Novel Planning

I’ve never really been a story planner and that was one of the reasons why I failed to get past 17,000 words or so in my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. There are several trains of thought on this.

Planning your novel ahead of time increases its likelihood of being dead on arrival.

Says The NY Book Editors.

But now I’m not so sure that this is sound advice for me. I completely understand that what works for some doesn’t for others. Pantster writing, (writing by the seat of your pants, or the process of letting your characters dictate what happens next) has worked for me for many years when writing short stories, but less so when the work gets over about 5,000 words and over 50,000 words forget it. A change is needed.

So lately, I’ve been looking at different planning aids that can help me with this. Obviously, every story requires a beginning, middle and an end for it to work, so a simple triangle can show this. The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about the triangle as the left side rising as the Introduction, the top point as the Crisis and falling left slope as the Resolution where the conflict of the story is resolved. This can be seen in any scene of any play or novel. It’s commonly known as Aristotle’s Unified Plot Structure.

Is this an oversimplification of what we use?  What about all those other parts that make it complete?

I recently came across Freytag’s Pyramid which is built on Aristotle’s triangle but adds two more levels to become five stages. Introduction where we meet the characters, setting, time and establishes the atmosphere of the story and something of the conflicts. The story arc moves onto Rising Action where the reader begins to sense the escalating tension. Usually, this is where obstacles are introduced and secondary characters are introduced into the mix. Then, the story reaches its Climax where we find if a change is for the better or worse, depending on the type of storyline. After this, the story begins to fall away and enters the Falling Action stage where the characters either win or lose and the suspense is further ramped up by unexpected events all building towards the Conclusion or the end of the story. Sometimes the reader learns what has happened to the characters after the end, sometimes we are left to guess.

If I do enter NaNoWriMo again this November I’m going to try Freytag’s Pyramid and see if that works for me.


How I Found Scrivener.

Like most people who write anything, I started by using a pencil and paper. It’s untrue that I began with a chalk board or chiselling letters on a stone tablet! Then, at school, I used pen and ink. Those pens made terrific darts and still managed to write okay afterwards.

Later came the portable typewriter with gallons of correction fluid and waste paper baskets filled with spoiled sheets of type. I can still feel the heavy clatter of keys and hear the dull thud of metal levers hitting the drum, padded with blue Xerox paper so I could have a second copy of my efforts.

Technology advanced and I purchased a stand alone word processor, a marvellous innovation which allowed me to change words right there on the single line of green text. It also allowed me to save my work on to floppy discs which could be annotated with the name of the project for future reference.  This was a great innovation and once I had completed the work I could print it as many times as I required. Fantastic,

Suddenly computers were all the rage and writing software was developed that could be used with the new technology. Initially, it was supplied on floppy disc, as downloads were slow and rare.  The different software could be added or removed from the computer as required. The further advances of computer and internet use meant a rapid acceleration of affordability. In the early 1990’s I bought a Gateway computer with a 36mb hard drive (Yes, mb). This was my first foray into Microsoft Windows and Word. I thought it was marvellous and in many ways, it still is, though not for writing long texts. Using Word with a word count in the thousands is no fun, and soon becomes problematic and unmanageable. Although I’m certain there are thousands of books written using Word and, by the same token, millions of books written using pen and paper, it’s not my preferred medium.

The advent of CD-ROM and DVD meant that software development increased and improved. Suddenly there was almost anything you needed for your computer and companies were producing excellent writing software, easily obtained by mail order.

The increase in download speeds via broadband replaced the old dial-up speeds. Almost overnight it was possible to buy a software package, download it, and have installed on your home computer in minutes. Gone was the mail order, waiting for the package to drop through the letterbox. Life had become instant.

During that time I tried many writing packages; they were still not yet called apps. Too many to name here, but they all had something but not everything I required. In late 2012, I read an online article which extolled the virtues of a piece of incredible software called Scrivener. Developed, in the UK for the Mac, it had recently become available on the Windows platform. So I downloaded the trial offer and tried it out. Wow, it blew me away with its simplicity and power. It was exactly what I needed. Some of the features of the Mac version were unavailable on Windows and there was always the question, in the forums, ‘When will it catch up?’ Well, I never found out the answer as I bought a MacBook and purchased the version for that. They even kindly discounted it as I’d already, previously, bought the Windows version.

Then came the iOS version, and although it was a long time coming it was well worth the wait. I was involved in the Beta testing and as soon as I downloaded it I was hooked. Like many, I had a few problems with synchronising with Dropbox but that was soon sorted and was more down to my inexperience than the program itself.

Scrivener 3 is due to be released later this year and although that promises to be a paid-for update, I’m happy to do it. I’ve had five years of use of this superb piece of kit so I can’t complain about making a contribution to help fund the great work that goes on behind the scenes.

Oh, and just to add, I’ve even used the free Linux version of Scrivener successfully.

