What mood were you in when you wrote this?!

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
Pearl S. Buck was strict in her attitude towards writing, saying:

I don't wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know that you have to get down to work.

Julia Cameron offered a bit more hope:

Being in the mood to write, like being in the mood to make love, is a luxury that isn't necessary in a long-term relationship. Just as the first caress can lead to a change of heart, the first sentence, however tentative and awkward, can lead to a desire to go just a little further.

With my own writing activities, I'm fairly laid-back and adaptable, only adding to the story when I am in a creative mood—when I 'feel' it—when I'm in the zone. But, this doesn't mean to say that I don't do loads of other stuff, such as editing, proofreading, fact and spell checking, researching future stories and hunting down competitions and literary agents. I most love it when I've fallen into the groove of writing new material, but the business side of writing also involves doing things that have no apparent result.

I'm sure that if I fell in love again, it would inspire some romantic poetry. If I had an argument with a friend, it might show in my writing. A major disappointment might well cast a pall over my style. We're advised that it's a wise move to put one's story in a drawer for a while, returning to it for reappraisal. I recently re-read a couple of my short stories from 2013, remembering how I felt when they were written, and how that influenced what happened to my protagonists.

The opposite can happen, in that writing a story changes my mood, especially if the subject matter is dark. I've been in competition mode this year, taking a break from novel writing to chase prize money and get my name out there in a more memorable way than simply being a rejected author through querying literary agents. Many of the writing contests have themes, such as Journeys, Exit Earth, Beginnings, Promises, Milestones and Spring. They're mainly for short stories with word limits of 1,000 to 3,000 words.

In an attempt to get some idea of what might work, I've read previous winning entries and the work of the judges. A surprising amount of it is downbeat, so I've written several rather gloomy stories this summer. In a tail wagging the dog way, this has affected my own mood. Life can be dreadful for some folk and writing about it brought me down a bit. I'll never be Mr Happy, churning out feel-good stories, not as a crime novelist, but I always inject humour and optimism into my narrative.

How does your mood affect what you write? Have you ever sought revenge on someone who wronged you? Did you seduce a desirable lover in a story, who'd spurned you in real life? Have you ever looked back at old work and remembered how you were feeling at the time?

What about the novels and short stories that you read—are they inspirational therapy or arduous purgatory?

I find my mood affected by what I'm writing, not necessarily the other way around (probably because writing is my escape, so why would I bring my real life stresses with me when I do that?). Earlier this year, I was working on a dystopian piece for a themed magazine, and I had to give it up. Not that I couldn't write it, but that it made me seriously grumpy to write it. Again, writing's my escape--no point in writing something that makes me feel awful.
This is where revision comes in, for me. When I'm drafting something, it is coloured by moods and circumstances: the dog needing to go to the vet, the bills the vet will send, the argument with a friend, the anniversary of a parent's death, the book I read before sitting down to write.

But I come back a week or a month later and I see something is off-key with the tone. I write it up differently, I revise, I shake out a few more adjectives. Then I come back again a week later and it seems over worked and flat, so I put it away for a month or two. I come back and it might have been written by someone else, I revise again. And it reads smoothly and sparkles in places. (With luck.)
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Hello all!

The Seven Basic Plots