The Conundrum of Multiple Blog Syndrome, or, A Third Blog? Really?

That’s the question I have been asking myself for a couple of weeks now. Am I crazy for wanting to start a third blog when some months I struggle to stay on top of my main blog and my second blog (the lists one) has slowed down to one or two posts a month? Personally I don’t think so, although it probably is true that I am crazy for one reason or another anyway.

I’ve been blogging now for nearly three years, and not only has the blogging world changed a lot in that time but I have changed a lot in that time, as has my blog. This particular one started off as mostly a book blog, also sometimes including music reviews and different writing tips and things (some of my poetry form posts from 2012 are still very popular, much to my own surprise). But lately it’s taken a more personal turn as I’ve come to write about my experiences immigrating to Sweden, as well as just whatever I feel like really. I like the personal feel of my blog, but some of my interests I have been wanting to write about I fear would take over my blog and potentially alienate my readers too.

One interest in particular that I’ve developed this year is cooking and, more recently, baking. Perhaps because I’ve had more time and energy, I’ve made myself learn to cook really nice dinners properly. I’ve been training myself to understand how to adapt different recipes to suit my own tastes, how to make things from scratch and how fresh always tastes a million times better. I’ve started to bake from scratch and now I’m even baking my bread myself. I’m no professional chef, but I kind of like that I’m becoming a self taught cook and I feel like I’m developing my own style of cooking as a result of not being 100% competent in the kitchen just yet.

So, unsurprisingly, I am pondering starting a food blog as my third blog. I am passionate about it, and one thing I have learned is that being passionate about your blog subject is one of the most vital things to a successful blog. My concerns, among many, are things like the fact that does the world really need another foodie blog by somebody who doesn’t really know what they’re doing but is pretty good at pretending he does? But then, if I thought that about a book blog I wouldn’t be a blogger at all now would I?

I think I need to consider more how to make a food blog something unique and typically “me”, as well as making it interesting to others whether they are foodies or not. I also need to think of a good name, which is half the challenge in itself. But if and when I do start this new creative venture, I’ll make sure to post about it on here!

To all my blogging readers, do you keep up multiple blogs? Why did you decide to create other ones? Do you find it challenging to keep all of them updated?

NaNoWriMo beckons once more…

NaNoWriMo LogoWell, that sounded a bit ominous! Anyway, those who have followed my blog the past few years probably know all about NaNoWriMo, because I babble about it every year around October and November. Newer followers might also know about it because, well, it’s a pretty massive event (about 300 000 participants globally last year).

But first, let’s refresh our memories on what this lunacy actually is (or perhaps even learn about it for the first time)! NaNoWriMo is an event in which participants from all walks of life attempt to write a 50 000 word (or more) novel entirely in the space of November. This sounds like a crazy challenge, and it really is, but the idea behind it is quite an important one. We all know the old saying that everybody has a book in them (as in one they want to write, not literally a book they are digesting because they mistook War and Peace for an apple). A lot of people often say that they want to write a novel, but they don’t have the time. This is where NaNoWriMo comes in – by forcing yourself to write the story at great speed (an average of 1667 words a day) you’ll get that book written within a month. Sure, it’ll be a bit rough around the edges. But, from my experience at least, it’ll have some gems in there too. Just the act of finishing a draft is a big step for any budding writer, published or unpublished, and no matter how hard it sounds once you get the momentum going it’s pretty hard to stop. Also, a huge community to encourage you and share all your trials and tribulations always helps – with hundreds of regions all around the world organising online and physical meet-ups, it can become quite a social event too.

For me personally, my NaNoWriMo story goes right back to 2009. I discovered the event at the last minute, with a couple of days to spare if my memory serves me correct. I remember thinking that first time “this is ludicrous, I have no idea what to write, I don’t have time to do this with university assignments due and my work and blah blah blah” and then I attempted it. That first year was filled with setbacks – at one point I was 20 000 words behind, while right at the end of the month a friend died which shook up my friends and I no end (as you’d expect) – but somehow I pulled through and hit the 50 000 words.

But that first NaNo novel, in the genre of dystopian fantasy, was awful and I’ve promised myself never to look at it again. The second year I attempted historical fiction and discovered the challenge of trying to fit 200 000 words of story into a quarter as much with far too little research. I also had a car crash that month so writing wasn’t exactly the most comfortable thing. The third year, in 2011, was my first year of being a teacher, so not only did I have to juggle novel writing with report writing and teaching, but I also stupidly decided to aim for 75 000 words. Despite overloading on caffeine repeatedly (at one point I drank 14 coffee in about 7 or 8 hours, and then oddly had an afternoon nap), the psychological thriller I wrote that year has been the only story thus far that I actually kind of liked (I intend on rewriting it soon). The next two years I attempted comedy and literary fiction, and while I found hitting the word goal easier than ever I ended up deeply disappointed with my stories.

