3 Step Method to Finding and Fixing Plot Holes

plot holeMy latest novel, The Terminarch Plot, is probably my most ambitious work yet.  I spent at least 6 months designing the backstory and various otherworldly settings where the series would take place.

However, once the first novel was complete and off to the beta-readers, I was informed right away that there were several plot holes that had unfortunately been overlooked.  I had to remedy the situation immediately.

I discovered that there is a very practical three step method for finding plot holes and patching them:

  1. Good Beta Readers – When you choose a beta reader, they need to be someone who is not really a close friend or relative, someone who is an avid reader, and someone who thinks on a logical level of Mr. Spock from Star Trek.  They are someone who actively looks for plot paths in your novel and follows every thread.  These people are not hard to find.  They could be as close as your local Craigslist listing.  Simply put out a Craigslist listing for a Beta Reader and offer either a small stipend or a free copy of your book once it publishes.  You’d be surprised how many readers scan Craigslist for opportunities.
  2. Go Outside the Text – This one may be the most difficult of the three.  Put your novel down for a while, work on other projects, then come back to it in a few weeks and read it as if you have never seen the text before or know these characters or have created all of these places.  Read with the reader in mind, who is a person who doesn’t know the backstory, doesn’t know the details of the subsequent novels you plan to write, and who probably has to be made to care about it.  Not only will you find the plot holes, but you will also discover any other lame things you wrote.  Follow every plot thread and make note of them on a yellow legal pad as well.  Do they have logical conclusions?
  3. Grow Thicker Skin – When your beta reader comes back to you with that awful plot hole that will require a rewrite of several chapters, take it on the chin and don’t try to argue your way out of it.  Just as the title of this blog suggests, writing is indeed hard work.  If you want to laze your way through the writing of a novel, you will produce garbage and nobody will want to read it.  Listen to the beta readers and think carefully about what you plotted out when you read through the novel again with fresh eyes.

My plot holes required me to spend a good 7 hours re-writing various passages.  In the end I feel I have a solid novel that is not only engaging but also a story that doesn’t have any unintentional loose ends.  The loose ends that are intentional will be filled in via subsequent novels, they come at the very end, and lead the reader to desire to read the next book.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

3 thoughts on “3 Step Method to Finding and Fixing Plot Holes

  1. Exactly, Erik. When plot holes are found I am speedily repairing them because I love the challenge of writing complex prose. I also love being an indie author so that my deadlines are my own. I can have more time to carefully craft a gripping story.

  2. Hey, Glenn. What you say makes sense – to writers who are really writers and not dabblers. One thought …

    You said, “I was informed right away that there were several plot holes that had unfortunately been overlooked. I had to remedy the situation immediately.” I think it may be that feeling of immediacy that causes some readers to skip important steps – and, hence, wind up with plot holes, errors and overall sub-par work. Unless you are a famous author who is held to deadlines by a publisher with big money hanging in the balance, there is no rush beyond the one we create in our haste.

    Spend the time to do it right. (I know you agree.)

    1. Oops, I just realized that I referred to you as “Glenn” instead of “Roger”! Sorry ’bout that! (I had just commented on a “Glenn’s” post before yours and my brain malfunctioned.

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