Thursday, October 4, 2012

Get Your Writing Noticed: Theme – the most important part of writing!

Reblogged from Laurence O'Bryan. Leave a comment here.
Theme is, in my opinion, the most important part of writing.Theme is your argument, your central idea, your subject matter, your tune.
For me it doesn’t matter how well you write, if your theme is boring, if your story is about an afternoon in an apartment, as your hero argues with himself about whether to make dinner for his wife, I’m just not that interested.
Ok, I’ll read two pages, if your prose totally sparkles, but I’ll soon lose interest. Shiny, glistening literary baubles lack substance for me. I want a strong theme.
But, you say, other people may be interested in that apartment story. And you’re right. Theme is personal. Which brings us to the central point of theme, it’s all about choice. What you love, I may hate!
And theme is about genre too. Crime fiction, thrillers, erotic fiction, romance, fantasy, science fiction, they all embody theme at their core.
And theme is related to commerciality as well. If you write and extend one of the popular modern genres listed above, you are simply more likely to get published. Why is such a cruel trick perpetrated on writers? Because publishing is a commercial enterprise. Publishers want to publish books that people are more likely to buy.
And they have found out, over many years, that books written within the above themes, in the above genres, sell well and then some more.
Literary fiction is almost impossible to get published now. Why? Because a work of literary fiction, exploring the world of your apartment on a rainy afternoon for instance, might sell 1,000 copies in a year, where a crime novel in which a body is found in that apartment on the opening page, could sell 20,000 or more in that year. Which would you publish?
I am in awe of writers who are willing to spend decade after decade emulating the literary giants of their youth, writing the great novel of our generation, in the sure knowledge that it will never be published. Never ever.
Knowing your writing will never be seen by anyone beyond a small circle, yet writing on year after year, takes an extra ordinary Buddha like selflessness.
Bur for all those who retain a desire to get published, think long and hard about your theme. If you truly do write uncannily well, you may pull off that story about an afternoon in an apartment, but if you like genre fiction yourself, and would like to be published this decade, pick a popular theme, please! And extend the theme, make it sing, like that old canary never sang before!
That, for me, is a suitable goal for a 21st century writer.
If you would like to discuss this post or for me to review your writing and give brief feedback without charge (page 1 of your MS only please) by email:
Here are some links to useful information for writers:
The Seven Most Useful Books for Writing Fiction if you want great writing books for my blog on using social media to get noticed.
The reality of being published – 2 months after my first book came out all over the UK, I wrote this post.
The Accessible Author – how the author’s role is changing
Frantic Editing – a post on the editing process my first novel went through in the summer of 2011
Finally, a big thank you to all my readers, everyone who comments and everyone who visits. I hope you find this information useful on your journey to getting your writing noticed. 

 Born in the Mountains of Mourne in County Down, Northern Ireland, Laurence O’Bryan was educated in Dublin, studying English and history, then business, then IT at Oxford University.
He spent ten years working in the city of London where he met his wife. In 2000 after his daughter was born, he and his family returned to Dublin. In 2007 he won the Outstanding Novel award from the Southern California Writer’s Conference (one of 300 submissions) for The Istanbul Puzzle, his debut novel. His second novel The Jerusalem Puzzle will be published by Harper Collins in 2013. Contact Laurence at:, His books may be purchased from Amazon and anywhere books are sold.

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Thorne said...

I loved the statement about a body in the living room vs describing that room on a rainy afternoon. It's sort of like reading page after page until you finally wish a body were in the living room.
Thanks for the post.

Ruby said...

Thank you for making a difficult subject understandable.
Good stuff!

SusieSheehey said...

In one of my earlier manuscripts, I hadn't nailed down the theme, I tried to incorporate too many concepts throughout the story and my heroine was perceived as bipolar! Excellent points on theme!

Yasmine said...

I never got "theme" and wondered what people meant when they asked "what is your premise or theme?" Thanks for a meaningful post.

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