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Monday, September 27, 2010

The Little Lost Theme

theme (n) - a subject of discourse, discussion, meditation, or composition; topic: a unifying or dominant idea, motif, etc., as in a work of art.

Amy Laurens and I are editing using a system loosely based on the Holly Lisle workshop, a few classes Amy has taught (since, ya'know, she teaches English for a paycheck and everything), random books on publishing, writing, and editing that we've read along with advice from blogs, cookbooks, and the old lady living next door.

There's a heavy dose of, "I HATE THIS!" thrown in for good measure.

Previous attempts on my part to edit have devolved into tears and, for lack of a better metaphor, mudslinging.

No, I tell a lie.

There was a time in my life where I was paid to edit. Actual money. For actual editing. For... actually... a newspaper.

I do know how to edit. At least on the small scale. Editing nonfiction is a matter of checking facts and unmangling sentences written at twenty-nine hours into a thirty-six hour study session.

Editing fiction means reigning in all the creative impulses that made the novel possible. All those flights of fancy that built your word count from zero to one hundred thousand must be ruthlessly squashed. Editing fiction means temporarily blinding yourself to all the possibilities.

For the past... I don't even know how long, it feels like an eternity... I've been reading my manuscript, taking notes, putting the novel under a microscope and finding the flaws.

Let me tell you: I didn't need a microscope.

Past the plot holes, grammar problems, and pacing issues lies a leviathan I do not want to kick awake. The Theme.

What is the point of this story?

Why is anyone going to read a book about a girl running from one heap of trouble to the next?

Why does this matter?

What ties chapter one to chapter twenty-seven?

In some of my books I know. For Jane Doe the underlying theme is identity. The question of what makes a person, and what makes a a person good or evil, is explored from multiple sides.

For Twisted Metal.... I. Don't. Know!

I think Roan (the FMC) is looking for a home. She travels to several different places and it's almost Eat. Pray. Love in space. Go somewhere new, try new foods, meet new people, try a new culture, gain a new identity, but at the end of the day... what is home? Where does Roan feel safe? Where does she feel safe enough to put down roots and start a family?

I think... I'm going to reread the novel this afternoon and see if I can't find what my characters want.

What about you? What theme is your current novel running on? Do you know? Do you care?

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