Writing Tips

Asking Why to Prevent Plot Holes

Writing a story is basically describing a series of events in chronological order. Whether or not your story is fiction or non-fiction, you are taking your readers along the path your characters have walked.

Plot holes happen when the author hasn’t asked these very important questions: “Why did that happen?” and “Why did that happen this way?” and “Why did they say that?”

It may seem obvious, but it is an easy enough mistake to make. If the holes are big enough, readers will not only find them but loudly point them out.

Every work has at least one place where the audience finds a reason to object to the plot, no matter how famous or how successful. Sometimes, the plot holes aren’t real holes but just misunderstanding or lack of information for the audience.

“Why didn’t Gandalf just as the eagles to fly Frodo to Mount Doom?”

“Who was the architect of the Death Star? How did they miss such a vital flaw in the design?”

These are just two examples of famous works with questions raised by the audience. There are answers to these questions, some of which are human error and arrogance in Star Wars, and others are far more complex for The Lord of the Rings. Even so, when readers raise these questions it means that the “why” wasn’t adequately explained or obvious.

When you’ve completed your first draft and you return for your first edit and rewrite, this is the time to really begin asking these questions. Understanding the why will not only help to build your plot but also help you get to know your characters.

If you have two people traveling from point a. to point b, by car, and it is a mere 20 miles (32 kilometers) away, it shouldn’t take them from dawn until dusk. Why would it take that long? Did they stop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Did they have to run a few errands?

This requires a revision. If you must have your first scene at dawn and your second scene at dusk, then remove the distance that is being traveled. Perhaps you could add in another scene that takes place in between.  In the end, it may require changing your timeline.

If the evil villain is attempting to capture the hero, why did he wait three days to begin pursuit? Were his black robes at the cleaners? Did his army all have a case of the flu? Making changes will make the story better.

Not all holes will be so glaringly obvious. Take time to read and, if you’re able, have others read your work as well. Sometimes it’s easier for someone else to point out the places that make sense to the writer. After all, we already know why.

Are there any plot holes you’ve seen that drive you crazy?

As always, thanks for reading.

By way of announcement I’ve finished the first revision of Book One and I’m starting the final edit this week!

Writing Tips

Revising: Why I Cut My Prologue

Prologues can be fun. They are tiny gateways at the beginning of a story used to introduce themes or characters who may not appear immediately. A good prologue can be wonderful foreshadowing. You can tell secrets to your reader that your characters might not be aware of, or you can pose specific questions for your reader before the main plot begins.

Prologues can also be clunky chunks of words that serve to confuse and annoy if done improperly. A prologue must serve the same purpose as any other scene in the book; it must build upon the story or build upon your characters.

When I began my revision I decided to cut my prologue. It’s 1300 words better served somewhere else.

Does it serve the story? 

Yes and no. My prologue takes place thousands of years in the past from where the novel begins. Although the events that take place are important to the story, the significance behind them is not readily revealed. I decided that a slow discovery of these events by both the characters and the reader will be far more intriguing than dropping it in their lap on page one.

Does it build on the characters?

No, not specifically. The characters in the prologue themselves have development throughout the series despite being dead. I’m not talking about flashbacks, either. These characters are historical figures in my world. Their actions effect everyone in the story in one way or another, but again, that is a slow process and better discovered over time.

Drop the prologue, get right to the point.

In the end, I decided it was better to leave out the prologue and start right at the beginning of the present day. That doesn’t mean I’m fully discarding my prologue. In fact, I’m considering revising it into a short story instead. There are other ways I could use it as well. I may eventually write more books on the history and future of my world. Just because something is cut doesn’t mean it has to be destroyed.

Have you ever had to cut something you originally thought your story couldn’t live without? Let me know!

As always, thank you for reading.

Writing News

Writing, Editing, Rewriting, and Publishing Dates

When I began this project of editing my manuscript and cutting it into a trilogy I thought it would be simple. I knew that there would be some editing even though I wasn’t starting with a rough draft. When I put it away in 2004 I considered it “finished” after having worked on it for six years.

Firstly, I needed to rearrange a single book into three parts. This didn’t sound too difficult as it was already arranged that way when I first wrote it. I knew that part one was exactly one hundred pages. That was a good goal to maintain.

Secondly, I knew that there was a lot that needed to be cut. There was a lot of unnecessary but interesting trivia from my world building. Much of the information is things that the characters themselves would not know. Basically, chapter one was a text book of the world’s history mixed in with the action and I had to fix it.

