I am posting my entry to the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition today. However, in reviewing the manuscript for the final time I discovered a small, but vital, plot hole. It was one of those things that can be so easily overlooked. In the opening chapter my protagonist reads a letter that is addressed to his dying patient – Madeline – in the hopes it will lead him to someone he can contact on her behalf. However, it’s from twenty years before. What I hadn’t realised is that the letter would have been addressed to Madeline under her maiden name, not the name she checks into the palliative unit with. Important because my protagonist would immediately identify that she had been married. If he knew this he would probably start searching for her husband.
This element of my story has been in place since the first draft. Yet, it only occurred to me that the name would cause a problem just as I was reviewing the final draft. I went to bed with a heavy, disappointed sigh and wondered how on earth I would be able to put it right.
By the morning, however, my tired mind had divined a solution – something simple that would only require the insertion of one additional sentence. The letter is twenty years old, it’s been through almost as much as Madeline has. Not unusual, then, that the front of the envelope has been damaged by a water stain, obscuring the last name entirely. Crisis averted. Phew.
The reason I’m sharing this is because I wanted to reassure anyone else out there that in the moment of panic associated with discovering a plot hole in your manuscript (at whatever stage) if you give yourself some time, you’ll more than likely find a solution. Your mind is constantly working on your ideas, your characters and your story, even if you don’t know it yourself. On occasion, just allowing your conscious brain the rest and letting the problem sink back into your subconscious will permit the answer to bubble up to the surface. And so, by the morning perhaps, you don’t need to worry about it anymore.
A note on submitting a sample of my novel
It’s scary sending off my submission into the Novel Competition. It feels different to submitting a short story. There’s more time and effort involved with something like a novel. I haven’t worked on any one thing for as long as I have on these first 5,000 words, my synopsis and the mini-bio I wrote earlier this week. The fear is, of course, linked with the possibility that nothing will come of it. But, as my partner reminded me, it won’t be a wasted effort; this is an investment into the future of the novel itself. Even if I don’t make the shortlist, those words I’ve written will still exist and they will still mark the beginning of the narrative. It’s not like a short story, where I might have written the text in response to a very specific set of parameters (theme, word count and genre). I can still use the same words and the same characters for my next submission for the novel, unlike a short story where changes might need to be made for re-submission.
So, I’m taking that step into the unknown and hoping that my best is good enough in this case. I’m happy with what I’ve written: I think it showcases my novel well and demonstrates the voice that I have. If it isn’t what the judges are after, so be it. It’s a worthwhile investment into the future of getting my novel published.