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Baggy, saggy drafts and ginormous plot holes

January 23, 2015 Leave a comment

In December, I finally finished the first draft of the novel I am working on.  It had been a long haul.  I started writing it two years ago, had a nine month break, and came back to it in the spring.  For a long time, it felt like wading through treacle wearing flippers – the writing was slow, cumbersome, sluggish and I was constantly in danger of tripping up and going under, sinking without trace.  I know from experience that the middle of a book is always tough, but this was even worse than usual.  With the help of a few supportive fellow writers (you know who you are – thank you all!), I managed to work through the sludgy middle and come out the other side.  And by the beginning of December, I had got to the end.  It was baggy, saggy and had at least one major plot hole, but it was enough for a first draft.

Great, I thought. Now I can put it aside and come back to it in January and start editing.  I always like to have a few weeks or more of a break before I start the editing process.  Otherwise I find it really hard to get the distance I need to be anything approaching objective about a piece of work.

So there I was all geared up to start work once the Christmas holidays were over – but life had other plans.  I was called to do jury service and the case ended up taking two weeks.  I was champing at the bit to get going with my edit, but I knew that I needed to do a complete read-through before I did anything else, and for that I needed a whole day free.

I had to bite back my impatience and just wait.  And on Monday, I managed to read through the whole manuscript.  To my surprise, it was not nearly as baggy and saggy as I’d thought – although the major plot hole was still there.

I often leave plot problems to my subconscious to work out.  I’d thought that telling myself that I would come back to the novel in January would give me plenty of time for my subconscious to do its work.  But the plot hole was still gaping, big and black and serious.  The whole ending depended on it being solved. And I couldn’t work out what to do about it.

For a couple of days, I stressed about it, mulling it over in my mind on and off, trying to find a solution.  Nothing came to mind.  Then I remembered something that had worked for me before.  I made an appointment with myself for a specific time and place.  When the time came, I took my notebook and started mind-mapping.  I was very clear about what the problems were and I started brainstorming solutions.  Within twenty minutes, I had the answer.  Eureka!  It’s not an easy solution.  It involves introducing a new character and weaving in an extra plot line, but I can see that it will work.

Now all I have to do is get on with my plot-weaving… It may take some time, but at least I know now where I’m going.

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