Story Rehab: Fixing Plot Holes

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It’s the first Wednesday of the new year and you know what that means: another installment of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

This months co-hosts are Elizabeth Seckman, Lisa Buie-Collard, Chrys Fey, and Michelle Wallace! To find out more about IWSG (and to sign up), click here.

So…my husband and I are rehabbing a house. When I first saw the inside of the house, I thought to myself, “My Lord. We have our work cut out for us!” Lemme splain’ you something: if any of you kind folks saw the condition this house was in before we bought it, you would promptly call the head doctor and get yours truly the nearest appointment. Someone cut all the wires out of the house. Stole the toilet out of the hall bathroom (let’s stop here for a second and imagine someone running down the street with a toilet hoisted over their shoulder). And guess what else? We had to take out all the floors because of termite damage. And I won’t even tell you about that horrendous turquoise, cast iron sink in the master bathroom. The good news? After we’re done fixing the house it’ll be worth more than double what we paid for it (and the house won’t look like something that landed on the lot haphazardly after a tornado).

Why am I telling you all this? Well, aside from the fact that because of this house, I can now say that I actually painted something for the first time in my entire life (woo-hoo!), the house reminds me of my WIP. Because just like this house, my novel is a mess. It has loads of potential, but as of right now, it ain’t much to look at. My biggest issue? Plot holes.

A plot hole, or plothole is a gap or inconsistency in a storyline that creates a paradox in the story that cannot be reconciled with any explanation. These include such things as illogical or impossible events, and statements or events that contradict earlier events in the storyline.

Slap me, Sally. I have so much work to do on this story it’s not even funny. I think the house might be easier to fix than this mess of a novel! “Statements or events that contradict earlier events in the storyline?” Gulp. This is the novel’s biggest problem. And it stems from this: there’s a particular incident in the story (a huge incident) that I haven’t ironed out. I kinda sorta know what happened, but the details are fuzzy. So because of that, plotholes are a-boomin’.

So how am I going to fix it? Well, I’m going to have to make a definitive decision about what happened the night of the fire (doesn’t that sound intriguing???). I’ll need to decide what role each character played that night and how their actions affected the main character. And after I know this, I can start patching up those plot holes.

Moral here? You can’t write a believable story if the details are fuzzy in your head. Iron out the kinks in the plot. Go through the novel with a fine-tooth comb and make sure all the threads connect. And if you don’t? Well, your story will probably be as ugly as that turquoise sink in our bathroom. Don’t do that to your readers. They deserve better!

What about others? How do you deal with plot holes? Any home rehab horror stories? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


49 thoughts on “Story Rehab: Fixing Plot Holes

  1. Pingback: Comcast Purgatory and Other Tidbits | Quanie Talks Writing

  2. Turquoise sink? I had one of those and a matching WC and Cast Iron Bath Tub too. And a really ugly fuzzy pink carpet; that had to go too! So we decided to put in a three person Jacuzzi! Well we outlined the plan. Hired a buddy, Bruce, to do the work.
    Now my house is maybe 150 years old. Didn’t have indoor plumbing or any porches either. It has both now. The indoor plumbing was put into one of the old bedrooms, 8×10. Had built-in bookshelves too! The house did have 4×12 rough sawn oak floor joists. You can’t cut or drill through those. I started a little list. The Turquoise WC bowl went out to the yard. Makes a nice bird bath! Trashed the Sink. The Tub was the problem! It wouldn’t fit down the stairs or turn the corners. Cast Iron doesn’t cut too well; just like the Oak! Well the tub had to go… Out the other bedroom window. It was a double window. Hadn’t planned on that. Added it to the list.
    Then the Hurricane blew up. Did I forget to mention the Hurricane? – (Always a good ploy. Get to the point where you can’t fix it, well distract ’em). Well work stopped on the bathroom while the roof of the garage was fixed The tub sat in the other bedroom; then Bruce had a heart attack. Well with one thing or another the list was getter longer and longer, The plan had pretty much been thrown out the window. Hmmm, there’s an Idea! No it wouldn’t do. The water service came into the house right in front of the window. Wouldn’t want to crush that or break the pipe off entirely. Well Bruce got better. His heart wasn’t in the work any more. We got the Jacuzzi installed. Had to raise the apron a little because of the piping and the oak joists. Works like a charm. Turn on the faucets. Add a little tea-tree oil cut with castor oil; soothing! Read a book while you’re waiting for the tub to fill up.
    Oh the tub? We took the window out and dropped the tub to the ground with a sky-hook! Put the window back in. Every thing was Hunky-Dory. Plan accomplished. Except we never did resolve all the issues on the list. We still have that ugly pink Carpet. I guess you can’t cover all the plot holes. – That’s what a sequel is for.

