Thursday, May 29, 2008
Revising your novel - Know Your Theme
I had a very interesting experience recently in a conversation with Robert Dugoni. For those who don't know Robert, he's a very talented, quite successful writer, who first books have all been best-sellers.
As we were talking, he asked me what my novel was about. Now, I've been working on this book since before the dawn of time. I've been living with it, married to it, at times divorced from it. I know it inside and out. I already have an agent for it, and Warner Books has asked me for this final revision that I'm now working on, as they're considering it. In other words, I know this book.
But do you know what I said?
To paraphrase my babbling: "It's a story about a guy who is working on this amazing medical research project, and his family is dead, and his wife is the daughter of a senator, and there's this company in Silicon Valley, and there's this contract killer, and they want the project to stop, and it all goes wrong, and. . . and. . . and. . . "
In other words, I didn't have the slightest idea what my book was about. What was the core of the story? What was the through story, the magnet that would pull the reader from the beginning to the end? What was the payoff?
We're going to talk about theme for the next several posts, and I'm going to use the term loosely, probably not as academically as a writing professor would, because in this day and age, theme in a thriller is a loosely applied technique. But in the end, it still has to be there.
After you've written the first draft, after you've poured your heart out and bled your soul onto the blank page. Once you've begun the revision process through the Ten-Point Revision strategy, it's time to step back, take a good look at your book and ask yourself, "What is my book about?"
If you're like me, the answer may astound you. It turns out my book isn't about any of the and, and, ands, that I stuttered out to Robert.
It's so much more.