Writing With a Touch of Madness

This guest post is by Tiana Warner.

I have an obsessive personality. I get hooked on something and it’s all I can think about. Naturally, when I have an idea for a novel (one I’m convinced is spectacular), nothing gets between me and my keyboard. I make sacrifices—socializing, mainly—in order to spend time writing. Part of me even becomes my protagonist: I want to think like him so I can successfully write him.

Writing a book obviously requires a ridiculous amount of dedication. Less obvious, however, is why some people can accomplish it and some can’t. What traits set us apart? Are some of us predisposed to be novelists?

Some of the greatest artists in history lived on the brink of insanity. Perhaps we can learn something from their personalities. As a writer, you have a wonderful excuse to embrace your inner madness. To write an entire novel—and write it well—we should all start by drinking a foaming, steaming test tube of passionate


Passion translates a writer’s thoughts into a gripping read. Without passion from the writer, there will be no passion from the reader. It’s as simple as that.

So how do you write passionately?

Pick topics that evoke emotion.

Any emotion.When I was a kid I hated learning about space, because I was genuinely terrified of it. To this day, it scares me because I can’t understand how space and time are even possible. So, what did I do about it? I wrote an entire book themed around space and time and the mysteries of the universe.When you pick a topic that you feel very strongly about—whether that feeling is love or hate or fear or an all-consuming curiosity—you write about it with fervor. I know for a fact that my passions translate to the page: my love for animals, my
feelings on climate change, and my all-consuming curiosity—fear—whatever you want to call it—about the mysteries of the universe.Passion works. Use it to your advantage.


Obsession helps the writer in two ways.

1. Persistence

It drives us to keep going even when we’ve been writing for so long we’re starting to get sick of our characters. Come on, don’t deny it. We’ve all done it. You’ve rewritten the same scene so many times you never want to see it again. You’ve explored your protagonist to such depth that you shudder when someone asks you if you plan to write a sequel. But you can’t stop writing. You’re obsessed. Even if the idea of making another draft makes you want to curl up in a ball and drift into insanity, you do it anyway. You set a goal to publish this book. Nothing is going to get in your way until you see that thing in print.

2. Gripping characters

Obsession makes our characters shine. Use your obsessive personality to your advantage and share it with one of your characters. Translated properly onto the page, obsession
is arguably the most fun character trait to read about
. It makes your protagonist so fascinating that the reader won’t want to put the book down. Lisbeth Salander, anyone? Dr. Victor Frankenstein? Tyler Durden? Sweeney Todd? Obsessive characters are memorable ones. Obsession isn’t a bad thing. It compels us to finish our books, and to finish them well. It drives us to “live” our characters until they become real. Don’t feel like you’re insane if you find yourself obsessing over your book: embrace it. Every great artist seems to have this trait; it’s what drives them to success. As Aristotle wisely said, “No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.”

About the Author: Tiana Warner published The Infinite Knowledge of J. T. Badgley after graduating from the University of British Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. When she is not working on her next novel, she enjoys riding her horse and volunteering at the local animal shelter. Find her on Twitter.

Tell me your opinion: How do you take advantage of any obsessive traits?

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. @LK: Wait until you have kids. You’ll wish you were back at your old job.

  2. Madness is another joy of the craft. You can be mad all you want, and simply say it a writing syndrome 😉


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