There’s nothing worse than reading a book and finding a thousand reasons why this story can’t work. Motivations, continuity, dialog—none of it makes sense. By the end of the book, you have more questions than you have answers, and no, it’s not because that’s the way the author wanted it.
A solid plot is the foundation of a good story, and if you don’t have one, then your story is useless. After all, do you really want someone like CinemaSins to make a two–part video about how awful your book is?
So to avoid immense embarrassment when you publish your book, take a look at these tips to get your plot back on track.
Don’t be stupid. If your character is typically highly intelligent and unwavering, then you need a good explanation for her actions if she suddenly makes a simple and dumb mistake. Sometimes this can be explained by exhaustion or recent tragedy, but usually a writer’s excuse for a dumb mistake that fuels the plot is just an idiot ball. Remember that time in Supernatural where Sam made his wanted-for-murder brother stand out where the police could see him rather than go after the monster? Yeah, good going. This is plain lazy writing as it usually requires characters to do things they wouldn’t have done under any other circumstances—or with any brain cells. Characters should act like themselves at all times, not just when it’s convenient.
Finish what you start. Writers love subplots, but they don’t necessarily love finishing them. When you don’t finish a subplot, it doesn’t necessarily leave so much of a hole as an unpolished thread. Subplots are great ways to create a more complex tapestry for your novel, but those don’t do any help if they’re left unfinished. If you start a plot point, ensure you finish it rather than leave it hanging.
Establish laws. I’ve talked about this in the past concerning magic, but I’ll reiterate the basics here. In fantasy, a lot of writers try to use it as an excuse that anything can happen. However, that should not be the case. Just like in science, magic should have laws, and these are laws that everyone must follow. This will stop you from writing in a deus ex machina or doing something equally lazy in order to get the story to fit what you want. You also shouldn’t establish laws and then break them for convenience or drama like Superman does. Try as you might, it’s pretty cheap to say that Superman’s weakness is kryptonite, only to later say that he can just push through the pain.
It’s easy to fall in to writing plot holes in a first draft, but when you revise, you need to work hard to patch them over. Keep the threads of your story strong, and don’t rely on cheap tricks or random acts of idiocy to direct your plot. It needs to make sense, and it needs to have reason. Otherwise, your readers are going to have a hard time enjoying your book, let alone accepting what’s happening.