You've written something down. But it's so short.
You want to say more: you want your writing to be longer. But you're stuck.
What else can you say?
Plenty! Try the strategies below.
First, let's agree that there's nothing wrong with short drafts. We all love memes, tweets, one-panel comics, and six-word slogans. But at the moment, you're trying to make your draft longer.
Eventually, as a writer, you'll become an expert in poking a draft, looking for places to say more, making your draft more substantial, more persuasive, and more entertaining. You'll see where you can add bits of humor, insight, dialogue, anecdote, and more. But right now, you're stuck. You need to meet a word count.
Don't worry: you can get yourself unstuck.
Maybe it would help to get refocused.
1. Go back to your topic or purpose. Think about it again. What do you want your draft to do? More ideas might come to you.
2. Think about the point of the topic. Is it possible you've misunderstood it?
3. If you made your own topic, reconsider it. Is it too broad, too narrow, or simply too hard? Change it, either a little or a lot. For example, if you wanted to write an entire story, maybe it's better to narrow it down to just one scene.
Maybe it would help to get more input about your topic.
4. Try talking about your topic with a friend or family member. This person might inspire you with fresh ideas.
5. Try Googling your topic. What else have people said about it?
Maybe you just need a break.
6. Put your draft aside and go do something active or relaxing. Take a walk, or a nap. Listen to music, or watch a show. Get some chores done, maybe. Later, when your mind and eyes are refreshed, come back to your draft to look at it again.
Maybe you could add detail or substance.
7. If you're writing about an opinion or a point of view, focus on your reasons and your proof. Have you provided plenty of both? Is it possible to bring in some quotations from sources to show exactly what you mean?
8. Pretend you have no knowledge about your topic. Play stupid and come up with very basic questions about the topic. See if the answers would fit into your draft.
9. Work your way through your draft, asking it lots of specific questions. Try using the mnemonic ENHANCERS: Examples, Names, Hows, Appearances, Nots, Causes, Effects, Reasons, Sections. To do this, poke your draft again and again, asking things like, "What are some examples of this?" "What are some names of this?" "How does this happen?" "What does this look like?" "What is NOT happening here? That's what my idea IS, so now, what is it NOT?" "What causes this?" "What are the effects of this?" "What are some reasons for this?" "What are some sections, parts, pieces, steps, or stages of this?" See if the answers to some of those questions would fit into your draft.
10. Think about your topic and how you understood it differently when you were younger, or before you had certain experiences. Could you write about how your understanding has changed, grown, or developed?
11. If you’re writing about an opinion, look at your examples. Are they good? Could they be more specific? Do they have a narrative flow, like a scene or a story? For instance, if your examples are about people, are they about real, specific people, with names? Could these examples include visual details and dialogue? Would it be possible to add in some non-examples: to show what, exactly, is not an example of your idea?
12. If you’re writing about an opinion, count up how many examples you have. Could you add more? If you were somebody who doubted or disagreed with the ideas in your draft, would you be convinced by these examples?
13. Think about how people might misunderstand or oversimplify your idea. Try clearing up these potential misunderstandings. You might write, “Some people hear _____ and think _____, but actually, _____.” Or, you might write, “You might guess that _____, but interestingly, _____.”
14. If you’re writing about an issue, check to see if you’ve focused on only one side of it. If so, try considering it from other sides: try explaining what other people might think and why, and then respond. You might simply disagree--and say why--or you might explain why you agree, or why you agree only in part.
15. If you've already written about alternative perspectives, try going back to spend more time describing other people’s different ideas. Have you represented those views fully, with reasons? Try to write about those views with such fairness and such detail that the people holding them will think “Gosh, that’s exactly how I wish I had said that!” As you do this, try exploring how well you've refuted, modified, or conceded ideas: have you gone beyond dismissing them into truly engaging with them?
16. If you’re writing a poem, a story, or any other imaginative piece, look at how you painted your scenes and images. Could you make the detail finer? Have you let your characters talk out loud, to themselves or each other, in dialogue? Have you let them reveal their silent thoughts to the reader, in monologue? Have you dropped in details about the setting, creating a visual stage on which readers can imagine your scene? Have you shown your characters’ physical movements? Even if you already have, try to make these details richer.
Maybe you could add humor or personality.
17. Pretend you're sitting on a couch with your best friend, reading your draft out loud. Where would you pause to make a joke or drop a crazy or sarcastic comment? Put those in, and see if you like how they fit.
18. Look for places where you could add a ridiculous or hilarious lie, exaggeration, comparison, or anecdote. You may be able to make your jokes and anecdotes even funnier by making them more specific. And you may be able to make your comparisons even richer and more vivid by flashing away in time or space to the object or event you're comparing something to.
19. Read your work aloud, listening for the places where your draft sounds like it was written by some fake, uptight version of yourself. How would you--the real you, the funny you--explain that idea? Try writing it that way.
Maybe you could use some professional inspiration.
20. If you're writing a story, go look at some published stories. If you're writing an application essay, go look at some application essays. If you're writing a letter to the editor, go look at some letters to the editor. And so on. Harvest these published pieces for inspiration. Look at the longest bits, the funniest bits, or the most interesting bits. How did those authors create those bits? Figure out what their strategies are, and steal them.
Maybe you could use some help.
21. Take your draft to a friend, family member, teacher, or tutor. Ask, "How would you make this longer?" After they give you their suggestions, ask, "How did you come up with that?" You might learn a new strategy.
Here's the thing.
If you get stuck, you have the power to get unstuck. Keep trying! Your effort is so worth it. Even if you had help, you were the one smart enough to ask for it. Every time you find a solution that works for you, you're proving to yourself just how capable you are as a writer.
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