So now, in 2014, I face my sixth consecutive NaNoWriMo going for a sixth consecutive win. A lot has changed for me this year, as I migrated from Australia to Sweden back in January, and I have a feeling my new surroundings and my experiences over this year will have some influence over my story. I am going to tackle comedy a second time, and earlier this year I wrote some comedy short stories that I actually liked and in which I think I started to find my own style of humorous writing. I am playing around with different ideas (time travel and bathtubs seem to be key themes at the moment, thanks to a certain friend on Twitter (you know who you are…)), but I hope to write something a bit more coherent than my comedy novel from 2012. I also plan on tapping into my influences more, from my general British comedy influences (especially Monty Python) but also all my writing influences from both now (both comedic and serious) and from my childhood (especially Roald Dahl). We’ll see what I come up with, I guess, in a few weeks time.

But enough about me! The NaNoWriMo website is running a little bit late in rebooting for this year’s event (it’s going up next week apparently), but now is the time to decide whether or not you’re going to attempt it, and if you are, to consider planning it (unless you like to write by the seat of your pants, which statistically speaking I do about 60% of the time so far). But, some things to consider:

  • If you’ve never done this before but love writing stories, you absolutely should give this a go – it is way more fun that you might think and it will definitely help you grow as a writer.
  • If you’ve tried this before but didn’t make the 50 000 word goal – try it again! Maybe a different story and different circumstances will enable you to reach it this time, and even if you still don’t you might get a lot written and that’s never a bad thing.
  • If you’ve won this before, whether it’s once or many times, do it again! After five wins, one thing I am certain of is that every year I do NaNoWriMo my writing improves and I learn more about my own writing abilities and style.

I’ll probably do another “tips on surviving” type post a little later in the month (don’t expect any profound advice other than to drink coffee though), but in the meantime I’d love to hear from you if you are doing NaNoWriMo or even if you’re just considering it. Also if you want to add me as a writing buddy on there, let me know.

23 days to go and counting!

Sweden Road Trip #1: Malmö

The Turning Torso has become an iconic building in Malmö. Unfortunately, it's residential and you can't go inside. It overlooks the sea between Sweden and Denmark, and the structure is based on, well, a turning torso.

The Turning Torso has become an iconic building in Malmö. Unfortunately, it’s residential and you can’t go inside. It overlooks the sea between Sweden and Denmark.

Finally, here it is – the first part of many based on my recent road trip around Sweden. This first post is about my visit to Malmö, which was actually two days before I left on the official road trip but I’m going to include it anyway because the city was pretty amazing. All the pictures are much bigger than they’ll be on here so click on them if you want to see them full size.

Malmö is Sweden’s third biggest city and is famous for many things: incredible architecture such as The Turning Torso, the epic bridge to Copenhagen over in Denmark (which actually goes underwater at one point), and of course the lovely Skåne accent (Skåne County covers a lot of the south of Sweden and people from other parts of the country mock their accent. Frankly I’m just happy to be in a country with such noticeable differences between accents).

The sight of a changing city.

The sight of a changing city.

The first thing I saw, however, was cranes everywhere. Followed immediately by the construction areas those cranes were situated in. The thing is, it seems to me as a total outsider that the city of Malmö is undergoing some dramatic changes all over. There seem to be a lot of areas that I suspect will be apartments, particularly close to the water, so presumably they plan on attracting a lot more people to live there. In particular, I suspect its aiming at young people who would help grow the city in the long term and who would find the proximity to Denmark (and, through that, a lot of the rest of Europe) rather attractive. It will be interesting to see how the city looks in a few years time.

Malmö Gardens 2After proceeding to become lost in a city that at first seemed eerily empty, I eventually found my way towards Malmöhus Fortress. Before going to the castle itself, though, I made my way to the huge gardens attached to it – it seems every fairly big city here in Scandinavia with a castle also has some sort of royal garden, which I personally think is really nice. All around Malmö Gardens 1people were lazing on the grass reading, or just hanging out under the shade of some of the huge trees. There is something about being surrounded by so much nature which induces an inescapable calmness and serenity, I think. Or maybe I’m just a hippie born in the wrong era, who knows. But even though I sped around the gardens (I only had a couple of hours to explore the whole city), the place left a mark on me and I definitely want to return with a good book one day and enjoy it more.

Malmöhus FortressEventually, I found my way to the castle. After a disappointing lunch at a cafe nearby, with a bonus fly for added flavour, I wandered inside Malmöhus Fortress, curious as to what I would find inside. I had my hopes up – I mean come on, the place has a moat and dates back to the 1400s. It has been turned into a museum and gallery of sorts inside, and at first I was a bit disappointed to say the least (the first room I walked into was a slightly random exhibition on frogs…I mean, I like frogs, but really? Frogs?). But I pushed on, determined to get deeper into the castle and to discover some history about the place. Eventually I found what I was looking for – an awesome museum on the history, the battles the fortress had seen, and frankly a total information overload on it all. When this place was built, it was in fact part of Denmark along with a lot of the southwest of current Sweden (including my home up in Halmstad). But in 1658, the Swedish successfully captured a lot of this land and then spent the next few decades fending off repeated Danish attacks as the Danes attempted to recapture their lost land. The fighting stretched up the West Coast of Sweden all the way past where I live now (a couple of major battles were in Halmstad), but the bulk of the fighting seems to have been in Malmö, in which this fortress was hugely important. I couldn’t help but think about how many stories there are in all of this, waiting to be written down in one way or another.

