Have you ever read a short story or a novel and somewhere along the way the story/plot didn’t make any sense? It felt as though information was missing, or there was a lack of consistency. The result of all that is you scratching your head in wonder, putting the book down, or leafing back through previously read parts to see what you missed.
That gets too distracting. So how do you as the writer avoid making those same mistakes as a writer? In your own writing, some of the inconsistencies you may be aware of and some you may not be. For the ones you know of, write them down in a plot holes log. For the ones you are not aware of, you will catch those later in your editing.
To expand on this, here is what I do. In the writing software I use, Scrivener (You can find it at Literatureandlatte.com), I create an extra file labeled Edits. Within that file folder I have various files for the different types of editing I will do later. One of those files is called Plot Holes. When I know of a plot hole that I need to address later, I write it there. When I am finished with my manuscript later, one of the things I do is go to that list and fix those plot holes one by one. THEN I start reading my manuscript from page one and go straight through to the end. Along the way I am searching for any more plot holes I may have missed. I make note of them in the manuscript with my red pen and move on. When I get to the end of the manuscript, I go back to those plot holes I made note of in red pen and fix those. Please note…..when I am reading for plot holes like this, plot holes are the only things I am searching for as I am reading. DO NOT fix anything else or make note of anything else during this process because you will lose track of what you’re doing, and you don’t want to start over. If you have to stop to run an errand or cook dinner or something, mark your spot and go back to it later. Trust me, this is the process I used and it served me well.
I like to think of writing a novel much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. There are so many pieces and there is so much to think about. Placement of each piece/part is key if it’s going to fit with the rest of the ‘picture’. One wrong placement can make the rest of the story appear out of place. So, where do you start? Better yet, what do you start with? That really is up to you. As long as all the pieces fit together and the ‘picture’ at the end fits together, how you get there doesn’t matter. After all, we’re all different.
Still, there is so much to think about. Please see the list below.
Point of View
Generally speaking, these are the biggest elements that go into the creation of a novel. It’s quite a bit to keep track of while you’re writing. For the first time author writing their first book it can be daunting. One might ask, “How do you work with all of them as you’re writing?” It’s simple. You don’t. Yup, I said it. You don’t. What you do instead is this:
Write the first draft to get your story down. Start from the beginning and work toward the end. Start from the middle and work your way to the end then write the beginning. Write the end then the beginning and then the end. Whichever way you go about getting that first draft done is up to you. Just get that done first without worrying about the particulars listed above. Put if away for a few weeks when you finish the first draft. This will keep your mind fresh when you go back to write draft two.
In draft two look at the story structure. Make sure make sure each Act has the appropriate information in it (Please see my post from July 17, 2020 entitled Story Structure in Three Acts). Story Engineering by Larry Brooks is a wealth of information. I highly recommend it.
Go through each scene. Is the structure of each what it should be? There are two types: 1. Action 2. Reaction (Please stay tuned for a later post on this topic).
Here is where I would go through and look at the character development of your Main Character. There must be character growth from the beginning to the end. Here is where their character flaw comes into play. Remember, by the end of the book they will overcome their flaw. How they do that is part of their growth.
Setting is huge. Readers need to get a good idea/picture of where your story takes place, what it looks like, and how it’s connected.
Point of View is a huge one. You don’t want to confuse your readers by accidentally moving from first to third person or vice versa. So, choose a point of view and stick with it. Go back and make sure it’s consistent throughout.
Voice encompasses more than one thing. It incudes diction, detail, imagery (through description or use of simile or metaphor), dialogue, tone, and syntax (the way words are arranged). As you read through your manuscript looking for these elements as it relates to voice, you might find you need to add something here or there or change the way a character said something.
Theme goes along with the main message you are trying to convey to your reader. What is it you want them to learn by the end of the book? Do you accomplish this?
PLOT HOLES. This is huge. After all is said and done, please read through your whole manuscript and look for those pesky inconsistencies. Readers will find them and you don’t want them to. Keep a style sheet where you keep track of details you need to remember throughout your story. Your 31 year old MC can NOT be 42 in the last half of the book (unless they’ve been lied to and that’s part of the story). Her/his birthday you had mentioned on page 20 as being January 8, 1972 can’t be mentioned later on page 245 as being March 23, 1974. I just won’t work.
The editing is the very last thing that’s done. Grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc. This comes last before publishing.
As you can tell, these tasks are not done in one swoop. They are done one at a time (generally). Hey, if you are able to focus on one or more at once that’s fine too. The point is take your time. Focus, do not rush. The story won’t grow legs and walk away. It’s yours, so take your time and make it the best YOU you can make it. By doing this, all of the pieces will fit together, so that when someone else looks at it (reads it), they will be looking at something that will stay with them and make them come back for more.
I received notification today that the order containing my books, which was supposed to arrive today (January 29th), has been delayed until February 15. My plan was to begin selling them on Monday February 1st, but now it will have to wait until the February 16th (this gives me a day to set things up).
I am so sorry for the delay. Thank you for understanding.