Listen to what your mood is telling you (when you write)!

Camp-Participant-2015-Square-ButtonAfter bombing out of Camp NaNoWriMo back in April (due to that whole getting married thing I did – see my last few posts to read more about that and see pretty pictures and so on), I vowed that I would surge into the July event of Camp NaNo and knock out 30 000 words as if it was nothing. Which, considering how many times I have written more than this over the course of 6 successful NaNoWriMos (of 50 000 or more words) and 2 successful Camp NaNos (of 30 000 each), it is not unreasonable that I considered this a challenge I could beat.

However, a couple of days ago, sitting on a measly 4000 words (actually that’s a lie, it was like 3900 and when you’ve written so little those hundred words make a difference), I realised I had a problem. I kept sitting in front of my laptop trying to write, but it just wasn’t working. It wasn’t writer’s block so much as writer’s disdain – I just didn’t like my story so far. At all.

Something I have written about before on this blog is how I tend to mix up the moods I am trying to write my story in (I’d link but goodness knows how far back in my archive the original post is sitting, sorry guys – I’ll explain it all again anyway). I think I naturally assume when I’m in a good mood I need to write comedy and when I’m in a more melancholy mood I need to go for something more serious and perhaps depressing. But more often this proves wrong – when I’m not as high in spirits I need to write comedy, perhaps to lift me a little out of the emotional hole I find myself in for one reason or another. And when I am upbeat, sometimes my comedy comes out totally rubbish because I struggle to find things to satirise or be cynical about and so I actually need to write a story that maybe pulls me back down to earth.

So, while I have a few things in my life that are stressing me out at the moment I am most certainly a lot happier overall than I have been for, well, a lot of my life actually. So the reason why I couldn’t write was because I had nothing to make fun of (seriously, there was one funny page where two cats fought over a cheesy puff and then it went downhill from there). Consequently, I’ve started writing something way more depressing and now it’s pouring out of me – I’ll probably overtake my old word count tomorrow which I sort of need to do if I’m going to hit my word goal in 11 days. Somebody send me coffee, pronto!

Do any of you writers out there ever experience anything similar to this issue with moods affecting your writing style, mood or genre even? How do you work with/against it?

For those of you who are attempting Camp NaNo, how is it going for you this month? How is your cabin going? (Mine is really nice actually, everybody is quite talkative and friendly and sharing interesting ideas).

Camp NaNoWriMo, done in 12 days!

As you might know, I attempted to do Camp NaNoWriMo this month even though I’d be away camping for half of the month (camping while camp is on, hmmm). Somehow, despite knowing the obvious stupidity of it, I didn’t write every single day I was at home, either. As a result, this happened:

Camp NaNo July Graph

 

You can quite clearly see in the graph above the half of the month I went camping. Then I attempted a desperate comeback towards the end of the month, before deciding I couldn’t be bothered doing it every day. So, at just under 19000 words, I waited until today to finish it in one day, forcing out 11350 words of utterly rubbish short stories in order to reach my goal. BUT I DID IT!

I am now exhausted and feel like I need to sleep for a day, but it’s nice to know I still have it in me to write a crazy amount like that in one day when I have to.

After I’ve rested a bit, I’ll get on with all these other blog posts I’ve been wanting to write for ages! For anybody out there still working on their Camp NaNoWriMo projects, good luck with getting them finished. And if it feels hopeless, just look at my graph – hopefully that’ll serve as a reminder that anything is possible with enough coffee and crazy (I had 8 cups this morning, just so you know).

I’m back from a road trip and ready to rock!

I disappeared for a few weeks to go on a road trip around Sweden. I meant to tell you before that I would be off for a while, and I also meant to schedule some blog posts to go up. But the blog posts remain unfinished (mostly finished though, so expect them soon), and I never told you all I was going anywhere until it was too late. So sorry about that.

Anyway, I’ve taken a lot of photos and anybody who follows me on Instagram or Twitter will have noticed me attempting to weave some sort of narrative of my journey to Stockholm, up to the High Coast, across Norrland and back down to my home in Halmstad. Truth be told though, I only put up a tiny snippet of my journey, and a lot of the places I visited have a lot more stories and pictures that I decided to cover in more detail on my blog. So basically what I’m saying is I have probably between eight and ten blog posts to write purely on my roadtrip, all of which will be equal parts words and pictures. Even if you follow me on Instagram, I’ll be sharing different pictures and some places I didn’t even show on there at all. I promise.

