Okay, creative writer. So you’ve taken my editorial advice and went looking through your manuscript for a plot hole. And you found one. Now what?
This week’s Innovative Editing’s Writing Rule has the answer to that.
Plot holes are worth fixing, no matter the cost.
At best, a plot hole cheapens your story. At worst, it completely ruins it. And isn’t your creative presentation too important to let either happen?
Yes, that might mean tearing out pages or chapters. No, it isn’t fun. But neither is getting ridiculed after you publish.
Not the answer you creative writer types were looking for?
I completely understand. While I don’t think I’ve ever had to worry about a gaping plot hole before (just little ones), I have had to tear out pages and pages and pages – even a chapter here and there – for other reasons.
So I can genuinely say from personal experience that, nope, there’s nothing fun about it. But really, the end result will be stronger if you tackle the problem right when you find it.
When it comes to recognizing areas of your story line that simply don’t mesh or make sense, the tried “no pain, no gain” saying remains true. Plots holes have to go, whether they span mere paragraphs, whole pages or entire chapters.
Though I guess I shouldn’t really say “have to.” “Should have to” is much more accurate. Naturally, there are no writing rules, creative or otherwise, that can’t be broken. You’ve got free will when all is said and done.
And hey, some rules are meant to be broken anyway. Right?
But before you walk away with short-term relief, recognize that there are consequences to any decision you make, whether pro-rule or anti-rule. In this case – at least in my opinion – the latter set of consequences just aren't worth messing with.
What will probably happen if you don’t fix your story’s plot holes? I’m hardly a fortune teller. However, here’s what's happened to such decision-makers in the past:
They didn't get a traditional publishing deal.
They did get a traditional publishing deal, but the publisher made them go back and rework that problematic section or sections before putting their novel out on the market.
They did get a traditional publishing deal, the publisher somehow didn't notice the plot hole and so put the novel out on the market as-is. But readers caught the issue and gave the book a lot of bad reviews, severely limiting the author's future sales potential.
They went the self-publishing route instead, put their novel out on the market and attracted the attention of some paying readers, who then caught the plot hole and give bad reviews, severely limiting the author's future sales potential.
Admittedly, there is the small possibility that you get picked up by Simon & Schuster and get an average four-star rating from 1,102 customer reviews, which is usually a pretty decent indication of success.
That does happen from time to time. I didn’t pull that publisher, rating and number of reviews off the top of my head. As of October 12, 2017 at 1:45 p.m., that described one certain novel I will never forget for so many negative reasons.
This includes an enormously gaping plot hole.
I don’t care how much money you get from it (which you probably won’t). Manuscript plot holes are always worth fixing. Before you publish your novel.