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.