How To Avoid Plot Holes (Part I)

A plot hole will make your readers unhappy. So how do you avoid falling into a hole? How do you even know there is a hole? Don’t be like my dog (Farley) and bound through the snow, not knowing what’s beneath.

​Scenes and the order that events take place in your story make up the plot. The scenes occur in a sequence, and that sequence forms the structure of your novel.

You’ll most likely have a main plot and one or two subplots. Your protagonist (main character) follows the main plot. Secondary characters follow the subplots.

Your job as a writer is to evaluate how you’ve written the plot (and subplots) and to edit and rewrite until you’ve created a compelling story for your readers.

If you make each scene great, have each scene flow from one to the next in a way that makes sense to the reader, and pay attention to the key elements of fiction for each scene, you’ll avoid plot holes.

Causes of Plot Holes:

  1. Scenes are not connected to one another or to the story
  2. A character arc is not closed off
  3. Scene locations are inconsistent
  4. The timing from one scene to the next doesn’t work.

​Today, I’ll focus on the first cause of plot holes.

Plot Hole Problem 1: Scenes Not Connected To One Another

When a scene causes a plot hole by not being connected to the story, this usually means the scene doesn’t have a purpose. If you don’t know the purpose of each scene in your novel neither will your reader.

Naming the scene will help you determine what the scene is about.

The purpose of the scene. must relate to the overall story. If it’s not driving the story forward, ask yourself why you included the scene in your novel.

​If you don’t know the answer or can’t come up with a purpose, consider deleting the scene. You can move any important tidbits to another scene if you need to.

Once you know the purpose of each scene, test how the flow of your novel is working. If your scenes don’t flow from one to another, then the plot doesn’t make sense to a reader. This is considered a plot hole, as the reader might fall into a hole and not read any further.

Keep track of how you enter and exit each scene.

For entering each scene, do you:

  • Vary the way you enter each scene in your draft?
  • Have a hook that draws the reader into the scene?
  • Anchor the reader in terms of point of view, setting, and timing?

For exiting each scene, do you:

  • Vary the way you end each scene?
  • Have a hook that makes the reader want to start the next scene?
  • Use a technique that connects the current scene to the following scene?

We’ll cover entry and exit hooks in the next lesson.

Fictionary Example

The illustration below shows you how Fictionary leads a writer through the process of evaluating plot and looking for plot holes.

Let’s take a look at my work in progress, Evolution. We’ll cover some of the plot elements in the basic mode of Fictionary and start with the scene opening.

Scene Name: I’ve named the scene Daisy Through Ice. This is enough for me to know what the scene is about. The word cloud helped me name the scene.

Story Arc: The story arc is set to yes because this scene is the inciting incident and will be plotted on the Story Arc under Visualize Your Manuscript in Fictionary.

Purpose of Scene: For each scene in your novel, Fictionary gives you two lists to choose a purpose from or you can add your own. This list shows you I’ve chosen the Inciting Incident.

If the Story Arc is set to “No” you’ll see a different list.

Opening Type: This scene opens with action. The first sentence is the character opening the refrigerator door. I’ll keep track of opening types throughout Evolution to ensure I’m not repetitive.

Below, you can read the closing of the scene.

Closing Type: You can see the last line of the scene is thought. “All I had to do was roll over and slide in.” Fictionary will show me a report for the closing type of every scene. I’ll know if I’m using enough variety for my scene endings.

​Let me know if you have other causes of plot holes and how you fix them.


Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at Fictionary.co.

How Fictionary Works

A writer imports a manuscript in MS Word .docx format. Fictionaryautomatically creates a character list, links characters to scenes, plots word count per scene, and draws a story arc.

The writer enters data regarding each scene, evaluates and edits the manuscript based the reports, and then exports the updated manuscript. The reports are dependent on the writer’s input and are created specifically for each manuscript. There are rewrite tips associated with each key element of fiction if you get stuck and need guidance.

Fictionary is designed for the serious author who wants to produce a high-quality manuscript.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 10 days are on us. No credit card required.

Starting a New Business is Like Writing a First Draft.

Hard work and research will help you create the best possible novel for your readers. If you’re an author and an entrepreneur, you know this is true. Part of starting a business is ensuring we’re building an app that solves a problem writers have, and to do that we need to expand our knowledge of how writers rewrite their first draft.

Today, we are  doing our research and knowledge gathering, and we have a few questions about your rewriting process. If you’re already familiar with what the Feedback app will do, you can jump straight to our short survey.

What does the Feedback app do?

