How I’m Writing a 30-Day Novel – Good Guys, Bad Guys

If you’re joining us for the first time today, this is the third installment in my series about writing a 30-day novel (or writing by the seat of your pants, for those who aren’t writing fanatics!). Here are the links to the previous lessons:

A Recap

In the first week, I started with the lead character and a simple question. Who are you? That was all I did the first day. I waited for a week and had no answer. That is the way intuitive writing goes, sometimes. The story was idle everywhere but in my mind for a week.

The second week, I shifted to scene descriptions. That exercise provided not only several answers about the lead character but was also a spring board to other activities.

I summarized what I already knew about the story and the lead character. Then I summarized what a series might look like because I could see a succession of events too numerous and complex to be contained in one novel (unless it was 250,000 to 300,000 words long).

I discovered information on the lead character and described a lot of scenes. Plot was beginning to form in the sense that I knew I needed big thrills and a lot of tension. But I had no concrete ideas on what those thrills should involve beyond inter-personal dynamics.

Where to next?

Good Guys and Bad Guys

The Candidate  is a political thriller. The scenes I’d described dealt with the political aspect of the story. On the third writing day, I felt prompted to work on this part of the story.

I began by reviewing the previous day’s summaries then started describing the reactions of the main characters based on those scenes. For some characters, I described both public reactions and private reactions. If I knew why a character reacted the way they did and why they had two reactions if they did, I jotted that down, too.

Of course, you can’t have opponents without having benefactors, so I worked those two lists side-by-side.

I made a lot of progress in the good guy/bad guy list, but there was an additional and unexpected bonus. The relationships between the characters and the lead character and each other also began to take shape. Even more interesting, I could see how some characters might be benefactors in one instance and opponents in another.

Opportunities and Obstacles

The second part of the process was discovering the threads that tied characters together. Some surprising threads. The lead character had built-in obstacles, but she also had some built-in opportunities once she recognized them.

Opportunities and obstacles began taking shape for each of the known main characters and for some secondary characters, as well.

In both cases, I explored at the personal and professional levels. Since this story is a thriller, I also denoted whether or not a threat was just a threat or if it involved personal injury or the risk of personal injury.

A Note About Organization

It didn’t take very long to realize I needed a way to keep all these notes organized, especially since I’m writing everything long hand.

I date everything as a matter of course, but there would still be a lot of searching to find one item if notes were organized strictly by date.

So I began a new page with each new category. Current categories are character; plot twists, turns, and thoughts; benefactors; and scene descriptions. If I work on characters one day and scene descriptions the next, I add to the end of that section. The same if I end up making notes on more than one section a day. The pages are still dated, but they’re also organized in such a way that when the time comes to write, I’ll be able to find information more quickly.


The best way to sum up the third of work on The Candidate  is by saying that one thought or idea led to another. I spent the day writing everything that came to mind as quickly as possible. To keep the flow flowing, I took complete notes, but also attempted to keep them as brief as possible. I have a tendency to get bogged down in details much too early, so it’s sometimes a struggle to keep things brief.