I also have a blog hop post coming up very soon, as well as some book reviews and music reviews, so watch this space because the next month or two there will be a lot happening.

Oh, and also despite being most of the month behind schedule, yes I am still trying to beat Camp NaNoWriMo. Because why not?

Anyway, for now, here’s a nice picture I took (from my Insta, I’ll admit) which sums up Sweden pretty well – trees and lakes!

Sweden in a nutshell

Who signed me up to Camp NaNoWriMo again? Oh, me.

2014 Camp Nano-Participant-Vertical-BannerI really enjoyed Camp NaNoWriMo in April, as I wrote 30 000 words across 6 short stories and finally created a collection of humorous stories which were actually vaguely funny. It was exhausting but I thoroughly enjoyed writing them and I promised myself if time permitted I would continue them in July, or at least write more short stories of some kind (that might not be connected to the April ones).

It’s the last week of June now. I’ve committed myself to several things that are going to keep me quite busy these next couple of months. I am also going on a road trip for a couple of weeks across Sweden in the middle of July. All signs are pointing toward the fact that July is really quite booked up, and I definitely don’t have time for another 30 000 words of frantic short story writing.

So anyway I signed up this afternoon and I feel like I should be suffering from some kind of pre-apocalyptic fear of “what have I done”-itis but here I am feeling remarkably calm, as I always am before undergoing some intense writing challenge. I think I had so much fun last time that I just want to experience that again, though I know I am swimming in dangerous waters here and having an expectation like that might lead to disappointment. But it might not. And I want to find out, I guess.

So the only thing I have left to decide is this – do I continue with the stories I was really enjoying writing (where each story had new characters but the setting and general premise was the same, and all were connected by a few specific characters) or do I just try something entirely new to see where my mind takes me?

Did any of you participate in the April Camp and are also taking part in the July one? What is your approach this time around?

Oh, and if you’re interested in participating in this crazy challenge (you can choose the word goal and type of writing yourself), go visit the Camp NaNoWriMo site here for more information! If you love writing and have never tried this kind of challenge before, this might just be for you!

What music do you listen to when writing?

I have written while listening to a lot of different kinds of music, but lately my writing music is steering towards the highly emotive but often lyricless – if it does have lyrics it has to build up a lot of atmosphere. Whether or not this affects the stories I write I’m not entirely sure, but I suspect it does on some level.

One artist in particular I’ve been listening to is Nils Frahm. Rather than tell you about him, just listen to him – I think you’ll see why I like writing to this music. The first song is called Re, the second is called Ambre:

Another band I have discovered recently is Midlake, who have a very folky sound with a slightly prog rock feel too – almost Celtic in places. But while they do sing, they build up a very distinct atmosphere which is nice to write to, as well. This song is called Winter Dies:

So, with Camp NaNoWriMo around the corner (again!), and with so many of my awesome readers writing stories all the time, I ask again what I asked in my title – what music do you listen to when writing? What qualities in the music do you look for?

Victory is mine! (Camp NaNoWriMo victory, that is…)

It’s official guys, I’m a:

2014-Winner-Facebook-Cover

 

This morning, three minutes before midday on April 29, I managed to edge over the 30 000 word goal I set myself for my short stories project in Camp NaNoWriMo and have therefore been declared a winner!

In the end, I wrote six short stories, three of which I am quite happy with, three of which need quite a bit of work. But I have rediscovered the joy of writing short stories after several years of writing novels in the main NaNoWriMo event in November, so it has been a nice month in that respect!

I have learnt a lot in my journey, but then I kind of talked about that enough in my post last week, which you should read by clicking here. So now I shall charge onward to finish NaPoWriMo, the event where I’m writing 30 poems this month as well – I am about nine poems behind there so I have a bit of work to do.

I hope everybody else who has participated in either of these events this month has had as much fun as I have, and has managed to meet their goals or at least reignite their passion for writing (which is ultimately the purpose of such writing challenges, I feel).

Over the next month I’m going to use this energy to start etching out a lot more blog posts, too, so stay tuned!

Some lessons I’ve learnt from Camp NaNoWriMo

2014 Camp Nano-Participant-Vertical-BannerWhen 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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).
  5. 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!