A few years ago an editor, who was working on one of my early manuscripts that was scheduled for publication, told me that I had too much going on in the story. I needed to select one theme (out of several) and work at developing it, following its thread through to the end.
It turned out to be very good advice and something I try to follow with each new book. Because my method of writing, in the early stages of a story, is to let the characters take me wherever they like, I often end up going in too many different directions.
The truth is, I submitted that novel before I should have; it was not ready to leave the nest. I've learned to take my time. It's often several drafts before I can sort out the book's most important theme. And it often means tossing out some minor threads in order to beef up the major one.
Currently I'm taking a good look at the latest novel-in-progress. Does it lack direction? What is its main theme? How can I develop it fully? And the key question: Can I tell someone in one sentence what this book is about?
In case you're wondering, the photo above is a candid shot of my office.