What do you do if you discover that you’ve made one huge mistake?

I’m closing in on the completion of the first draft of my novel, and I have finally, definitively realized that I made one huge mistake in my plotting.  I revealed a secret too soon, and as a result everyone’s motivations for the rest of the story are messed up.  So, should I go back and start rewriting?  Or should I soldier on to the finish, knowing that I’m going to have to revise a lot of what I’m currently writing?

I believe the answer, alas, is to soldier on and complete the first draft.  The problem with stopping to rewrite is that I can’t know what else I’ve messed up until I get to the end and survey the damage.

The mistake stems from not having a clear enough idea of the various subplots when I began the thing.  So I’ve ended up with a bunch of characters who weren’t there in the original outline.  They just, er, showed up as I made my way through the story, and I never managed to integrate them well enough into the plot.

I always think: next time I’ll get everything right in the outline.  But I never do.  I figure out the journey I want to take, but there are always lots of unexpected detours before I get where I want to go.

6 thoughts on “What do you do if you discover that you’ve made one huge mistake?

  1. as you are the puppeteer, you can always change that revelation as a misdirection- intentional or unintentional.

    but, sometimes i have seen that even though everyone knows who the criminal is (for eg. a movie insomnia), but catching him is all the thrill because he is smarter than his pursuer.


  2. Unexpected detours, I like that. Some writers (Stephen King and myself included) don’t even bother outlining; it’s not part of their method to create, for the very reasons you mentioned above. Sometimes we have to forget about outlining, toss it away and let the story breathe on its own. The story will tell you where it wants to go. And rewriting is an unavoidable path we must take, for the story’s sake. But that’s just my opinion.


      • Ah, choices, choices, choices. I hear ya 🙂 My take on that is to plop a couple characters down in a setting, and see what happens. It doesn’t work all of the time, but when it does lead to an enthralling story, it’s magic. I never get too attached to one singular story idea, until one begins to expand and grow. Then I put on my serious cap and get to work.


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