  3. Pingback: Story Roadblocks: Research | Quanie Talks Writing

  4. Kudos to you, Quanie, for taking on a house renovation. You are ONE BRAVE WOMAN! If my husband and I took on a reno project like the one you have, we’d kill each other within the first five minutes. I’m all about the “move-in-ready” type of house. Though, I do watch a lot of HGTV and love most of the shows on there. Love It or List It is one of my favs. Also, House Hunters. Maybe I’ll get to see your reno on HGTV. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

    Anyhoo, this is a great post. I always seem to write myself into a corner and end up trying to connect the dots later. I’ve gotten better at foreseeing a possible plot problem, but still have so much more to learn about rectifying the problem. I think we all get better (hopefully) with each new WIP we take on. The more we write the better we become.
    Demetria Foster Gray recently posted..January Has No Power (re-post)My Profile

  5. Hi Quanie and Happy New Year ^_^

    Well, I’ll tell you what, when I’m writing my first draft, I write a lot of plot holes, I know it, and I don’t even care. I come to a point where I know that the story has to go a certain direction and I just do it, no matter what I wrote before. Then, when I revise, I adjust everything, but at that point it’s easier, because I know exactly where I’m going.

    The night of the fire, eh? That does sound exciting.

    I think I have something similar in my story. Events happened 100 years before are essential to the story and there are many flashbacks regarding them. So what I did was writing a very detailed synopsis of the episode, as if it were a short story. That helped me a lot, because again, when you write it down, everything becomes clearer, even if you think you have a clear idea in your head. And don’t worry if you think you don’t know what happened. As soon as you start writing, everything clicks into place. Well, at least this is what happened to me 🙂
    JazzFeathers recently posted..8 Sentence Sunday on Dieslepunks #32My Profile

  6. Man Quanie, I feel you on those plot holes. But first…a turquoise sink in the bathroom? Whoa. And someone stole the toilet? Wow. ‘Nough said. Now getting back to plot holes, even though I’d outline and preplot the story, a plot hole will always manage to sneak up on me. To deal with that, I’d look at my drafts and read through them. In this moment, I’m no longer the writer but the reader. And as soon as I read a passage that takes me out of the story, I know I’ve found my plot hole. Then I asked myself why or what in this particular scene is not gelling well with me. If I can’t figure it out then, I’d highlight it and get back to it later. Sometimes the answer comes to me while I’m daydreaming, brushing my teeth, about to fall asleep, etc. And tada, I’ve found the solution(s) which also helps to tighten and or make the story line complex. Sometimes the answer shows itself before I even to a read through.
    lidy recently posted..The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 5 Habits of WritersMy Profile

    • You have a great process, Lidy. I’m the same way: sometimes, when I’m doing something totally random, a plot fix will just pop into my head. If I’m in public I try to keep my excitement to a minimum so that people won’t think I’m crazy for breaking into a praise dance!
      Quanie recently posted..Story Rehab: Fixing Plot HolesMy Profile

  7. the turquoise sink…bahahaha. I’m obsessive about making sure everything is perfectly fleshed out. I go scene by scene and make sure everything is connecting, and that my plot and themes are prevalent everywhere. Fixing plot holes is probably the thing I spend the most time on with a MS , since with each revision a new pesky one pops up!

  8. I’d love to say I avoid plot holes by plotting out the entire damn story well in advance, but I know that’s not true. >_< I do tons of plotting and character and setting work before I start writing, but I've written enough to know that won't keep me from screwing up. One of the books I wrote last year, I found a plot hole right when I was writing the final sequence… when I was already about 70K words into the book and about to finish it. "Oops" doesn't quite cover it.

    Here's one thing I've found that helps: go over the story in your head when you're not at your computer. I like to lie down on my bed on a weekend day and just run through the entire plot, seeing it all in my mind and really focusing on who's doing what and why, to make sure it all comes together and makes sense. This has helped me catch plot holes before. Just don't do it when you're trying to go to sleep, as thinking that your own work put you to sleep is really not a confidence-booster. O_o

    Also: I'm totally going to find a place in some story, someday, for that blue cast-iron sink. 😛
    Mason T. Matchak recently posted..IWSG: I Say This Every Year.My Profile

    • 70,000 words in??? Man, that must have been heart breaking. There’s nothing like discovering a plot hole when you thought you had them all figured out. I think a swift kick in the gut hurts less. I hope you were able to fix the issue and move on with the story. And I hope that blue sink makes into one of your stories! Make sure you have someone throw it over a cliff, lol.
      Quanie recently posted..Story Rehab: Fixing Plot HolesMy Profile

  9. Quanie, will you kindly step up outta my business?! Because you’re all in it with this timely post on plot holes. They were the bane of my existence when I was revising my first (and so far only) novel. Now as I look forward to finally plotting my next book, I’m keenly aware that good plotting is the BEST foundation for making the writing process so much easier. If only I had known that the first time around!