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With Feedback, you can focus on plot, character, and setting. You can evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on overall novel structure. Feedback will show you the most important structural elements to work on first.

Feedback will guide you through the rewriting process by asking you questions specific to your manuscript, enabling you to evaluate your own story.

Once you import your manuscript, Feedback automatically captures information such as word count, number of scenes per chapter, character names, and chapter and scene breaks, using this information to create the first set of reports. Any updates to your manuscript will still need to be completed in the writing app you used to create your first draft.

Feedback helps you visualize your manuscript. Forget about yellow stickies or white boards. Feedback will draw character arcs, provide reports on scene evaluation, and show your rewriting progress.

Thanks for taking the time to read about Feedback. We’d love your input. You can find out short survey here.

Thank you!

Feedback For Fiction | Starting Your Rewrite With A Focus On Plot

Find out where to start your rewrite by focusing on plot first.

You’ve finished your first draft, and you’re about to embark on rewriting that draft, turning it into a novel readers will love. Now is the time to focus on story and structure. Word choice, style,…

Source: Feedback For Fiction | Starting Your Rewrite With A Focus On Plot

FEEDBACK: A New App To Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

For those of you who’ve been reading my blog and my series called Write Better Fiction, you know I’ve been seriously engaged in creating an automated method to guide me through the rewriting step of the writing process.

I’ve co-founded Feedback Innovations Inc. along with Mathew Stanley and Michael Conn, and together we’re building an app called Feedback-Rewrite Better Fiction.

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Feedback helps fiction writers turn a first draft into a great story by providing a new, automated approach to rewriting fiction.

With Feedback, writers can quickly evaluate their own work and complete a comprehensive, structural rewrite.

IN THE BEGINNING

Creating Feedback began when I (Kristina) finished the first draft of my first novel. By then I’d read over 50 how-to-write and how-to-self-edit books. I’d taken writing courses and workshops, and had 100s of writing and rewriting tips swirling about in my head.

I knew I had to begin the rewriting process and improve the quality of my draft before sharing my work but I didn’t know how to go about it..

HOW TO REWRITE?

How was I supposed to remember the torrent of advice and apply it to each scene? A spreadsheet, that’s how!

I created a spreadsheet with a chapter-by-chapter, scene-by-scene structure. Then I listed the different writing advice I needed to consider for EVERY scene. I ended up with over 75 “key elements of fiction”. I used the reports from the spreadsheet to visualize my novel.

VALIDATION

After the hard work of self-evaluating and rewriting my drafts, the high quality of my fiction was validated when my first two novels were shortlisted for prestigious crime writing awards and I landed my publisher (Imajin Books).

My first editor said: “If every manuscript was this good, my job would be so easy!”

The next exciting moment came when DESCENT, my first novel, hit #1 on Amazon’s hot new releases. I’ve since sold the German rights to Luzifer-Verlag for publication in Germany. Imajin Books also published BLAZE and AVALANCHE.

THE SEARCH

Along came Michael with MAXWELL HUXLEY’S DEMON and THE RIGHT TURN, and we ran the same spreadsheet on his novels. By this time we’d covered the mystery, horror, and young adult genres.

Surely we weren’t the first authors to struggle with rewriting our first drafts, so we searched for an app to address our problem but found nothing. We did discover that many writers struggled with rewriting drafts and ended up using tools such as spreadsheets, whiteboards, or yellow stickies.

THE IDEA

That’s when it hit us. We thought other writers could benefit from our immediate approach to evaluating and rewriting first drafts.

The excitement was too much for Mathew to sit by and watch, so he decided to get involved. He knows technology and how to run a business.

THE PROTOTYPE

Michael, Mathew, and I worked on the concept and developed the prototype for Feedback

Now, we’d love to hear from you, understand your rewriting issues, and incorporate your ideas into Feedback.

Our goal is to launch Feedback in the spring of 2017. In order to create an app that is truly useful to writers, we’d like your input on building Feedback. By signing up to our newsletter, we’ll send you updates on the development progress and ask you the occasional question to help define the product. As a bonus, we’ll send you rewriting tips available only to our subscribers.

Show your support by helping us spread the word and share this post.

Your support means a lot to us, so thank you!

Write Better Fiction: Point of View Character Goal

Feedback iconToday on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover the Goal of your Point of View Character. Write Better Fiction is a process to help you critique your own manuscript and give yourself feedback. This will help you improve your novel, so you’re ready to submit it to an editor. Check the bottom of this post for links to previous Write Better Fiction articles.

Last week I wrote about naming a scene. This week I’ll cover the goal of the point of view character. Each scene will have a point of view character, and we discussed this in #1 question to ask yourself about plot. ADD LINK

The point of view (POV) character must have a goal. Without a goal, what’s the point?

