As much as I am in love with my current work in progress, I am aware that it has a few major problems. This novel truly is my tester novel, where I am making every writer mistake out there from spending too long on the first draft to under-developed characters to impressively poor world building.
Now that you all want to hire me to market your novels as well as I am marketing mine, let’s continue.
I have learned so much from making these mistakes, and though it is taking me some time to work through this novel, I know it will be worth it in the end.
My most recent round of editing has focused on filling potholes.
I mean, plot holes….see what I did there?..?..? Okay, moving on.
Since I initially wrote this story without an outline (big no-no, I would not recommend this) my plot was holier than a nun at a golf course. There were small plot holes, large plot holes, confusing plot holes and plot holes with the potential to turn into plot twists.
After navigating the treacherous plot road of my novel and carefully filling all the holes I could spot, I’ve learned quite a few techniques that I want to pass on to you wonderful readers.
Plot Hole Filling Step One
Know where you want to go. Since I was a silly goose and wrote my first draft without an outline before I could begin filling plot holes, I had to know what my plot actually was. This meant I needed to make an outline. As Kayla wrote about in a recent post my first outline was a rather magical moment in my writing journey. For the first time, I laid out my entire story from beginning to end. The path between points wasn’t always clear, but with the outline I at least knew what the important points were, and could proceed to fill in the gaps along the way. This step should ideally be done before you draft, but hey, nobody’s perfect right. If you were a responsible writer who created an outline before typing out your manuscript it is still good to go back and review your outline once draft one is on the page. You’ll be surprised how much things have changed.
Plot Hole Filling Step Two
Know what you wrote. Now that you know where your story should go, you need to read to find out where your story did go. Though time-consuming, my favorite way of doing this is to simply read my rough draft…twice. The first read through I do not make any notes, I simply read and absorb, then the second read through, once I have the grand arch, of my story fresh in my mind I’ll make notes like there is no tomorrow with all the little, medium, and big problems I see. This step helps me identify the plot holes. If I just jumped right into plot hole filling without reading my draft first, it’s likely I would just create a bigger mess than I started with. Which, let’s be honest, would be impressive – but sad.
Plot Hole Filling Step Three
What’s causing the hole? Now that you can see clearly where your plot holes are in your story, you need to determine what is causing the hole. There are many different types of plot holes.
This can be anything from your MC being blonde in the beginning and a ginger at the end, or something more serious like your MC changing personalities halfway through. Throughout the whole story your character needs to behave in a way that is true to them. Yes, they can grow and change, but these changes should be evident to the reader throughout the process of the novel. To fill these holes you’ll need a strong sense of who each character is (and what they look like). You can then begin combing through the story and make sure your characters are doing things because that’s who they are and not just because it is convenient to the plot.
It can take a long time to write a book, and throughout that time you might forget that you started a theme then never followed through on it. Perhaps you introduced a shadowy figure in chapter two, and then forgot they were going to attack your MC before the final battle scene. Or maybe you wanted to play with how birth order affects a person’s personality, but never managed to fully flesh out the idea. Cut out the themes that no longer seem relevant and tie in the themes you want to keep all the way through
Universal Law Breaking
The universe your story takes place in has basic laws, but sometimes those don’t help move your plot forward. For example, when writing about werewolves in my current WIP it made my plot more exciting if my characters couldn’t remember what happened to them when they turned into wolves, but the universe I set up also has the wolves keep their human spirits while in wolf form, making it unlikely that they wouldn’t remember what happened when they were wolves. So I had to decide to change my universe’s laws, or change the storyline to work with my werewolves remembering their shifting nights.
Again, this is a big one for me as my story is told from multiple perspectives, and also pays close attention to the phases of the moon. I need to make sure the full moon comes after the first quarter, and that two weeks pass before the new moon. Plus, when I’m chilling with my male MC on Monday, and can’t suddenly jump back to Sunday to talk about what my female MC was up to. This is where my outline really helps.
This is the grab bag for the rest of things. Maybe you said your characters live on the south side of town, but then they always walk east to get home. Maybe the math teacher is named Mr. Bog in the beginning, and Mrs. Bellpepper at the end. All these little inconsistencies can easily be cleaned up once you identify them. For my story, I’ve created a master list of characters, so I always know who’s who, as well as a map of the town so it is easier for me to describe my characters movements.
Sometimes identifying plot holes can be hard for an author to do on their own. Beta-readers are an essential part in identifying your plot holes, however, they will be much more effective if you utilize them after you’ve done your best to eliminate all the plot holes you can find. Otherwise, they might disappear into your oversized plot holes never to return.
Plot Hole Filling Step 4
Fill those holes. Now that you know what your plot should be, and what is causing your plot holes you need to fill them. I highly recommend doing this in stages, starting out with themes and characters, and finishing with timeline and continuity. Each hole will take a variable amount of work to fill, but believe me the deeper the plot hole, the more satisfying it is to finally get it patched up.
Getting the plot of my novel right has been a huge ordeal for me (one that would have been somewhat avoided by having an outline) but I could not be happier with the progress I’ve made. I am so excited about where my story is going and cannot wait to share it with all of you.
I hope your writing is going well. Remember no matter how rough your story currently is, if you have the passion and determination you will someday turn it into a beautiful gem.
Brooke Stewart has been writing stories since before she knew how to write. A lover of fantasy, sci-fi, and romance, Brooke is currently working on a young adult fantasy novel, as well as a few comedic short stories. When she’s not busy writing fiction, Brooke keeps busy co-running Silverskypress.com, a blog about writing and the life of a writer. Connect with her on Twitter, and learn more about Brooke and her current writing projects here.
Originally published at Silver Sky Press
Photo by chrisUK