ARE YOU SURE YOU DON’T HAVE ANY PLOT HOLES? REALLY SURE?
Plot holes are especially hard to deal with when you are getting near the end, because they require a functioning brain to make sure the fix works, and I am even less likely than usual to have such an unfogged brain simply because of the pressure involved in making sure everything is taken care of, preferably BEFORE publication.
So it’s a bit of a catch 22 situation, and a place where the indie freedom to put off the launch another week or so is a Godsend.
I can’t imagine what it would be like with a deadline.
And someone like me should probably eschew using the pre-order feature on Amazon due to the likelihood of ‘something came up.’
I would imagine we first-timers should ALSO not push our luck.
Plot holes have a lot in common with potholes:
Somebody has to notice them, either by reading (driving) that scene, chapter, or set of chapters (street) that contains it – or by having someone else do it – and reporting back to the person in charge.
A systematic sweep of the work in question – this is known as beta reading or editing, depending on who does it – is preferable to having someone discover the hole by getting caught by it AFTER purchase, something which results in either broken axles or suspension of disbelief if they get big enough.
And, from what I’ve read, that leads to annoyed reviews. Not a good start.
Plot holes basically come in three sizes:
- Small – affects a scene or chapter only, and is easily fixed within that scene or chapter without upsetting the external timeline between scenes (much). (Fill: asphalt)
- Medium – big enough to require checking a series of scenes and chapters, so as to make sure the connections between the pieces have all been checked in the final product. (Roughly equivalent to paving the streets in my development.)
- Really big – otherwise known as sinkholes, a big plot hole ruins the story in such a way that the whole thing is toast, and, depending on when you find it, will require a major rewrite, or the abandoning of the whole project. I hope not to create that kind.
Finding the holes:
I have enough distance from the writing as it has taken me forever to do some of the auxiliary tasks such as learning enough graphics to do a cover. Principal writing was completed on Palm Sunday, back in March.
So it is possible to read like a reader – constructing the story world out of the words as I go along, and listening carefully to when the mind says ‘Huh?’
The small ones get fixed easily as you notice them, because their spatial extent is usually obvious. Oops – this should be Saturday, not Sunday – is easy enough to change.
If you think about it, the medium-size ones are both the hardest to find, and the hardest to fix, because little pieces of old text have a tendency to hide in non-obvious places, such as internal monologue or someone’s reply to a piece of dialogue. So a great deal of care is going to be necessary in the finding and planning, but the implementation should be straightforward.
If you have Really Big Plot Holes, you may need professional help. Good luck!
The process of fixing the darn things needs to proceed in an orderly manner. Quick fixes, such as when my township fills the hole with some asphalt and a prayer, usually results in a repair which doesn’t last long.
I did a few quick fixes as I was writing Pride’s Children and posting them online every week, and only one or two people noticed: the fix was good enough to move on, or didn’t affect the story when the reader had to remember details from week to week. To be fair, I thought I had stopped, fixed the timeline completely, and tapered the edges of the fix into the ends and beginnings for a smooth continuum, and I had updated the calendar so I could proceed from there without worrying
I pride myself on my potholes: they are in the timeline, but are minor glitches, and they don’t make you question the story, just whether you remember correctly having heard a date before.
Where do plot holes like this originate?
I thought about that one for a while, and realized that, for the medium-size plot holes I’m dealing with, the hole came into existence because a particular piece of dramatic story worked so well in several different places that I had not done the hard work of deciding in advance where it would be BEST, and thought it would be obvious where the best location was – as I went along in the writing.
Example (but not in this book):
The easiest one I can think of is the typical timeline for when a woman tells the world she is expecting a baby. There is an obvious limited timeline between conception and delivery, and, for some women, the later dates make it fairly obvious that something is going to happen, but people are surprisingly bad at telling exactly how far along a pregnant woman is. And we hear stories on a regular basis of girl who delivered a baby at the prom – and claim that neither she nor anyone in the family had any idea she was in the family way.
I think there may be a good bit of denial or deception involved there, and the two or three cases in which I was close enough to have a pretty good idea, this was the truth. But even in those, families were not paying attention to loose clothing and moodiness because teenagers are often that way when not expecting.
In any case, having gone far afield with an example, the point is that the announcement of either a baby on the way or an actual baby changes a lot of things forever, and thus picking the right time and place has major consequences.
So it isn’t surprising, if a little one is on the way, for the writer’s brain to ask the question of how it would affect the characters and the story depending on where, when, and to whom the event is revealed – and for some of those to affect what happens in scenes which later turn out to be before anyone knew!
MY plot holes
The plot holes in Pride’s Children, Book 1, are not hard to fix – and I thought I already had fixed them – until reading in sequence had some of the questions I thought I’d already answered popping up again.
They are sequence events: something happens before something else when it was intended to happen after.
Not to worry.
Plot holes respond well to logic.
I have the calendar involved, a list of the scenes, the affected bits of text. I watch whose point of view is called for – and pay attention to whether something is internal or external to the calendar. And I try to see the story as something that actually happened – so a comparison to ‘reality’ helps check for consistency and order.
In addition, I’m asking myself to choose – which involves a bit of writing back and forth with myself, and deciding, on the page, which sequence will be true, and why. Then I record that decision in writing in the Journal.
Then I have to go in and make sure the fixes, where necessary, do not interrupt the flow. These are plot holes which must be fixed, but their previous incarnation did not interrupt the flow, so that must stay the same. Inconspicuous mends, feathered in.
Needless to say, I don’t want to have to do this again, so I’ve checked out a couple of other sequences – and most are just fine.
And I’m going at the fixes VERY slowly.
So if you wonder why I haven’t been writing blog posts, remember I have CFS and that makes it slow to fix things, especially when I have to be extra careful not to make things worse!
I’ll get there.
Next time – planning prevents potholes
I think I’ve learned a few things – make sure your calendar is set concrete before you start writing. Liquid is fine when you’re planning, but at some point you have to be able to write your initials in it, and have them stay.
Keep the calendar current, and change timing with great trepidation; the brain is happy to throw up new ideas – it gets bored easily.
But I will think several times before moving ANYTHING during the writing, no matter how much it takes me out of the writing: running into holes when you thought you were done is very discouraging.
Like any other writing problem, you can’t avoid all of them, so it’s important not to get TOO discouraged when you’re not actually the god of your particular universe, and can’t make things be exactly as written. Oh, well – that’s what editing is for.
It’s still far, far better to find them while you can fix things (and preferably before the POD Accept button is clicked) – no one will ever know.
Do you have other kinds of plot holes that have bitten you? Solutions which work?