I’ve been having an itch to get back to some of my fiction projects lately. For the moment I’ve been putting them on the back burner as I’m trying to get the fractal book out as soon as possible, but every now and then I let my mind wander.
One of the things I’ve been trying to think about is the revisions for the novel I finished last year. This was written in a flurry of productivity which has now resulted in me trying to cull a 125K word book out of a 200K word book. I’ve had a couple of alpha readers take a look at it and the problem it has at the moment is pacing. Not enough down beats and a little too much jumping from one crisis to another, like a video game. This is intended a bit as an action thriller, but even good action needs it breaks.
But more than that I’ve been trying to think about what is the “over-arching theme” of this book, or what am I trying to say about life or science or whatever with the events I’m putting my character through. My mystery which I’m hopefully releasing sometime early next year had a fairly clear theme, but this story I’m not so sure.
It doesn’t have to be something particularly profound. Cloud Atlas did serviceably well with the theme, “everyone is connected”, and there are plenty of pulpy sci-fi books whose basic theme is, “look out, our technology might kill us”. My character is making a journey through incredible worlds to find something he lost, and my basic question is what do the individual episodes along the way do to help him find what he was lost, and inform him about his life and the paths it might have taken.
Making an adjustment like that isn’t just as easy as having your character think, “hmm…being here reminds me of a time when I made a critical choice that now I regret”. Rather I think adjustments in theme can happen with the changing of just a few details, a character description or an adjustment to scene. After all, you want the reader to intuit the theme rather than beat them over the head with it, and if possible you want to allow for multiple interpretations and ideas of significance.
But mostly I just get ideas like, “what if this character was somehow related to a character from earlier in the story in a way previously not revealed?” Forming more connections from one part to the next is a way of combating “and then this happened.” If nothing else the recombining of scenes, character relationships and descriptions can help you to see things in new ways you hadn’t even considered.
I can’t wait to dive back in.