Lesson #2: Getting in the Mood (for Writing)


Hey, you know what? Life is busy! (You already know that, I’m sure.) Very rarely will there ever be a time where you can focus solely on writing your story. Writing is what I do for a living and I’m STILL always pulled in different directions. However, as you get started, you need to find ways to work on your story every day.

Believe it or not, I’m not actually an evangelist for *writing* every day. That’s why I say “work on your story” instead of “write.” Sometimes, the words or ideas just don’t come — but you should put aside time every day to think about your story and immerse yourself in it. There is a ton of value in “mulling it over.” Not forcing yourself to meet an arbitrary goal can help prevent early burnout.

This is why writing inspiration is so important. Today we’re going to talk about creating mood boards and playlists for your RPG one-shot and why it should be an integral part of your process. It’s so much more than just designing the aesthetic and “vibe” of your story; these are what keep you motivated and excited about it when you’re ready to throw your laptop/notebook/tablet across the room.

(You might find this step totally frivolous, and that’s OK, but I’d love it if you gave it a shot.)

Lesson #2

Objective: Making inspiration a priority in your writing process.

Deadline: Your deadline for these tasks is July 6th. Once you’ve created your mood board and/or playlist, post it in the Discord #inspiration channel or share it on your social profiles! (You can use hashtag #RPGWriterWorkshop on social media.)

Creating a mood board

A mood board is, essentially, a visual overview of your story concept. You can create one mood board that encompasses several elements — characters, setting, challenges — or create separate, more specific boards. (I find that when you’re world-building or writing a long campaign, it’s nice to create mood boards for different cities or “chapters” in your story.)

Examples of moodboards:

Recommended reading: How to create a moodboard to get the creative juices flowing

How to create a mood board

Find three or more images, symbols, or words/phrases that you feel encapsulate your story, and arrange them in a way that seems interesting to you. This might mean printing these images out and taping them into your notebook, or just making digital collages. Your mood board might be abstract and all about color; or it might be very specific, refining how a character looks. 

Resources for making mood boards:

  • Pinterest: Pinterest is awesome for mood boarding! I mean, that's kind of what it's all about. (Here’s a link to one of my Pinterest boards for a one-shot.)

  • Unsplash/Pexels/Pixabay: Free stock images that you can use in your board. (If your mood board is only for your own use, there’s nothing wrong with using images you find on the internet. For images you want to use as part of your finished, published RPG, you must be diligent about properly sourcing and crediting artists.)

  • PicMonkey: Collage templates and image editing tools. 

  • GoMoodboard: A free mood-boarding tool. 

  • Canva: A user-friendly graphic design tool for beginners. 

  • Blog Pixie: Mood board templates for Adobe Photoshop.

Making playlists

If music is what helps you set the scene, playlists are a great source of constant inspiration throughout your writing process. Your playlist may include songs that remind you of the story/setting/characters, or simply atmospheric sounds that encompass the “feel” of your game. 

Resources for making playlists:

(Need some music for your playlists? Check out the music in the Vault!)

Why these steps are important

Coming up with a new idea is exciting. Sitting down to get the idea out of your head can be challenging and sometimes, discouraging. Think of what you enjoy about gaming; much of that likely has to do with being immersed in an interesting world and narrative. Take the same approach while writing and fully immerse yourself in your story. Create a full sensory experience for yourself — music, mood boards, and additional details like thematic snacks or scented candles can keep you motivated to create.

Other ways to get, and stay, inspired

  • Read through published campaigns

  • Watch shows/movies or read books in a similar genre as your story. Note: I can’t tell you how often I hear from writers that they don’t like to read books in the same genre as their idea. I, personally, think that is B.S. Reading makes you a better writer. Immersing yourself in work that might have similarities to yours doesn’t mean you will copy them; it’s very useful to see how the writers you admire craft their work. Fantasy and sci-fi already have a lot of common tropes that play out differently in every story. You should study your genre and become an expert in it so you can bring something new to the table!

  • Visit a museum

  • Travel: Obviously, not something we can all do all the time, but there are few things more inspiring for writers than experiencing new places.

  • Sketch/draw/paint

  • Make a new mood board!: If you’re feeling really stuck, making a new mood board can help you think through the problem. You’ll still be thinking about your story and moving it forward. 

Ultimately, your mood board and playlists are resources for you. Print out your mood board and hang it near your desk, or make it the background on your smartphone. There's no such thing as loving your own story too much, and you'll now have a little pick-me-up whenever you're feeling distant or discouraged about it.  :) Believe in it, love it, nurture it, and manifest it into being!

Lesson #3

Next lesson comes out on July 6th. Talk soon!