Talking about writing

How easy is it to sit down in front of a blank page and start writing?

Bernard Cornwell was asked this question in a recent interview and his response was simply: “It’s not hard — you just write the first f**king sentence and go from there.”

Some days it works this way, other days it is a struggle and you wonder if the words are going to come…and how many cups of coffee will need to be consumed. Or maybe a glass of beer, once the pirate ship’s gone past (see Note below).

Boats on Windermere

My main writing tool for the last two years has been Scrivener. The books I have written during this time have had a large number of characters but I’ve limited myself to six or seven points of view. Scrivener is particularly useful for me as the writer to keep the characters separate, and hopefully this helps readers as well when they see the finished product.

This is what the binder on one of my Scrivener files looks like, listing Chapter scenes from Carved in Stone (due out early next year).

Scrivener binder list

A recent blog by Jordan Redhawk gave some very useful advice on using a colour-code to easily identify scenes. I think that’s a great idea that I may employ in future manuscripts but so far just using the character’s names has worked.

With Scrivener I can also add Character Sketches, which is great if I’ve forgotten what hair or eye colour one of the characters has and saves having to scrabble through scraps of paper or a tattered notebook. That was my method BS (Before Scrivener).

This doesn’t mean I never handwrite anything. I do still have notebooks with bits of information, things that come to mind at odd moments, bits of research, and sketches for future scenes. Sometimes even a bit of planning ahead (what a novel idea!). Just a line or two can be all I need to spark the idea for a scene. The notes on this page are for the early chapters of Arc Over Time.

Notebook page

Sitting down in front of a blank page – it’s not always easy. But when the words come it is immensely satisfying to read it back the next day and realise you have achieved something. That you have, perhaps, moved the story on or created space for another plot development. This is the way I write, chaotic at times, but in the end, with the help of Scrivener, I can draw the threads together.

Well, I think the pirate ship went past some time ago. Cheers! Happy reading.

The pirate ship went past

  • Note: this is a reference to a holiday my wife and I took many years ago. We noticed that the pirate ship, a tourist excursion, sailed past the beach we were sunbathing on at the same time every day, about 11:00 in the morning. That was the cue for one of us to go to the bar. Ever since then, whenever we wonder if it’s time for a drink, we’ll say “it’s okay, the pirate ship’s gone past”.


Arc Over Time – available from Affinity eBook Press / / / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / iTunes

Starting Over – available from Affinity eBook Press / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / iTunes.

Short Stories

There Was a Time and The Christmas Sweepstake – both available FREE on the Affinity website

8 comments on “Talking about writing

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve been considering using a writing program. I am concerned about extra obstacles to writing. Writing becoming secondary to figuring out how to navigate the program.


  2. I use MSWord docs and Google Docs stored on Google Drive because its available on the Cloud–which lets me write anywhere and any time the inspiration strikes, whereas Scrivener still hasn’t offered a web-based solution like this (right?).


    • Right, doc. That is a drawback to using Scrivener. If I traveled a lot I would use Google Docs, but I’m mostly home-based. For my style of writing, I like the organisation built in with Scrivener – it helps me keep track of scenes and characters. There may be similar tools in Word, but as a lifelong Mac user, I only use MS products if I have to, so my knowledge of the program is fairly limited.


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