Yesterday’s post about plot could have been taken a little more harshly than I intended. So let me reiterate that it was meant for lazy or wrongheaded (or lazy and wrongheaded) writers.
If that doesn’t describe you, then wonderful! You have nothing to be ashamed of if your story line goes a little – or even more than a little – awry.
In fact, unwitting bunny trails happen so often when writing manuscripts that the topic deserves its own discussion.
So let’s do just that. Let’s discuss it right here and now: the ins and outs of how to fix a plot hole.
For starters, to make sure that everyone’s on the same page, a plot hole is a point in the plot that doesn’t make sense with the bigger picture. For example, Character A might choose the fourth of five paths in chapter 16 when there were only three paths established in chapter 7.
(Sounds like a plot twist instead of a plot hole? It could be. But not if there's no logical reason given or some other kind of acknowledgement that the author knew about that discrepancy.)
Plot holes are also evident whenever a reader legitimately finds himself asking, “Why didn’t Character A just do this?” or saying, “Yeah, but the whole thing is based on Premise 1, which is too improbable for me to believe.”
One way or the other, you want to know how to fix a plot hole. Otherwise, you risk losing credibility with your audience, which isn’t something you normally want to risk.
If you really want to know how to fix a plot hole, it’s best to go step by step… starting with the very basics.
Step 1: Assuming you’ve recognized the problem in the first place, start breathing again.
You can get through this – yes, even this, dear writer.
Step 2: Say the following out loud: “There are many, many ways to fix a plot hole. My story isn’t automatically doomed.”
Now say it and actually mean it. Because, while I can’t 100% promise that your story will be alright, the chances are definitely in your favor – if you’re willing to work for it.
Potholes are not the end of the world.
Some people might look at that statement and see a typo. But I see a connection to our Writing Definition earlier this week.
While driving, potholes are something to be avoided if at all possible. But if you hit one, you hit one, and you deal with the damage from there. While writing, plotholes (or plot holes, if you must) are something to be avoided as well. But they’re not the end of your writing road if you don’t want them to be.
Take careful note of the two qualifiers up above: “if you don’t want them to be” and “if you’re willing to work for it.”
Those caveats could make all the difference.
Moving along with our “how to fix a plot hole” writing and editing guide, we now reach the real work.
Step 3: Analyze the story line.
How much depends on the plot hole? Sometimes, it’s a very small detail that just takes a paragraph or two of deletions, additions or revisions to correct.
You might need to expand on one single aspect of the plot, giving more information to make it all make sense. Or it could be a matter of simplifying another set of details, perhaps in the beginning, perhaps at the end.
Going back to Step 2, remember that there are many, many ways to fix a plot hole. And not all of them are horribly painful to the writer.
Then again, some of them will take more work. You might find you have to alter an entire chapter or more in order to get things back on track.
Which bring us to Step 4…
Step 4: Evaluate how much the story means to you.
Is it worth the time and effort it’s going to take to fix the problem area? The answer is ultimately up to you.
If it’s a no, then don’t give up on creative writing altogether. You had a setback. So what?
It happens all the time in the writing world, and not every story is meant to be published anyway.
As for when the answer is "yes, the story is too important to ditch," there’s one bonus step you can take.
This list genuinely isn’t meant to jerk your chain or serve as clickbait. While I do realize how generic it is, it’s impossible to really get specific when no two stories are alike.
Therefore no two plot holes are alike either.
That’s why you simply have to evaluate your story for everything it’s worth right now and everything you want it to be. If you really want to know how to fix a plot hole, accept no substitutes.
If a personal evaluation doesn't yield you the results you're looking for, there is one final trick you can try.
You can always ask the experts.
Step 5: Schedule a session with a book-writing coach.
Most worthwhile book-writing coaches are skilled at talking you through writer’s block. That’s part of their job, which means they have to be good at problem-solving.
As such, they should be an excellent resource in helping you straighten out your story, showing you what makes sense and what could make sense with a little extra effort.
If you really want to save your story and you don't think you can do it on your own, let me know about it.
An expert and encouraging editorial evaluation might be just what you've been looking for.