When I started Camp NaNoWriMo on the first of this month, I had no idea what I was going to write about. I came up with a weird and fanciful idea of writing stories about animals trying to revolt (but subtly revolt) against the humans in their respective worlds. I wanted to make the stories funny, but in a classy way – a bit like the Jeeves and Wooster series of P. G. Wodehouse (and let’s be honest, everything he ever wrote). And so this little collection I’m now working on was born.
It’s been up and down. I’m currently writing my fifth story, with my first and fourth stories left wide open for a “part two” of sorts to be added on directly from the end of them. I have learnt a few lessons along the way, lessons which I knew but forgot, which are worth sharing:
- When writing short stories, keep it simple. This means keeping the characters to a reasonable amount. My second story involved 7 or 8 characters plus a bunch of “bad guys”, and all the characters were too strong in personality and fighting for attention. Maybe this story would have worked later, but each of these characters need to be introduced in their own individual stories first. This one was just overkill.
- If you’re trying to write funny short stories, make sure you develop your characters properly. My best stories so far are the first and last ones, because I had ridiculously quirky characters driving them forwards. It is often the flaw of the character that makes them funny, not the things they do well.
- If a story feels like it’s dragging on too long, that’s most likely because it’s dragging on too long. If you’re bored with your own story during the first draft, your reader is probably going to be as well. You’re allowed to be bored when you’ve edited it a bazillion times, but the first draft should be the fun part. So if it’s dragging on, cut some parts out or just pause it and come back to it later with a fresh mind (I did that with one of my stories).
- You’re going to get ups and downs when writing several short stories. So follow my advice from the last point – change scenery and start a new story if the current one is annoying you – you can always come back. And don’t be afraid to take a break from writing completely for a day here and there – often you’ll bounce back refreshed for it. Of course, don’t let this turn into several days (unless you’re like me and work better under pressure).
- Drink enough coffee. By enough I mean some but not too much. Might sound obvious, but I find 2-3 coffees in the morning before I write gets me perked nicely to focus for a couple of hours if need be. Less than 2 and I’m too sleepy and daydreamy, more than 3 and I get hyped up and go for random jogs to the shops to buy chocolate to further my sugar high to…yeah anyway. Point is, you know how much coffee you drink on average – regulate it around your writing schedule to help you focus at your best when you do write! (And if you don’t drink coffee, do the same with tea. If you don’t drink tea…erm…water? Actually, you know, water does help you to concentrate? Anyway, I meant to stop this point 3 lines ago).
I hope all of you attempting Camp NaNoWriMo are managing to keep up and write some cool stories (or whatever you are writing, remembering it’s a bit more flexible than the regular NaNoWriMo). And if you are behind, don’t panic – there’s still a full week left! If there’s even the slightest chance you can finish on time, I say go for it – you might be surprised what the pressure can help you produce!
Good luck fellow writers/lunatics!