There are two types of goals:

Internal: The reader isn’t told what the POV goal is.

External: The reader clearly understands what the POV goal is.

Each POV character should have an overall novel goal. The most important goals should belong to your protagonist and antagonist. Of course, these goals should oppose each other.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 1.28.11 PMThe overall goal drives the character throughout the novel. In DESCENT, Kalin Thompson’s external goal is to find out who killed an Olympic-caliber skier. She has an internal goal that drives her through the first three novels in The Stone Mountain Mystery series, which I can’t share or it would ruin the mystery, but it’s there and influences how I write.

Finding a murderer is Kalin’s main goal throughout DESCENT. She also has goals within each scene where she holds the point of view. In the opening scene her external goal is to go skiing. Her internal goal is to be good at her job. Both goals will be tested very early in the story.

The reader doesn’t know about the internal goal, but it helped me create a focus and drive for Kalin in the next few chapters.

Other characters might have a goal in the scene. In fact, they should and it should be in conflict with the POV goal. This is a different column in the spreadsheet that we’ll talk about later.

Your challenge this week is to review each scene in your novel and determine what are the internal and external goals of each POV character. This will also focus you on the who has POV and give you another opportunity to check you’re consistent with the POV and that you’re not head hopping (unless it’s intentional). Please let me know in the comments if this helped you write better fiction.

I critiqued DESCENT and BLAZE using the techniques I’m sharing in Write Better Fiction, and I believe this helped me sign with a publisher.

Previous blog posts on Write Better Fiction:

Please me know in the comments below how you deal with the goal of your POV characters? Did you have difficulty defining a clear scene goal?

Thanks for reading…

Write Better Fiction: Scene Naming

Feedback iconToday on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover NAMING A SCENE. Write Better Fiction is a process to help you critique your own manuscript and give yourself feedback. This will help you improve your novel so you’re ready to submit it to an editor. Check the bottom of this post for links to previous Write Better Fiction articles.

Last week I wrote about the action in a scene. Maybe it seems odd I chose to fill out the action before naming the scene, but I have a strategy for this.

Did you find it hard to describe a scene in three sentences or less? Well, naming a scene is harder, but it help you hone the scene.

Scene NamesNow I’m going to ask you to use one word to name the scene. If you must, you can use two. I confess this sometimes happens to me.

Some writers list scenes with numbers only and that’s fine. For me, the exercise of naming the scene makes me narrow down what the scene is about. Since I already have the scene action defined in one to three sentences, the scene name might already exist somewhere in those words.

The Scene Name column is connected to the Purpose of a Scene column, and will help you discover what the scene is really about. The purpose of the scene is another place to look for hints on what to name your scene. At this point you may want to re-evaluate the purpose of the scene in case you’ve changed your mind based on the scene action and naming the scene.

The names of the scenes might give you insight into the theme of your novel.

Your challenge this week is to name each scene in your novel. Then let me know if this helped you focus your scenes.

I critiqued DESCENT and BLAZE using the techniques I’m sharing in Write Better Fiction, and I believe this helped me sign with a publisher.

Previous blog posts on Write Better Fiction:

Please me know in the comments below how you name your scene? Is it important for you to have a scene name?

Thanks for reading…

Write Better Fiction: Scene ACTION

Welcome the 2016 kickoff of Write Better Fiction. It’s the start of a new year, maybe you wrote your manuscript during November, took a break for the holidays and are ready to get to work.

But what to do? How about self-critiquing your manuscript?

If you missed the first three blogs in this series, you might want to check them out before reading this one.

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I need a systematic method for critiquing my novels, and I’ve used this method for all my novels. To prove to you it works, here is what Todd Barselow, senior editor at Imajin Books, said about DESCENT.

“My life would be so much easier if all the manuscripts that crossed my desk were as clean as yours.”

Now that I have your attention, today I’ll explain how to use the ACTION column.

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I keep this entry short. Use only one to three sentences to describe what happens in the scene. If you can’t describe the action in three sentences, maybe too much is happening in the scene, and it could be broken into two or three scenes. A scene with too much happening might confuse or exhaust the reader.

Once you’ve written the action for every scene in your novel, review the entire column and look for repetitions. Repetitions, unless written for a purpose, can be boring to the reader.

For example, your protagonist is hit by a car. In three different scenes you fill in the action, having your protagonist tell another character about the incident. Do you really need to have this happen three times? Could you summarize if the other character needs to know this information?

