Writing Notes: Reworking Old Themes

I’d originally titled this
“Reworking Old Plots”, but realized as I was writing it that it’s
really more about themes than plots…

The first novel draft I ever finished
was titled (cheesily enough), Blooming Jade. It was supposed
to be a contemporary romance, and within the first chapter Jada, my
heroine, was being chased, and subsequently saved by a stranger she
knew only from glances exchanged at the local conservatory (where she
went weekly to see if the huge Jade plant in the collection had
bloomed yet). Yes, it was a NaNo novel. Yes, I did spend some time
trying to revise it with the help of a very small local writer’s
group. It’s been on my bookshelf (quite literally – the whole
thing is printed out and in a binder) ever since then.

I can’t remember what the second
draft I finished was…it sucked, I know that much, and I doubt I
even saved a copy, I hated it so badly, if I recall correctly. Yet
again, I tried to force myself to write in a contemp. romance “box”,
and failed – rather spectacularly, I think.

The third completed draft was called
The Confetti Party, and started off with my fascination with
what happens when complete strangers are thrown together for an
evening. I wasn’t even trying for a romance that time; though one
developed as I wrote (they always seem to). Unfortunately, my brain
went straight for the horror that time, and I ended up with a locked
warehouse, hunters preying on the party guests, and a serious
bloodbath wherein I think everyone died at the end. Or maybe one
person lived. Long enough to finish the story, anyway (it started
with someone bleeding out, and ended at the same scene). It was
gruesome. Konrath would have been proud of the mess (have you read
Draculas? That’s the kind of carnage we’re talking about

I also have a “thing” for hidden
identities, masks, and pretending to be what you’re not (which is
odd, since with me, what you see is what you get). So the last
completed draft I wrote before I decided to learn about plot &
continuity was called Perfect Companions – and for some
reason, I *still* thought I could write it as a contemporary romance.
Needless to say, there was a drug lord and undercover agents and
many, many layers of subterfuge before I even hit the midpoint. Oh,
and just as a nod to Indiana Jones, a sand-filled snake pit *on a
yacht* for the final scene

Is there a writer out there who never
does cheesy things in a draft out of desperation? If so, don’t tell
me. I’m embarrassed enough by that scene already, and I’m the
only one who’s read it. I was embarrassed about 60 seconds after I
wrote it, actually, but dang it, I hit my 50k words by the deadline
that year.

All NaNo novels, and all of which would
require a complete rewrite in order to be publishable. That’s not
just because I’ve finally made peace with needing action and
adventure along with my romance…but also because I’ve come a long
way in terms of my voice and understanding of structure (don’t
worry, I still have *plenty* to learn).

Interestingly though, I’m still
exploring the same themes. I’ve tried to write stories (in several
genres) based on the “confetti party” idea several times and I’m
definitely getting closer. I’m fairly certain that one of these
days, I’ll write something readable with that basic theme. And the
hidden identity plot is a big part of The Wise Critique that
I’m working on revising now. I may revisit the original idea again
someday, but I find it comforting that those things stick with me
constantly, rather than just disappearing.

Are there themes that stick with you,
even through works that you’d rather just forget existed? How many
times/ways have you explored the same theme in your own work?

Readers, do you seek out writers due to
the underlying themes they explore? Why or why not?

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3 comments on “Writing Notes: Reworking Old Themes

  1. Brooklyn Ann

    I seem to have a constant underlying theme in which the main characters have had past traumas which affected their feelings of self worth…. I totally wanna read your blood-bath novel. It sounds so unlike you. 🙂

  2. Carol

    Yeah, I wanna read your blood bath novel as well. And a snake pit on a yacht, really? I wanna read that one too. 🙂

    I really try to come up with a variety of plots, but my underlying theme seems to be a woman who’s taken out of her world and thrust into a new one, whether it’s mentally or physically. Maybe it’s my subconscious at work. LOL

  3. Jamie D.

    It’s always fascinating how the brain works, isn’t it?

    And sorry ladies – those novels are permanently trunked. If I ever rewrite them, I’ll let you know. 😉