You've written your first draft. You love your plot, your characters and your setting. You've popped the champagne cork to celebrate and then...it happens. You open up your manuscript, look at the word count and discover you're short of your planned word count by about 10,000 words.
What to do?
When this happens to me, I generally find I need to beef up my descriptions. I tend to write manuscripts that are very dialogue-heavy and in the midst of all that talking, descriptions seem to be left behind. It could be because I can see it all so clearly and I'm so familiar with my setting and my characters, I forget readers are reading it all for the first time - not the ninety-second like me.
I go back through my manuscript to pay more attention to where my story takes place. I let my readers know that the grand piano is covered with silver-framed family photographs or that the morning sun highlights the heaviness of the green velvet draperies. Instead of one character simply clasping her hands in her lap, I add that before clasping, her hands smooth out the folds of her black silk skirt or that she runs a finger over her pearl necklace.
I add that the windshield wipers on a car squeak in an odd rhythm, or that an uncomfortable silence in one room is painted with the faint echoes of a gramophone playing the newest jazz records from America seeping in from a bedroom down the hall.
I don't try to add a new sub-plot because usually my plots are complicated enough to begin with. I do, however, search to see if each of my main characters grow during the story. I ask myself: How have the events changed him/her? What have they learned? Most importantly, does each evolution happen at a logical pace? No one changes their outlooks because of one conversation, but it can happen in baby steps.
What do you do when you realize your manuscript needs a few thousand words?