using iterations in your novel

using iterations in your novel

In my last post I talked about symbolism and realized afterward this closely relates to using iterations in your writing. This concept is taken from Stuart Horwitz’s work, and, specifically, Book Architecture. I’ve taken a couple of workshops at conferences from Stuart, and I can’t mention symbolism without mentioning his work, too, because, for me, they tie in.

To explain it simply, the first thing we do is determine our SERIES in our book. And from SERIES we then create ITERATIONS.

Stuart says, “…each SERIES has a type: it may be a person, object, place, relationship, or phrase… that repeats and varies. Each time a SERIES appears, we call those examples or occurrences ITERATIONS.”

Okay, that’s the groundwork.

In my last post I used bunnies as an example of symbolism in my novel Miserably Happy. If you haven’t read the post, it’s a quick read and can be found here.

The use of the bunnies represents the state of Livy and Anthony’s relationship.

The series is called “Will Livy and Anthony’s Relationship Survive?”

The iterations within this series are:

INNOCENCE:  In the beginning of Livy and Anthony’s relationship, there is harmony when they’re up at the park (symbolism of bunnies running to and fro on the footpath).

WHERE AM I: Troubles in Livy and Anthony’s relationship show up in various scenes (symbolism of rabbits showing up in different scenes as pests instead of cute creatures, including eating two saplings two different times).

LEMME OUT: Livy finally cuts the cord with Anthony when she grows tired enough of his withholding emotionally in the relationship (symbolism of rodents now kept away from her newly planted sapling, after she stakes chicken wire around the sapling).

To demonstrate the use of iterations as clearly as possible, Stuart uses the example Corduroy, a children’s book about a bear, from the first chapter in Book Architecture.

The Basics of Series in the Short Story Corduroy

In Book Architecture, Stuart breaks Corduroy into three different series and says,”When we start trying to find our series, all we have to remember is repetition and variation. What do we find repeated?”

The first series is the I’VE ALWAYS WANTED series.

This series asks the question, “What has Corduroy always wanted?”

Setting up a grid is easy. See the image below.

Stuart tells us, “The repetition and variation of a narrative element creates meaning in our novel.”

Something worth mentioning, too, is that one of the series in your book will be the central plot but not the entire book. The series in Corduroy most closely related to the plot of the book is the quest of the missing button.

The second series is the MISSING BUTTON series.

This series asks the question, “Will Corduroy find the missing button?”

And remember, in each series, something needs to change within each iteration.

The third series is the MONEY series.

This series asks the question, “What does it mean to be responsible?”

There are only two iterations, but as long as there are two, something changes. The repetitions let us know what we’re talking about while the variations give us direction: things are getting better or worse…

We can combine these three series together, and it will look like this:

Basically, by applying this method we can write our entire book. It really helped organize my thoughts and scenes for Miserably Happy, and hopefully this will help you, too. In the book Stuart uses other books as examples, too, and it’s a great resource overall.

On the Book Architecture website, the grid posted below is a resource you can download. Wowza! Don’t let it intimidate you! This is an entire novel placed into series/iterations on a grid!