Stephen King on theme and revision
This the best passage (for me at this point in time) from Stephen King’s On Writing, which is quite good, but would have been much more useful for me five or six years ago:
Writing and literature classes can be annoyingly preoccupied by (and pretentious about) theme, approaching it as the most sacred of sacred cows, but (don’t be shocked) it’s really no big deal. If you write a novel, spend weeks and then months catching it word by word, you owe it both to the book and to yourself to lean back (or take a long walk) when you’ve finished and aks yourself why you bothered–why you spent all that time, why it seemed so important. In other words, what’s it all about, Alfie?
When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re don, you have to step back and look at the forest. Not every book has to be loaded with symbolism, irony, or musical language (they call it prose for a reason, y’know), but it seems to me that every book–at least every one worth reading–is about something. Your job during or just after the first draft is to decide something or somethings yours is about. Your job in the second draft–one of them, anyway–is to make that something even more clear. This may necessitate some big changes and revisions. The benefits to you and your reader will be clearer focus and a more unified story. It hardly ever fails. (200-201)