Forget about the theme

If you’re writing a book, it has to be about something. And that something is your theme. Every writing teacher and book about writing will tell you how important it is to find your theme. But I’m here to tell you, don’t sweat the theme. Just write the story.

I don’t know who started this whole know-your-theme-while-you’re-writing business. They must be awfully organized to have that figured out during the writing process. The fact is, when I’m in the middle of a book, it’s hard to see the theme for the words. Most of the time, I can barely see what’s coming next. I think most writers are the same way. Understanding the theme comes at the end of a story, when you read it back and say, “Oh! That’s what I’m writing about!” If it comes at all.

This morning I came across this quote: “If I knew what the meanings of my books were, I wouldn’t have bothered to write them.” –Margaret Drabble.

There’s somebody who didn’t sweat the theme, or all the advice to figure it out. Sometimes it’s better left to the reader to figure it out. Who cares about the theme anyway, if the book’s really entertaining? Let somebody else worry about that.

2 thoughts on “Forget about the theme

  1. erebusetnox says:

    I feel the same way. Sometimes things just write themselves into the story, and maybe it meshes with the original idea, or maybe you find yourself rocked back on your heels, thinking, “well, this changes everything.” People who deliberately put meaning into their writing are generally called satirists….

  2. Tracey says:

    Indeed. And the surprise of the “aha!” moment is what keeps writing fresh. “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader,” someone said. I just can’t remember who it was that said it.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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