by Feliza

Feliza Casano is a writer and editor with a love of speculative fiction, graphic novels, and good books. She writes and edits at Girls in Capes (GirlsinCapes.com) and contributes to other websites on science fiction and fantasy topics.

13 thoughts on “Word Padding for Fun and Profit

    1. Great! I’m so glad you liked it, and even more glad you’re inspired to keep writing. That’s one thing I want to encourage: always keep writing!


  1. Lol I love it. And word padding is only evil when you’re supposed to be worrying about how good something is rather than how long it is… Honestly my Nano project doesn’t even sound like my normal writing style, because I’m just writing and not worrying about anything except the number at the bottom of my screen.


    1. I definitely agree! Word padding is great for NaNo, but not for regular writing… I may have to write another post about editing down a NaNo project using tips for better writing!


  2. Oh, new word padding idea I came up with just now while writing with some people: One of my friends had a story before she had names for her characters, so she just had to keep saying “this girl” and “this guy.” So I thought, instead of naming characters, you could just refer to EVERY character as “the first girl” and “the fifth guy, do you remember him? Well, the fifth guy…” Or just do a Curious George and refer to everyone by characteristics, like “the man with the yellow hat,” which uses more words than “Fred”…


    1. I love the idea of writing an entire story in which the characters are “the first guy,” “the second girl,” “the third man,” and “the fourth woman.” That’s hilarious – it would make a great humor story – and it’s excellent word padding.

      And everyone loves Curious George!


  3. Another idea: If you’ve been doing a lot of telling, take a spot where you told something and make it a scene instead. Or several scenes.

    Also: Retelling the same scene several times from several different characters’ viewpoints. Repeat for each scene in the novel. 50,000 words in no time! (I should totally start doing this.)


  4. These are great! Especially banana cream pie which sounds quite delicious after a day of wordpadding.

    I love the idea of ‘the fifth guy’ and ‘the first girl’ because I write mysteries and this would be wonderfully convoluted.

    Actually, I just realized in my NaNo mystery I refer to the murderer as ‘the third guy’ because there were four people in the murder room and no one knows who ‘the third guy’ is and he is always referred to as ‘the third guy’ which is 11 letters and is working perfectly! I’ll have to stretch this one out for as long as possible!



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