I was reading through the first draft of a piece of work that has been sitting in a drawer maturing for a while when I came across a right howler of a continuity error.
I mean a Biggie! It was huge!
It concerned plot and after further investigation I had found that early in the book I had written a section with Plot A and later in the book it was Plot B. A and B didn’t fit at all, rather like going to the shops on the bus and returning from work in your car but much worse. It was worse because there was about 30 pages between the two parts and because of the events between A and B there is frequent reference to both A and B in between.
I do hope you are following this, if i’d have given you the real situations you would be swearing at the computer or pulling your hair out about now.
The key thing here is NOT to panic. Take a deep breath read the sections through and if need be read the whole of that part from A to B and decide what you want to happen and make the necessary changes. It is very useful at this point to copy the offending section and save it as a new file and work on it until you are happy, then make the changes back into the original. It is very dangerous trying to resolve such a big issue with the original because if you get interrupted by the phone, the kids or whatever, you will have lost your train of thought and get into a right mess.
Remain calm and take your time to fix the error and read the whole thing through again because there may be other slight or minor references in other parts that don’t quite fit. For example, if with what I gave before, if you had come home from work and the next sentence had you putting the shopping away there is a problem. So, make sure you fully integrate the correct story into the rest of the writing.
First draft continuity errors are bound to happen, that is why it is called the first draft and not the finished polished article. Accept that they will inevitably happen and take your time to deal with and more importantly MANAGE the correction process logically.
Panicking and making a quick sharp change will result in the work being even more difficult to follow. Take your time, put it away for a while and think about it and when the correction is done, leave the book for a while and treat it like a first draft and let it mature, it will be worth it in the end.