A Day in the Life of a Writer: Returning to an Old Story, Choosing a Main Character, and Being Generally Irked (But Also Excited)

calvin block

I have good news and bad news, dear readers. The good news: I’ve started writing my thesis novel again. Yay! I’ve been patting myself on the back all morning for deciding to pick it back up after shelving it almost a year ago (I need all the self-indulgent reassurance I can get. I’m a writer. It’s how we roll).

The bad news: I can’t decide who my main character is. Which is the reason I stopped writing this story in the first place.

Boo city.

The dilemma I’ve run into (and been running into for the past year) is that I have two strong and compelling characters, one male and one female, who are competing with one another for the coveted spot of main character. Now, I am not a person who subscribes to the rule that you can only have one main character in a story (Thelma & Louise being a prime example of a story that breaks that rule), so when I first encountered this problem I decided to resolve it the easy way by just letting them both be main characters. Easy, right?

Well, when your characters are normal, sure, maybe you can do that. But my characters are decidedly abnormal. See, the part that I neglected to mention is that my characters are both psychopaths, and as it turns out, having two psychopaths as your main characters kind of doesn’t work. Like, at all.

better main character meme

I got about a third of the way through the first draft of having these two psychopaths pitted against each other on the page and got increasingly frustrated, because the more I wrote the more I realized that I wasn’t rooting for them. I didn’t want either one of them to accomplish their goals and finish out their quests. What’s more, I didn’t care enough to see if they did accomplish their goals or not; I disliked them so much that I just wanted to get away from them. They were just too unsympathetic, too unlikable, and I hadn’t included a character who was strong enough and sympathetic enough to offset their extreme darkness. And without having a character to root for, I lost interest in the story. I came to the realization that if I, the person who thought up these characters and brought them into existence onto the page, had this kind of reaction to these characters, then readers were going to as well. And so, a little less than a year ago I gave up on the story with the intention of never returning to it again.

The problem is the little bugger’s been nagging at the edges of my brain ever since, refusing to give me any peace of mind and keeping me from working on the other story idea I’ve been playing around with for a few years now. It’s really rather rude.

So, since I’m apparently not allowed to work on any other creative projects until I give this psychopath story another whirl, I’ve decided to return to it with a new approach and an actual plan in place (my god, what a concept. A writer with a plan!). First, I’m rewriting the entire story from scratch. This sucks because I’ve written ~150 pages of it in the first draft, but necessary, because of those ~150 pages maybe 10 of them are good/salvageable. The plot and characters got jumbled around a dozen too many times for me to make any sense of it, and trying to work with those original pages will just confuse me further. So that first draft is getting locked away in my desk and not being looked at until the second draft is finished. Then after I finish I’ll go through the first one and see what if anything I can pull from it and incorporate into the new story.

Second, I’m putting my foot down and limiting my story to one psychopath/main character. This is turning out to be harder than I thought, because like I said above, both characters are strong and compelling in their own rights. I’ve polled fellow writers and friends for their opinions on whether they’d rather read a story about a male psychopath or a female psychopath, and the results were a 50-50 split.


At least now I know that a.) I’ve got two cool characters and b.) I’m insane for having trouble choosing between them (fun fact: I care more about point b right now).

So, I’ve decided that I’m going to be ambitious and write BOTH versions of the story, one told by the male psychopath and the other by the female. Since writing two novel-length manuscripts of the same story told by two different characters doesn’t sound all that appealing to me (shocking, I know), I’m planning on condensing the story down into either a long short story or a novella. Then I’ll see which one turns out stronger and proceed from there. And I’m choosing to not think about the possible scenario where they both turn out strong and I find myself in the same position I’m in now, because that can’t happen, right? Right? (Ugh.)


ryan gosling novel


Publication Rights for Freelance Writers

Dear readers, I’m afraid I’m still trapped in the special circle of hell known as job hunting. It’s a hard market out there for a bewildered 20-something writer! Many of the jobs I’ve come across have been freelance writing gigs for startups and blogs, which got me wondering about what rights I have regarding any content I’d publish doing these jobs. So I did a little digging and found this nifty little infographic over at freelancewriting.com by Brian Scott that I found extremely helpful. Seeing as I’m sure at least a handful of you, dear readers, have considered doing or even done freelance writing work, I figured I’d share the knowledge and pass this on. Enjoy, and if any of you with experience in this line of work have any input on the information here, please write me and let me know!

A Bewildered 20-Something’s Goals for 2014

Happy (very) belated New Years dear readers! I hope all of your holidays were fantastic and filled with plenty of quality time with your loved ones. I know I’ve been a terrible blogger recently and have been slacking a *lot* when it comes to posting, but there have been reasons I swear!  Namely, I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my bewildered 20-something self in the new year, which was surprisingly more difficult to figure out than I thought it would be. Is it possible to have a quarter life crisis before you’re 25 (rhetorical question, please don’t say no)? Well, either way, I *finally* put together my list of goals for 2014, and seeing as I’ve owed you a post for weeks now, dear readers, I figured I’d share them with you.

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More Worst Opening Sentences of All Time: Bulwer-Lytton Highlights

Dear readers, I had *way* too much fun doing last week’s Worst Opening Sentences post. The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest sentences were just too hilarious to stop at just 2013, and I ended up spending the majority of the afternoon perusing the site for gems from previous years. And oh boy, did I find some “winners” on there!  Since I had such a good time looking through these, I’ve compiled another list of Bulwer-Lytton highlights from the 2010s that are sure to give you a good old fashioned laughter ab work out.

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More Best Opening Lines in Literature

There are so many fantastic opening lines out there, dear readers. Writers know that the first sentence in any story is one of if not the most important sentence, because the first sentence is the one that gets you curious and makes you want to know what happens in the rest of the book. And so they slave away at them to make them as close to perfect as they possibly can, and we the readers get to reap the rewards of their hard labor.

A few weeks back, I made up a list of twenty of the very best opening lines in literature, but as I was working on it I realized that there were *far* more than twenty great opening lines out there, and that it would just be plain wrong to stop there. This is why I’ve put together not one but *two* follow-up lists of twenty great opening lines for you, dear readers, because I want to make sure that you get to read these awesome first sentences.

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Revising My Approach to NaNoWriMo

It is well into week two of NaNoWriMo, dear readers, and I have decided that I need to seriously reconsider my approach to the event. As you may have noticed from last week’s posts, I have been getting increasingly stressed out due to the fact that I am well below my targeted word count. This stress has seriously diminished the quality of my writing, which in turn is causing me to a.) hate my novel to the point of giving up on it, and b.) seriously question my abilities as a writer. Just a teeny bit counterproductive, considering the point of NaNoWriMo is to encourage people to write books, not to have them toss out their projects and/or stop writing altogether.  Continue reading

Write Write Write

Well, dear readers, I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump the last few days and am now officially behind on my word count for NaNoWriMo. Boo! Today is being spent cranking out as much as possible in an attempt to catch up, and as such, the blog is on a 24-hour hiatus. Regular scheduled programming will commence again tomorrow, but in the meantime, here is a motivational penguin to encourage me and everyone else doing NaNoWriMo to keep pushing through!