The action column helps me write a synopsis. After I’ve completed this for the manuscript I cut the column, save it to a word document and start writing a synopsis. It’s only a beginning, but it gives me a framework. And we all know how hard it is to write a synopsis.

Your challenge this week is to articulate the action for each scene in your novel. Please me know in the comments below how you evaluate the action? Do you have a question you ask yourself about action?

I critiqued DESCENT and BLAZE using the techniques I’m sharing in Write Better Fiction, and I believe this helped me sign with a publisher.

Thanks for reading…

Write Better Fiction: #1 Question To Ask About Characters In A Scene.

Are you trying to figure out how to self-critique your writing?

Write Better Fiction is a series focussing on how to give yourself feedback.

Last week on Write Better Fiction we covered using a spreadsheet to critique your manuscript.

As you remember, we broke each scene in a novel into three categories.

  1. PLOT
  2. CHARACTER
  3. SETTING

There are other elements of a scene I believe you’re better off getting feedback from people, meaning editors or beta readers, as opposed to using a spreadsheet to organize your thoughts, so if you think something is missing from my list, that’s probably why. But if you’re not sure, just let me know in the comments below and we can discuss the idea.

As promised, I’m going to give you the #1 question to ask yourself for each scene element under the category of CHARACTER.

WHO HAS THE POINT OF VIEW?

According to my research, it’s generally agreed upon that each scene should be written from one character’s point of view (POV). Of course, it’s up to you if you want to follow that advice or not.

I believe you should make a conscious choice. If you want to keep your writing tight and the reader engaged, you should at least understand if you’re writing in one POV and if not, when you change POV do so consciously.

There are many books written about what POV, so I’m not going to cover the topic here. I’ll list some of the books I’ve read on point of view at the end of the blog.

THE SPREADSHEET

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Is the point of view in the best order for pacing?

If you write from only one POV, then you don’t need to include this column.

Let’s assume you have multiple POVs. You can quickly check the POV column and evaluate the order of the POV scenes.

If you plan to change POVs the generally accepted writing advice is to do so early in your novel. Making a POV change 50% into the novel might jar your reader out of the story.

Too many scenes in one POV before switching to another can cause the same issue.

The genre you write in may influence how you use this column. In a romance novel you might want to give the female and male protagonists (read love interests) alternating scenes. Check if you’ve done this and if they each got a fair number of scenes.

SORTING THE SPREADSHEET 

Once I’ve entered a POV for each scene, I sort the spreadsheet by that column. It now tells me how many POV scenes each character has and how many different points of view I’ve written in.

Who is your main protagonist? Does this character have the majority of scenes? If not,  evaluate whether this character should be your main protagonist. If the answer is yes, you can review scenes where the protagonist is not your POV and determine if you can rewrite the scene from his/her point of view.

How many point of view characters is too many? That’s up to you as a writer, but if you’re getting feedback from your readers that they have trouble keeping track of your characters or lose interest in the story because of a point of view change, then the spreadsheet can help you figure out how to improve.

Do you have any characters that only one scene where they are the point of view character? Here’s your chance to reduce the number of POVs. Review the scene and determine if you can write it from another character’s point of view, perhaps one that has quite a few scenes.

BOOKS I’ve read on POV:

The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley

Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

Next week I’ll share with you the #1 question to ask yourself about SETTING. Using a spreadsheet to force yourself to critique your own writing and give yourself feedback enabling you to write better fiction.

Please comment below and let me know what you think of the advice. Do you agree, disagree or do something different to evaluate point of view?

Thanks for reading…

Introducing Write Better Fiction

Introducing Write Better Fiction- Give Yourself Feedback On Your Manuscript

Feedback is an important part of the writing process. There are some elements of your novel you’ll need human feedback for, but there are others you can analyze on your own. Today, I’m kicking off a series called WRITE BETTER FICTION. Every Wednesday, I’ll post on the topic of self-critiquing.

Whether you’re a panster or a plotter, the thrilling moment will arrive when you’ve written a first draft.

Are you ready for beta readers to see your work for the first time?

How do you know when it’s time for an editor and a proofreader?

Are you thinking of hitting the publish button?

If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to share your writing with anyone until you’ve done your best to perfect it. Maybe you’ve read hundreds of writing books, maybe you’ve taken courses and information is spinning in your head, but how do you keep track of the knowledge and ensure you’re using what you’ve learned? With a spreadsheet, of course.

Writing Books
Some of my books

 

A novel is made of of scenes, and scenes are made up of elements. Over the years, I’ve created a spreadsheet, and every time I learned about a scene element, I added that element to my spreadsheet.

