I don't know if this will be useful for anyone out there, but its something I was reminded of today. I've had many failed projects over the years. In fact, I've probably left a smouldering trail long enough to light up the passage from Europe to America by now. But, getting to my point, the reason I believe I've had such a high rate of abandoned stories is down to the fact I rarely ever start my planning with a solid theme. Laugh if you like. It's a basic element of novel planning, yet so many online tutorials and guides seem to miss out this crucial step entirely. For my latest WIP, I made sure I started with a rock solid theme. The theme is so important to start from because it drives the story and keeps everything pointing in the same direction. Time and time again I'd start with a random idea or plot (i.e. assassin seeks revenge, war between two nations, magical superweapon is constructed). None of those were my actual ideas, I'd like to say. If you start with a theme such as 'greed' or 'revenge', or maybe two central themes, you get a better sense of the overall feel of the story. Then come up with a couple of minor/sub-themes which will also crop up (i.e. humanity's struggle to understand its own purpose). Now you know that everything you write within the framework of those themes, should be connected to/driven by one/all of those themes. I will say that these themes should all be connected somehow, definitely to the main theme. Joe Abercrombie demonstrates this technique wonderfully in Best Served Cold. The theme is revenge, clear and simple. The characters are constantly driven by that theme, both for the purpose of the main plot and sub-plots. He pulls it off so well that as you read further along, every single character (major and minor) seems to be tangled up in a mess of personal vendetta and vengeance. It makes the story so much stronger as a result. If he'd gone in with no core theme, only knowing that his main character wanted revenge, the overall feel of the story and world would have been lost and it wouldn't have pulled in the reader so well as it did for me. Phew... I've written much more than I was planning to! What do you guys think about theme and its importance?