I’m currently at the climax of my (first) novel’s first rough draft. The word document gives me a count of roughly 9000 words at the moment, and I know most of those words are notes on how to rewrite scenes in rough draft #2. I know it would be more appropriate to wait until I’m done with the first rough draft to start reflecting on it, but I find myself doing it even when drafting up a completely different scene for a completely different project.
When I first started the rough draft, I wasn’t just excited that words were coming so easily to me, I was giddy. I’ll have this done by july, I told myself. Then I’d send it off to that editor friend, he’d look it over, it would come back and I’d have so much to work with that I’d make a masterpiece before I turned 25, make more money than I know what to do with, meet the beautiful woman of my dreams, have two kids with a white picket fence around my ridiculously sized mansion, discover eternal youth and become a god.
… Okay maybe not all of that. (which is okay – most of those things are overrated anyway).
Of course, the real world is not so silly or idyllic. The more I wrote, and the closer I came to July, the more I realized just how silly my ideal was. There were plot holes and inconsistencies not just within the scenes I was writing but the entire overarching story. In addition, writer’s block made things progress much more slowly than I had planned, as you may have noticed.
On the other hand, I did learn a very vaulable lesson about world-building: Filling plot-holes in your rough draft can give you some great details to work with.
As an example, one of the story elements currently in use is a Gate capable of interplanetary travel. The Gates were also used to deploy around the planet that the Horos were invading. One of the reasons the Gate works so well is because it links two bits of space together: once you open a gate, you can just walk through it like walking through a door (with about as much lag time).
Later in the story, the Horos suffer major damage to one of their facilities on the newly-invaded world, specifically their mech repair facilities. So they had to send them home to get repaired.
However, if a Gate allowed instantaneous travel, then why would this be a problem? It would be a simple matter to open a Gate whenever the mech was ready and bring it right back through, even if they couldn’t use the Gate at home to return it for whatever reason. I was stumped. The destruction of the repair site was supposed to be a serious blow but it didn’t seem to do anything worthwhile.
I asked some friends. They suggested that Gates have massive power drain, but I couldn’t reconcile this with the story in my head. It made no sense to me that the Horos would have any trouble conquering Hodra (a planet primarily consisting of tribal raccoons) would have any trouble whatsoever conquering a world if they could afford to have power drains massive enough to mention.
However, the conversations over this did give me some perspective on the problem: what I really needed was a reason that the Gate could not simply open on the Horos homeworld (tentatively named Astra) and wait for the mech to be sent over when not being used to deploy. Eventually I settled on a fairly simple explanation: the more distance a Gate tries to close, the slower it opens. This is because space-time is very hard to twist and bend to your will without ripping. Travelling through a gate was still instantaneous, so it was still a tremendous asset, but opening a gate to travel between planets could take hours, even days.
The most important thing I took away from that (aside from ‘take notes on why something is a plot hole so you can explain it to others properly’) was that if the book isn’t published yet, it isn’t a plothole yet. It’s just a tool to worldbuild with.
Also, when writers tell you that the first rough draft is going to be raw-sewage-in-your-soup awful, they’re not exaggerating.