What are you trying to tell the readers of your stories? What are you trying to ask them?
There are plenty of answers to these two questions, but up until a couple of years ago I never had a good one, no matter what I was writing. It always ended up being something along the lines of, ‘I’m trying to tell them a good, entertaining story.’ That isn’t enough.
Sure, a good and entertaining story is more important than a message or question, but it’s important to have both. And before you object to this, understand that I don’t mean you should force a message or question down your readers’ throats. That’s worse than having no message at all.
Still, don’t underestimate the importance of having a clear message or question in your book. If you can figure out what it might be before you start writing, or after you have a clear idea where you’re going, it’ll bring a cohesiveness and sense of meaning to your story that might have been lacking before. And don’t feel the need to find places to add this into your writing (themes are undertones, not focal points) – if you have the answer in your head while you work it’ll come out naturally.
Don’t just answer it in your head, write it out. See what happens.
Happy Labor Day.