How to Find and Fix Plot Holes

A big part of self-editing is finding plot holes and fixing them. I know that when you have written the work, it isn’t always easy to spot them, so let’s begin this blog post with what a plot hole might look like in your novel before moving on to how to fix them. 

I also teach a class on this in my Novel Writing Masterclass: It’s Time to Write Your Novel. This 40 class course will take you from idea to publication – self-editing included!

Let’s look at those plot holes issues right now. 

Plot Holes:

1: Continuity errors. For example, a character suddenly knows something that they shouldn’t until later in the plot, or there’s a scene that’s missing that explains how two characters met. Anything that makes you go ‘huh? Hang on a minute….’

2. Those sneaky narrative threads. When you’re reading the work, you should now see if all of your threads are tied up nicely. If you find one that isn’t – that’s a plot hole that needs fixing!

3: Unusual actions or dialogue: If your Scottish character suddenly spends a few lines talking like a cowboy without reason, that’s a plot hole. If someone does something that is entirely out of character without any explanation or backstory – guess what? Plot hole! Yes, your character will develop throughout the novel, but keep it realistic. If someone’s personality changes overnight without reason, that’s significant and can be considered a plot hole.

4: Error and impossible action: If you’re writing a renaissance and your main character flicks on the radio – this is an obvious plot hole. But remember, they can be more subtle. If you have a character who lives in the 15th Century in a mud hut and you say something in the text like ‘His interest turned up like a dial’ – this too is a plot hole. Your reader will be thrown out of the story as they wonder about the consistency of the writing. Impossible actions include things that would kill someone usually, but your character happens to survive – unless they have a valid reason for doing so (secret superheroes and that sort of thing). Remember – your character can’t just survive because they’re the main character – that’s not realistic.

Fixing the Plot Holes!

Now we know what the plot holes are, how do we fix them?

1: Continuity errors: If you find a continuity error that’s bigger than a dialogue issue, often writing in a scene to explain how you have reached a certain point can help. Don’t rush it – take your time. A shoe-horned chapter can throw the reader off, so really consider: how did this character get here? What could make this section of the journey more believable? What can you add to make this part of the story make sense?

2: Narrative threads: If you have found a thread that’s flapping in the wind, you can tie it up or remove it. Consider – is it essential? Is there a reason you didn’t tie it up or forgot about it (Perhaps it didn’t play into the plot or relate to it)?

3: Unusual actions or dialogue: This is a character action or personality issue – so ask yourself: Is there any explanation that could make this work? Why is my character behaving in this way, and does it make sense? What can I change to make it make sense? If you like the unusual action or dialogue, ask yourself, ‘Is there anything that can be added earlier on in the story to help this make sense?’

4: Error and impossible action: This is usually to do with a lack of research, and the answer is the same as the problem – it calls for research! The only fix to this is to re-write these parts.

If you need a professional editor to help you clean up your plot holes, get in touch. That’s precisely what a Developmental Edit is for. I would love to help you make that manuscript shine! 

Any questions? Don’t hesitate to ask.

Want to read something similar? Check out the following…
How to Deal with Constructive Criticism of Your Writing
4 Ways to Edit Your Own Writing