But as you read, it grows and grows until it looks something like this:
And then you realize that you have a gaping plot-hole in your story.
Yeah, that's happened to me. It. Sucks.
I went into fix it mode, but nothing I thought of worked to fill the hole. There was aways something that defied solution. Something that I knew could potentially become another huge hole if I let it be long enough. After all, four books make more than enough opportunity for it to grow.
I panicked for a while and then sat down, realizing one thing. If I thought of the story that it exists in, the solution had to exist as well. And probably in such a way that it would come from the story. Knowing that, and that I'd never find it since I had no clue as to what the solution looked like, I finished reading Doorways and left it alone for another two weeks. What else could I do? The whole story hinged on the existence of a solution.
And you know what? I was waiting for a movie to start when the solution occurred to me. It was simple. So much so that I challenge any reader to find it one day, because it's so tiny that you'll never notice it's there. It fit. Perfectly.
So if you do have the misfortune of finding a plot-hole in the story, here are some steps to follow.
1) BREATHE! It's not the end of the world. Nor is it remotely close to being the end of your project.
2) Remember that you got this far with your story. So if the plot-hole is in it, your solution is as well. You just don't know it yet. Yes I know what a pantser-y trick this is, but it really works. Why? Because it opens your mind to out-of-the-box possibilities. You're not limiting yourself to thinking of the obvious. You're exposing yourself to genius.
3) Do something else.
4) Keep doing something else until your mind goes: A HAH! or whatever it does when it gets a brilliant flash of inspiration.
5) Fit the solution to the hole.
a) If it fits, celebrate and revise to blend it into the story.
b) If it doesn't, go back to step one and do it again.
Do NOT try to cram something that you contrived into the hole. It won't fit, so it will take a lot more work to camouflage it from a reader. And you know the thing about camouflage? A trained eye will still see it.
Look Out for These:
1) When you ask how/why/when/where to anything and you don't know because the answer doesn't exist. As supposed to how/why/when/where answers you don't know because you haven't explored them yet.
2) Anything you glossed over in the drafts - not wanting to think about it right at that moment - that accidentally grew to incredible importance as you wrote.
3) How/when/why/where questions whose answers are negated by an edit you did, but can't undo because of more important reasons. See S-day's post to see what I mean.
What do you do when you discover a plot hole?