How to Condense Story Ideas for Novels

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Sometimes, the problem with creating a story is that it can get out of control. The simple idea you had to begin with is now a huge, complex story that is over 300k words.

I was asked in the comments of my post How to Develop a Plot into an Entire Novel, if there was a way of doing the opposite; condensing stories. Here are a few ideas:


Write/Plan a Series 

Think about the possibility that your story might be bigger than one book. This could eventually take shape as a:

  • Duology
  • Trilogy
  • Quartet
  • You get the idea…

If you think you have a 10-book epic-fantasy series on your hands, plan for that! Like I have stated before, a story often decides its own length. If you have a duology and another, shorter bit at the end, write a novella or collection of short stories to complete it. There really are no rules.


Cut Characters/Scenes/Anything Else

I have tackled the problem of condensing my work (often for uni word count limits) by cutting a character who only needs a brief reference but I have given them entire scenes of conversation and action. If they do not add anything to the story, cut them.

The same goes for scenes. If you are writing a short-story for example, and your character is walking from their house to the shops (boring, I know, but stick with me!), keep the scenes before and after the walk, but cut the walking scene as it just bulks out the story unnecessarily (unless they get mugged or something… You get the idea!).


Experiment with Point of View/Narration

If you are writing a YA or Middle-Grade novel and you have five POV characters (for example), and each character has their own individual story, your novel is going to be five times the length it needs to be.

Many writers have started writing the same story but from the perspective of different character in separate books; if you’re attached to your five characters, I would suggest doing that. Or maybe even write a series of five books that follow on from each other but is from the POV of a different character each time.

Another way to tackle this is to have these five characters going through the same plot together, so you can write the singular story using all POVs  and still keep the word count to a minimum.


If you are writing fantasy or sci-fi and your word count is between 100k and 400k, don’t worry about it. You can split the book into ‘Part 1’ and ‘Part 2’ like George R.R. Martin or Brandon Sanderson, or you can leave it how it is. I know that I love to dive into a huge book when reading those genres; it means that there is just so much more of that world to explore.

If you’re writing YA or Middle-Grade – long word counts probably mean you need to write some sort of series (that is if you do not want to cut anything). Don’t be put off by this! Self-published authors sometimes write a short series of books and then release them all on the same day; this backlog of books is a great thing to have so don’t be afraid of venturing into that area of writing.


I hope this was helpful, or at least gave you some ideas. If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below!


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