“You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
As I begin at the beginning once more, this time with an eye to revision, I’m particularly aware of what this book needs to say. The theme, if you will, of the novel.
Writing is like the layers of an onion. You have to pull off one layer before you can see the next one. There are so many layers needed to make a whole novel, especially a complex one that you hope will stay with the reader long after they have turned the final page.
The plot structure is about telling an entertaining story that satisfies the reader. But the thread running through these surface events is the deeper, more meaningful message that you want your reader to take away from the experiences of your protagonist. It is this subtle, abstract meaning that will have your reader lingering over the story past “The End.”
Instead of slogging through chapter by chapter, revising as I go, I will read through the entire manuscript quickly. This has several benefits. Armed with a notebook and pen, I will take notes on problems, solutions and opportunities. Today, I want to deal with only the opportunities. That’s where the theme comes in.
I’m looking for opportunities to tug at the thread, to gently pull it through the entire novel. Where can I show Lily’s growth in this new learning she is acquiring? What is the message below the surface of her actions? What deeper meaning is Lily conveying to her readers about the human condition? She has suffered a traumatic loss, one from which she is unsure she can recover. Lily thinks she has nothing, is nothing apart from her mother. As the story progresses, Lily begins to realize that her mother is still with her in the form of her musical gifts and talents. Lily discovers that she has the skills and ability to move forward despite her loss, if only she will believe in herself. But she needs to take the initiative. This is not something someone else can do for her. It’s this idea of surviving and thriving beyond a life-altering trauma that I want the reader to take away at the end of Anywhere But Here.
Where can I find these threads and gently tug on them to pull them through to the BIG MOMENT at the end? That’s the question I will be asking as I read through the ms.
Developing the theme has two huge advantages:
- Focus. Having a clear idea of theme will help guide you as to what should and should not be included in your novel.
- Complexity. The theme adds that extra layer of deeper meaning, making the story more satisfying to the reader.
Whew! It sounds like I have my work cut out for me. Notebook and pen at the read. Time to begin!