Cutting was quick and painless. The last time I had looked at the document was in 2008. Back then I was still unable to see how much excess the first few chapters contained. Chapter one, for example, was twenty-three pages and over thirteen thousand words. After editing chapter one is now only four pages and just over twenty-six hundred words. I also cut a three page prologue.

That’s a huge change but it doesn’t mean that everything in chapter one was cut. Many pieces were rearranged into smaller chunks. Some of them needed to be reorganized to improve the chronological flow.

What I had not anticipated was how much rewriting was needed.

As I cut things that were unnecessary I’ve had to add things in that were necessary but did not exist. Reorganizing the narrative to improve the pacing and filling in plot holes is part of it. Also, my characters are being given more life and personality.

As you can imagine, my simple project has turned into a lot of work. Because this will be my debut to eBook publishing, I want it to be worthy of the time and energy of my future readers. I’m learning a lot about predicting my publishing date. I know I won’t be done by September 15th. I also know I will be done before November 1st.

With that in mind, I’m going to say my new publishing day is too be announced. It isn’t far away, but I want to be ready before I made a solid decision. I will continue to update the blog on my timeline.

Thank you for reading this morning. Please feel free to comment or ask questions.


Disorganized Organization

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” -Albert Einstein

There are two types of people within this world: the organized and the disorganized.

Organized people tend to be the preferred type in all areas of society. When you read any job listing it’s always one of the primary attributes listed as a qualification along with “attention to detail.” Being able to keep everything in neat little rows, drawers, file folders, lists, outlines, alphabetized, by date, and easily accessible to others is often prized up there with the other virtues of humility, charity, and kindness.

For those of us who are disorganized people, we are the scourge of the organized masses.

I would say that I’m a little farther beyond disorganized. I settle somewhere between tempest and pure chaos. I wouldn’t say I’m the most disorganized person in the world, my organization doesn’t fall into the acceptable categories. I prefer everything that I needs to be done clearly visible. “Out of sight out of mind” for me is very true, to the point of of “out of sight removes this from the fabric of the universe.” Need to keep things in sight creates clutter. (And no, see through bins and color coded folders don’t help, I’ve tried.)

By day I am a mild-mannered receptionist (or a slightly irritated one depending on the day.) My co-workers are organized people. They are meticulous. When they look upon me they cringe in abject terror. I do my best to relieve them of their panic but that usually results in a tactic I call “hide it and they will never know.” Then that whole out of sight thing happens. Loose paper is my enemy. I attempt to avoid it at all costs, yet is constantly finds me everywhere I go.

In reality, I may be cluttered and scattered to the untrained eye, but to my own busy mind everything is where it needs to be. This may not work at the office, where the organized rule with the iron fist, but in my world of creativity I can create my own laws.

I’ve mentioned before that I do not use an outline. I know some people swear by them and that’s great. Instead of creating an outline before I work, I build a timeline as I work. The difference between an outline and a timeline is very simple: outlines are the road map of your story and timelines record your story’s history. For my trilogy I have a timeline of over 1000 years of historical events, as an example.

As for the direction of the story, I allow the seeds to blow around in the tempest and grow where they may. Story telling has always been my primary talent. Weaving the threads of a story together in the proper chronological order is one way that my brain does organize without any training or assistance. It has always been this way. I recall my mother telling her friends about it in amazement when I was a child. I may not be able to sort papers but I can sort timelines.

This works for me. I understand it doesn’t work for everyone.

I also dislike writing freehand instead of typing on the computer. I don’t write in a straight line and pen and paper are frustrating. They stifle me rather than free my mind. I may be disorganized but I hate crossing things out. The computer gives me the versatility to make changes on the fly, and changes will be made.

I write up until a point. At that point I go back and edit a section I’ve already written. Perhaps I’ve thought of something which will improve the story. In my whirlwind of the mind it’s far better to go back and make the changes while they are fresh. Other times the editing is prompted by a block. If I cannot be writing then I am editing.

The tangled jungle of my creativity flourishes best when I’m walking the labyrinth as an observer rather than as a gardener with a hedge trimmer.

I haven’t seen my process recommended by anyone. I do believe the key is that it is my process. Everyone has one. I think that regardless of if your process is accepted by the higher authorities or not, all that matters is if it works for you. When your process isn’t working is when you need introspection and guidance. Otherwise, allow your creativity to bloom.

Feel free to share any quirks or disorganization ideas in the comments. As always thanks for reading!