04 Jan The Plot Hole Paradox
While writing the first draft of my novel I left a slew of plot holes in my wake.
After 5 months of research and outlining, I dove in to the actual writing and the experience felt like dashing headlong down a road engulfed in flames during the middle of an earthquake. It was nerve-wracking and the only way I was able to reach the finish line was by never, ever looking back. If I had, the sight of the furiously expanding crevasse-sized plot holes would have been enough to send me straight off the road into a morass of despair and self-doubt. So, whenever I came to a plot hole that I couldn’t fix, I just trundled through and plowed on to the next scene.
After 6 months or so of writing my heart out I finished the first draft.
After taking a month away from it in order to let it all settle in my mind and gain some perspective, last week I began work on draft two.
I started by reading through the chapters one by one and while they’re all staggeringly rough (like, I could file my nails on these little beasties) they’re also…good. I’m totally head over heels for this story, this world, and these characters. Reading your own book and loving the heck out of it feels pretty great.
After my read through, the next step was to buckle down and face those daunting plot holes. There would be no avoiding them anymore. No leaping over the gaping chasms and screaming my way into the next chapter.
I began by writing chapter synopses, short little paragraphs that covered all the important things that happened in each chapter. And when I got to the first plot hole…a funny thing happened. I stood at the edge of what had previously been a truly impressive gorge and saw that it wasn’t actually that wide. In fact, I could see all the way to the other side. How had this stumped me before?
It didn’t take too much work to drag the two sides together, creating a fairly seamless path where once there had only been nothingness.
When I got to the next plot hole and the next one and the next one, I found the same thing. What had once seemed insurmountable was now doable. Not easy, but possible.
With a few days of work I was able to knit together my plot.
It’s not seamless and it’s nowhere near done. With each further draft (and there will be many) I’m sure I’ll churn up more plot holes that need fixing. But still. This feels good.
And the thing is, if during the first draft I had stopped at each plot hole and bludgeoned my brain trying to figure out a way to solve it, I would have lost steam, felt terrible about myself, and maybe even allowed self-doubt and cynicism to take over.
I might have given up.
The plot hole paradox is that I couldn’t have fixed these plot holes if I hadn’t created them first. It was only by writing them that I learned how to overcome them.
Writing is such weird magic.