How To Write a Novel — Theme

Day 20 of writing my novel in public

Matt Lewis Allen


Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

I’ve started something scary here on Medium. It’s something I’ve done before, but never in public. I have a process that I’m going to follow, and I’d like to share it with you.

If you want to follow the journey from the start, go here.

If you missed yesterday’s, you can find it here.

Day 20 — Theme

I’ve come to this — the scary part. Theme is such a worrying word. How can I possibly define the theme of the book that I’m writing? Will it have just one theme? Or should I have many? Will they be deep and serious? Or can I be trite and cliché? Hopefully, the work that I’ve done so far will make identifying my theme reasonably painless.

Over the last week, I have identified story threads for my book — central, character, symbol, setting, dynamic and phrase. These are narrative elements that iterate through the book, repeating and varying as they go. The job now is to work out what it all means.

I’m looking for the theme, but that word doesn’t have to be so scary. All I’m really looking for is the point of the book. What is it all about?

Can there be more than one theme? According to the Book Architecture method of Stuart Horwitz, no. A book can only be about one thing. This makes sense to me. By having a single focus, the book will have a satisfying completeness.

So how do I find my theme? I start with the various story threads, decide on the most important ones, then look at how they connect and combine them down to a single statement.

I’ll start by looking at my two guidebooks, and the themes in those before tackling my book.

Guidebook theme

The two books that I’m using to steer my book in the right direction are The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis and Gangsta Granny by David Walliams.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I have 10 story threads that I’ve identified so far. I’m going to list them from the most important to the least important.

  • Edmund and the White Witch (type: dynamic) — the White Witch initially seduces Edmund…



Matt Lewis Allen

Writer and Book Coach — helping you write the book you would love to read —