How to Edit: Plot Holes and Errors
A guide on finding and fixing plot holes in novels
The most important thing to focus on when writing a first draft is to get the words out. The first draft might look terrible, but you’ve released the words onto the page and that’s all that matters. Then, it’s time to edit. While editing, there are many things to look for, so let’s get into specifics of what to focus on while editing.
The goal of any good storyteller is to immerse their reader in the story. The reader is no longer staring at words on a page, instead they are lost in another world. Many of these changes we’ll talk about will seem insignificant and unimportant. However, when not fixed, these tiny errors will take a reader out of the story and remind them that they’re only staring at words on a page.
Story Plot Holes
Readers finding obvious plot holes is a fear of every storyteller. Why didn’t the character just do this? It would have solved all their problems. Plot holes, large ones in particular, will immediately take a reader out of the story and cause them to lose trust in you as an author.
Unfortunately though, there’s no way to perfectly safeguard your story from people poking holes in it. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do.
As you’re reading your story and receive feedback from friends, family, and beta readers, if anyone points out a plot hole, be sure to address it.
This doesn’t require you to completely redo the entire plot, often a simple addition of an explanation is enough. If someone asks why the character didn’t call for help, put in a sentence about their phone being dead. If someone mentions that it was too convenient for the characters to stumble upon exactly what they needed, make the discovery feel earned by having the characters struggle to find it.
Equally as important as plot holes in the story, factual errors will also destroy a reader’s trust in the writer. These could come from within the story itself or from the real world.
In story factual errors could include discrepancies about the setting, preestablished facts, or the character’s physical characteristics, backstory, or personality. In one chapter, the building is on the east side of town, in the next, it’s in the middle of town.
For in story errors, the best thing to do is keep notes. Have a document with all the information about your characters, main locations, and other details.
Any story set in the real world, either in history or the present day, must be factually correct. If the author hasn’t researched the location, time-period, or culture, any well-informed reader will immediately notice and lose trust. While of course you can fictionalize some things, such as the character’s business or street address, the larger world should be as accurate as possible. This unfortunately requires a lot of research on very specific and obscure things.
The sad thing is that real world factual errors might also just be perceived. This means that while you know the US Declaration of Independence was actually ratified on July 2nd, the average person might look at your story and think you should have written July 4th. Does this mean you should intentionally make it incorrect, no. But be aware that some people will get confused and address that perceived error with an explanation.
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