Malmö water jetpackAfter the relief of finding some fascinating history in the walls of the castle, I decided to head towards the waterfront of the city that stares out at Denmark and the bridge that now connects the two countries. I walked past the Turning Torso (the picture at the start of this post), past a bunch of restaurants I wish I had have known about an hour or so earlier when I ate lunch, and found myself drawn immediately to a growing crowd on the water’s edge. As I Malmö boats speeding offapproached, I saw a man float up into the air. As I got even closer I realised he had one of those awesome water jet-packs on and he was quickly joined by another one as the two of them floated around much to the delight of the crowd. I have no idea if this is a regular occurrence or just a couple of show offs, but it was fun all the same and extra nice with the bridge in the background. I then walked along the waterfront and watched as a party of boats in a small enclosed dock suddenly all shot off across the water – I can only assume heading to Denmark.

Malmö mini lighthouseOn my way back to the main town of Malmö (which oddly I had avoided until the end), I accidentally went the right way and discovered all the things I didn’t see when I first got there. I saw a mini lighthouse by a small bridge that appeared to be a replica of the big bridge to Denmark. Actually, Cool buildingon the same note, I saw a lot of bridges in general – there’s canals all over the city and literally dozens of small bridges, many of them just pedestrian bridges but still with water fountainawesome architecture. The main part of town here definitely seems to be the old part of town, with many of the buildings looking quite gothic in architecture as well as other features like a cool looking water fountain in the centre. It is interesting though – the fact that the bigger buildings are so old suggests that this city has always been big (which history also suggests). In other Swedish cities and towns the old part of town is full of much smaller, less dramatic buildings and often more nature. Still beautiful in their own way, but you can see how some places have grown extensively from much smaller towns but other cities have always been bigger.

Lilla Torg 1To finish off my day in Malmö I found the pub scene in Lilla Torg (which translates as Little Square I’m pretty sure) and had a beer or two on my own before meeting up with a bunch of friends and family for dinner out. The beers were great, the dinner was…well, the food was nice when it eventually came out. So I guess overall I didn’t have the best Lilla Torg 2experiences with eating in the city, but otherwise it swept me off my feet a little actually. I can’t wait to go back and explore all the hidden corners of it that I am yet to discover. If you’re ever in Sweden don’t limit yourself to Stockholm and the eastern coast as so many travellers do – come to the West Coast and explore places like Malmö as well. You won’t regret it!

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).

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?

Well, that’s a bit Watsonian!

I’ve never imagined my last name as an adjective before, but that’s exactly what the Daily Prompt from the WordPress Daily Post has asked me to do today. I don’t often do these daily prompts but this one was too good not to do.

The prompt, which can be found here, says:

Some writers’ names have becomes adjectives: Kafkaesque, Marxist, Orwellian, sadistic. If your name (or nickname, or blog name) were to become an adjective, what would it mean?

Watson Family Crest

The Watson family crest

My last name is Watson, as both the title of this post and my username on here and every other social media I use may suggest. The thing is, there already is a famous Watson in literature – probably several actually – but I am referring to the famous assistant to Sherlock Holmes. This character is a little hard to define, however, as the interpretation of him by directors and, for that matter, readers, has varied greatly since the Holmes stories were first penned so long ago. Also, he’s had plenty of time to become an adjective and he hasn’t, so, you know, my turn.

If I were to base the meaning of Watsonian on the history of the name, the history is diverse and goes back a long time – well over a thousand years. The name, which stems ultimately from the name Walter, means apparently either “Powerful Warrior” or “Mighty Army” (most sources seem to point to one of these two), so maybe Watsonian could just mean powerful or strong as an adjective? But then the motto, “Mea Gloria Fides”, translates as “Fidelity is my Glory”, so maybe it could have something to do with that?

Of course, when we think of Orwellian or Kafkaesque we think of writing, and of certain elements of writing which are similar to those writers, such as political commentary through dystopian societies which Orwell was known for or the surrealism of Kafka. So really, I don’t know if my writing will ever be considered particularly strong or powerful, or adhering to some kind of fidelity (that isn’t even making sense). No no, when I think about it, my writing most of the time is a bit silly, sometimes I try to be thought provoking but normally I’m just silly, I’m pretty sure.

So, “Watsonian” as an adjective probably just means “silly”, or at best “vaguely funny”. And I’m alright with that.

What might your last name mean as a literary adjective?