#16 Plotting 101: Bridging Plot Gaps in Your Writing
Plot Gaps in Your Writing
Your writing couldn’t possibly have any plot gaps. You’re too legit and your story is amazing. For your sake I hope that is the case. When I sent my manuscript for professional editing, I was surprised at the whoppers I missed in my own editing process. This article shares the lessons I have learnt along the way and hopefully it helps you avoid the same mistakes. Once you have read this article, you should be able to avoid and correct plot gaps in your writing so you can produce the best quality completed work to the world.
What are Plot Gaps?
You’d think authors knew what plot gaps are, and by extension could identify and elimnate them like a plot gap ninja assassin. However, the reality is a frightening contrast. Wikipedia did a great job of defining plot gaps or holes as follows: “a gap or inconsistency in a storyline that goes against the flow of logic established by the story’s plot.?Such inconsistencies include things as illogical, unlikely or impossible events, and statements or events that contradict earlier events in the storyline. The term is more loosely also applied to “loose ends” in a plot ? side-lined story elements that remain unresolved by the end of the plot.”
See there was no need to reinvent the wheel with a fresh definition. To give you a better idea of what plot gaps actually look like, here are some examples from literature that may surprise you:
- In the beloved Harry Potter series, they discover the time turner which allows them to travel back in time. The question that is left open is why doesn’t Harry travel back to before his parents are killed and stop Voldemort then? There are some easy fixes and good answers but they are not addressed in the story.
- In another beloved fantasy series, The Lord of the Rings, the fellowship ride on eagles to escape the clutches of evil in the Two Towers. Fan boys keep asking the question, why didn’t the felowship of the ring fly the eagles into Mount Doom to drop the ring? Again, there are plenty of ways to fix this, but the author must be intentional about preempting them.
- In the Hunger Games series, we once again, find plot gaps galore despite being a really enjoyable read. In the first book, why do the Careers not kill Peeta once they find Katniss? They behave in an all too convenient way that allows the protagonist to succeed.
How to Identify Plot Gaps in Your Writing
Before you can correct your plot gaps you need to know how to find them. Therefore,? I present two tried and tested techniques used by almost all great writers.
Firstly, you need to create some distance after having completed the first draft of your manuscript because you are still too close to the story. This time is different for everyone but a good measure is when certain details begin to slip your mind. As the creator of this magical prose, you are too close to it and you know it to well. That makes it hard for you to read it objectively. You need to read the book as a reader, with fresh eyes.
The Concept of Different Formats
Additionally, you can use the concept of different formats. If you typed your story in your word processor, print a copy of the entire manuscript in a different font, font size and colour, and read the physical copy. Psychologically, you trick your brain into believing that it is reading something knew. Many a great author swear by this technique.
Invoke the Law of The Third Degree
Sadly, the truth is that you cannot and will not identify all your plot gaps on your own. That is why you invoke the Law of the Third Degree and get three layers of reviews in. Firstly, get your early drafts professionally edited. This is the professional review. Secondly, make sure you join a critique group and send them your revised manuscript. This is the peer review. Lastly, send the almost finished novel to your trusted beta readers for input. This is your reader review.
There is a higher probabilty that three layers of reviews (or four if you consider yourself) will identify all plot gaps that any one layer may have missed. Each group will review your work from a different perspective, and each is invaluable. Your love of your story and characters will blind you to the massive craters in the work waiting to trip up your unsuspecting readers. Bite the bullet, and build a network to support you.
How to Correct Plot Gaps in Your Writing
There are two of the most powerful methods to fix plot gaps. The first is an avoidance strategy and the second a correction strategy.
Ever heard the saying the best cure is prevention, because the adage applies to the writing process. I wrote an article on plotting your novel using the elements of plot. Create detailed plot summaries in the correct plot structure for both your main plot and your subplots. Furthermore, create cheat sheets which include the following:
- Character sketches: Every detail of the characters’ traits, personality types, and backgrounds.
- Setting descriptions: detailed drawings and descriptions of settings in your novel.
- Timelines: logical timelines for all occurences including thing like weather, where characters were when something was happening, dates and times.
- Technical Notes: details about technical aspects of the novel based on your reseach, for example, if your character is a gun expert, you should be a gun expert.
Become One with the Edit
Now that you have detailed cheat sheets, you can proceed to writing the damn thing. Once you have created sufficient distance, you can start the writer’s review and edit. Check your plot against you cheat sheet to eliminate any plot gaps that crop up. Before you get going with the edit, it will serve you well to read several books on editing your novel. Here are helpful books that have helped me become a better self-editor:
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by?
- Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland
The Big Idea: Correcting Plot Gaps
In conclusion, you must avoid plot gaps at all costs. You do this by preparing well, then executing with precision and finally correct plot gaps through a meticulous edit. We cant trust ourselves with our own writing. We are blind to its floors because love, well, makes you blind. Rely on your network to help you create a final work of high quality by putting it through several reviews. The effort of this process is collosal, but the payoff invaluable.
For similar content check out my blog and podcast where I share lessons like this to help you become the best writer you can be. If you liked this article, show your support by subscribing and sharing it on your social to others may benefit. I live to serve my fellow authors on their journeys to becoming great writers. Armed with this knowledge, go forth and correct thine plot!