Finding a theme

It’s thirteen days into NaNoWriMo, and I’m stuck at just under 3000 words (I should be near 25,000 by now).

Part of it is because I’m just so busy: stupid job that allows no time for writing, trying to get to the gym a few times a week, searching and applying for jobs, helping my brother with the GED, and beginning my application for grad school.

But I realized today that a big reason for my procrastination is that my story has no overarching theme.  Right now, it’s just a steampunk mystery thriller.

My other two novels both had universal themes.  The Lone Wolf is a story of love and betrayal, forgiveness and redemption.  A Handful of Wishes has two themes: growth over a lifetime following Kolberg’s stages of moral development, and the destructive power of pride, through the genie Paribanu’s story.

When I write short stories, I don’t focus on theme; I just write, and usually something emerges.  Then it’s picked up on by critiquers, and I develop it more deeply during edits.

But my novels are different.  I need a deeper purpose while writing.  My NaNo novel has nothing, and until I figure out its message, I don’t know how far I can get.

Do you prefer books with meaningful themes, or do you want a story to be just a story?  For the writers out there, do you try to put a theme in your works?  And once it’s there, do you try to develop it more deeply, or do you keep it subtle/barely noticeable?

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