My spreadsheet consists of  65 columns. That may seem like a lot, but each element needs to be considered if you’re writing a scene for maximum reader engagement.

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To make analyzing easier, I’ve broken the spreadsheet into three categories.

  1. PLOT
  2. CHARACTER
  3. SETTING

To quote James Scott Bell in his book, PLOT & STRUCTURE, he says,“Plot happens.” To me that means it’s the action of the story. So every element not included under CHARACTER or SETTING is grouped under PLOT.

Each of these categories has a set of elements, meaning when I work on a scene I can work on more than one element at a time. Over the next 65 weeks or so, I’m going to explain how I use each element in the spreadsheet to strengthen scenes, and thereby strengthen the novel. Hence this is the first in a series of blogs I’ll tag, “Write Better Fiction.”

WHERE TO START WHEN THERE ARE 65 CHOICES

Once I have a completed draft, I look at the most important element of each category. Today I’ll start with PLOT.

The first element under PLOT I evaluate is the purpose of the scene. The purpose of the scene must relate to the overall story. If it’s not driving the story forward, then ask yourself what is the point of including the scene in your novel.

Here are some examples of the way the purpose of a scene can drive the story forward. You can choose one of these to define your purpose or come up with your own definitions.

  • Is the inciting incident
  • Introduces characters
  • Creates an emotional connection between characters and reader
  • Provides character development
  • Establishes setting
  • Introduces or intensifies conflict
  • Builds suspense
  • Establishes mood
  • Reveals a clue
  • Shows a red herring
  • Is the climax
  • Provides resolution

HOW PURPOSE OF A SCENE HELPS WITH THE OTHER ELEMENTS

I articulate the purpose of the scene first, so I can address other elements of the scene and test if they are in line with the purpose.

Let’s say you fill out the list of objects in a scene. You can weigh the objects against the purpose of the scene and see if there is a way to use them to further the purpose. This goes for revelations, tension, conflict, weather, etc. Basically, every scene element can be tested against the scene purpose.

After you whittle down the purpose of a scene to a few words, one of three things will happen.

  1. You’ve got the purpose nailed, and you understand why this scene is included in your novel.
  2. You have a weak purpose, but there is still some value in the scene.
  3. You have no idea what the purpose is.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 4.56.40 PMIf you landed on number 1, give yourself a gold star and move on to the next scene.

Number 2:  consider rewriting the scene, keeping the parts in the scene that further the plot. Or take the important bits and place them in another scene which has a strong purpose. You could also take two scenes with a weak purpose and combine them into one scene to create stronger purpose.

Number 3: consider removing the scene. We all end of with scenes that seemed relevant when we wrote them, but might not work within the novel as a whole. However, don’t delete the scene. Remember to store it somewhere. You’re next novel might have a place for it.

WHAT I DON’T USE THE SPREADSHEET FOR

I don’t use my spreadsheet to evaluate voice, dialogue, balance, style, consistency, etc. For that, I think another human is the best source for feedback.

Using a spreadsheet to force yourself to critique your own writing and give yourself feedback will enable you to write better fiction.

Next week I’ll share with you the #1 question to ask yourself about CHARACTER.

Please comment below and let me know what you think of the advice. Do you agree, disagree or do something different for the purpose of a scene? Do you group elements of a scene in a different way?

Thanks for reading…

 

 

Tips For Ordering Scenes In A Novel

Have you ever had trouble deciding the best order to put your scenes in?

Once you have a first draft written do you try different combinations to see what works best?

If you’ve been reading my blog, you might have guessed I’ve added a new row to my spreadsheet. I call it Scene Dependency.

First, I was just using it to list what scenes had to come before the scene I was reviewing. Then I discovered something even better.

Was it possible to link the end of one scene to the beginning of the next?

You bet. There are different ways to achieve this. For example:

  • Have one character end a scene. Have the next scene start with another character thinking of the previous character.
  • Put an object important to the story at the end of one scene and beginning of the next.
  • Use the same location at the end of one scene and the beginning of the next.
  • End a scene at night, start the next scene the following morning.
  • Reference the same weather in both scenes.
  • Reference the same sight. Maybe the moon setting or an avalanche at the end of one scene and the beginning of the next.
  • Use emotions to link the scenes.

In the end, have it all listed in your spreadsheet. You might be surprised how it changes the order of your scenes and gives you a fluid motion throughout your novel. The reader will feel more connected to your story if one scene links to the next even if the scenes are about different events.

Can you add to this list? Do you have any tips to ordering scenes? I’d love to hear them.

Thanks for reading . . .