This book stumped me for a while in the search for its theme. Almost unbelievably, it was staring me right in the face. I had to change two characters to find it, but the wealth of additional subtext that opened up was so worth the extra work. It forms part of one of the book’s twists, so I don’t want to reveal too much, but the main theme is “taking responsibility for what you create” – very apt for me right now, on many levels from my writing to raising my children. Last year was a hard one, parenting-wise, and my son and I need to do some revision on our relationship this year, too.
We, as a species, tell and read stories in order to nut out a conundrum that is bothering us. If we stick to writing about the answers we’ve already found, only our reader benefits; if we write into what we’re trying to discover, we benefit too.
Since this book involves a magic wand, naturally I was always going to use the wand symbolically and I also always planned to use symbolism from the Wands suit of tarot cards. I couldn’t believe the coincidence, though, when I realised not only did I have fourteen chapters to my book, and fourteen cards of the minor arcana of the Wands suit, but also that the symbolism and reading of each card fits beautifully into the storyline of each chapter, in order. It made my day when I matched those up and got fourteen for fourteen. I then sat down to draw from the symbols of the suit – mainly fire and things that symbolise fire or are symbolised by fire – and came up with a number of scenes that enrich the plot by drawing on those symbols. It’s such a thrilling process.
I’ve also had a chuckle at the hazards of using Find and Replace to automate edits. I came across a few instances of one of my characters wearing an intriguing item of clothing called a “Jameset”. I scratched my head over that one for a while. The book is fantasy and the characters do don clothing from another world, so I could well have made the word up deliberately; it wasn’t ringing any bells, though. Then I looked through my notes. About a quarter of the way through the first draft I’d decided to change a character’s name from Jack to James and ran a Find and Replace – but I forgot to set the search to “whole words”. Ah, well. Check, check, and recheck. And then hire an editor.
What about you? Do you love or hate the revision process? Do you graft in symbolism retrospectively, or do you plan everything, including the symbolism, up front?