    All I can say is you and your hubs must be a match made in heaven because not many people would look at a house with a turquoise cast iron sink and think *This is the one for us*. I’m sure the house is going to be beautiful when y’all finish, though! I’ve never reno’d a house, but I spend way too much time watching HGTV, so I know what I’m talking about lol. The ones that start off the worst, end up being the most spectacular in the end.
    Faith Simone recently posted..4 Ways Blogging Has Made Me a Better WriterMy Profile

    • Ha! I watch HGTV, too (I LOVE House Hunters). And girl that doggone ugly sink will find its way to somebody’s dumpster soon. The house is actually coming along nicely and I can’t wait to see it when it’s done! And good for you for figuring out that plotting is key. Even stories that are more character driven need something to hold it together. And sorry for being all up in your business, lol.
      Quanie recently posted..Story Rehab: Fixing Plot HolesMy Profile

      • House Hunters and Property Brothers are my faves! I’m glad the house is coming along nicely. 🙂

        As a character driven writer I struggle with plot at times because there’s often not a lot of events that carry the story along….

        And since you give such great advice, I give you permission to STAY in my writing business!
        Faith Simone recently posted..Author Spolight: Adrienne Thompson!!!My Profile

  10. Hi Quanie, What a brilliant post! I too laughed at the image of the toilet thief. I recently rediscovered my diary from when we renovated our house – phew! the layers of wallpaper, the awful ’60’s fireplace – not to mentioned the mummified rat between the floorboards! (we did have an intact loo though – just).
    Not only that but your post and the replies have given some really useful insight with novel revision (very good timing for me, thanks everyone).
    Happy New Year!
    Angela Wooldridge recently posted..Resolutions (and retrospectives)My Profile

  11. Great analogy between rehabbing a house and revising a manuscript. There have been times when I thought it would be easier to start over from scratch than to revise a mess. I did it, though, and am proud of the work. Good luck with the house & the ms.

  12. After writing two my the seat of my pants I learned a lot about plotting and its necessity. What you say is so true. You need to know that “back story” solidly including all the things you mentioned plus motivations for every one. Every scene must have its GMC/ Goal,motivation and conflicts -not to mention – tactics. What does you character want, why and how are they going to get it – a step by step process. Then there is the resolution – that is to say they need to fail in all the scenes leading up to the climax. OR – they might get what they wanted but find that it makes things worse. The Yes-but resolution. If I do what I need to do, what I have done for the books that got published, if I plot properly – I can write a solid first draft in 30 days. Plan you story and write your plan!
    Mahrie G. Reid recently posted..How do authors create their settings?My Profile

  13. Plot holes use to be the bane of my writing. I’d be unable to write until I went back and fixed a plot hole that my current scene caused. Needless to say, it use to take forever to write a book!!

    I’ve finally developed a system the works for me. It’s a combination of using [xxx something I don’t know] (be cause xxx is easy to search for) and leaving notes in the margin for fixes in earlier chapters. I keep a forward momentum, and have plenty of notes to know what needs changing.
    Gina Drayer recently posted..Working Within A Writing Schedule #IWSG And Cover Preview!!!My Profile

    • Oh, yes. That’s an awesome strategy. I used to go back to page one every single time I sat down to work on something. Needless to say, I realized that I might want to get to the middle of the novel sometime soon. I ended up with a really polished 20 pages or so, a middle that collapsed, and an ending that never happened. So, yeah. LOL.
      Quanie recently posted..Story Rehab: Fixing Plot HolesMy Profile

  14. Fixing plot holes can be difficult, but it’s possible. I’m a plotter, so I don’t have trouble with plot holes often. I find mediating on the story idea before I begin writing helps tremendously. I create a detailed plan, charting the entire story. This helps me to work out the placement of the events and what needs to happen when.

    Good luck with your novel and home!

  15. What an enjoyable read – you are hilarious! Now that you’ve assigned a name, “Plot Holes’, to an all too familiar problem I am stoked to put on my work gloves and patch things up so my protagonist can finally get to his destination. Sometimes the simple elimination of irrelevant characters or events has the effect of moving that 50ft tree that fell across the road.

  16. Hi,
    I’m not a writer whatsoever but I just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed reading this post, I have recently hurt myself and whilst sitting here feeling sorry for myself I started to read this, and I just have to say it made me smile and I even giggled imagining the toilet thief running away! So thank you for cheering me up xoxo
    ReginaReviews recently posted..Bungalow’s & Why They Are BestMy Profile

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