Ulysses v Scrivener

Anyone who’s read any of my blog posts will know that I use writing software to keep my work on track, organised and to generally make life a bit easier. I primarily use Scrivener for lengthy work but, some time ago, an author I follow recommended Ulysses. Unlike Scrivener, it had no try-before-you-buy period, at that time. So on the author’s recommendation, last August, I purchased it and I’ve used it extensively for the past year but mainly just for short stories and I have to admit that it’s cross platform functionality is second to none, thanks to iCloud link. (It’s only available on Apple products.)

For me, however, I just don’t like it as much as I love Scrivener. It’s a simple choice. I have two paid-for writing apps but one, Ulysses, I only use for writing short stories and Scrivener, which I use for my much longer pieces. So no problems there, you would think.

Then, I now discover that the product I bought and paid for a year ago is moving to subscription only. Which means I will have to pay $40 a year to use the software I’ve already purchased? I’m sure that there are many positives for the development and for improving the app but as I don’t really use it to its full potential, why would I bother to subscribe? Particularly as I love using Scrivener anyway. I know that Scrivener 3 is on the way and that I’ll have to pay to upgrade to that. I’ll do that happily, as I’ve already purchased Scrivener for Windows, Mac and iOS.

You can download Scrivener and use it free for thirty days from

Give it a try, you have nothing to lose.


Ulysses Writing App

I have written before about the use of writing app’s as an aid to productivity so I won’t repeat myself here. I will however tell you about my experience with Ulysses, as writing tool from The Soul Men. It’s not exactly new but it’s new to me and, so far, I love its simplicity.

Since acquiring an iPad Air I have been looking for a writing app which is easy to use and fully functional on this device. I have waited for Scrivener to deliver their much promised iOS version which is now on the market and working fine. Anyone who uses Scrivener will know what a great tool this is particularly as it is now a true cross platform piece on Mac, iOS and Windows via the Dropbox cloud storage facility. But whilst I was waiting for the iOS Scrivener App to be developed I discovered this wonderful writing app called Ulysses and fell for it immediately.

It’s quite unlike anything I’ve used before. It is so simple and clean that it inspires the writing process. I am currently writing this post on my iPad and it is set in ‘Typewriter’ mode which means the line I type is always in the same place and so I look at a single line of text as I’m typing it on the page. This stops the distraction of looking back at what I’ve typed previously and so I’m not flitting back and forth, editing as I work. (This has always hampered my progress, as I constantly ‘fiddle’ with work I’ve written but I don’t wait until the draft is done)

There is full Mac version too and also an iPhone app and they all work in iCloud so there is an almost instant update on all these devices without the need to do anything but type. It removes the need for the writer to constantly save work as it is saved automatically in iCloud, if you have an Internet connection or updates immediately you go back online. I can’t remember how many pieces of work I’ve lost because I failed to save them properly. There is so much more to this great bit of software which I don’t,t intend to describe here but I would encourage you to have a look at it.

Look in the App Store for it, you won’t be disappointed. Sadly, there is no Windows version. Or check out the website

How do you follow that?



I have just finished reading this book, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. It’s a book which took him nearly thirty years to write and finish it and then have it published. There are many books written about war and many of them about the Vietnam war but there are few that can depict such a real insight into the conditions which were endured by a young generation of boys. Sent to a strange country to fight an enemy, young boys, much like themselves. Who they were taught to hate but never met. Spending days and nights in wet, humid jungle. Often without water and proper food and every minute scared of every shadow. It is funny but often gruesome and it is a true story based on Marlantes own experience of the war. Where seventeen-year-olds commanded ten to fifteen men and a twenty-three-year-old officer was responsible for every waking and sleeping hour of the lives of over two hundred. It’s a tale of bravery, sacrifice and of how quickly they grew up when facing death, leeches, near starvation and even tigers every day.

It’s actually the second time I’ve read this book in two years. The first time I devoured every page and felt loss when I finished it. Having finished reading it again, albeit a little slower this time, I once again feel that loss. I’ve tried starting two books since but can’t really get going on either. I seem to find that when I have read a book I particularly like, so what’s the answer?

How do you get started on another book after a really good read? I know I’ll just persevere until a book clicks but I just wondered what the secret is.


Blogging Habit

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll always be an infrequent blogger. I only post a blog post when I have something to say, as opposed to those who feel they have to post every day. I have nothing against those who wish to do this but it’s really up to them. I always think I’ll do more blogging but it never actually happens as other things take precedence. I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to finish my NaNoWriMo novel and am still to complete its first draft. Even though I’m over 100,00 words it shows no signs of concluding. I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing!

Then I’m writing short stories and entering contests regularly, something I promised myself I would do this year. Blogging seems to be falling a poor third in the race for my time. I’m not complaining, its never been my desire to have hundreds or thousands of followers or to earn any sort of reputation or living from my blog, although I do realise that is possible.

I like a story prompt, but they inspire me to write fiction, not about me as I’m pretty uninteresting anyway (say awww), no don’t- please.

So I’ll continue with my sporadic and often disjointed posts, when I feel I have something to contribute and hopefully people on the same wavelength as me will find them a. Amusing  b. Thought provoking  c. Now what is c?



“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
Rudyard Kipling

I don’t know about you but, all my life, I’ve been plagued by certain words which I have trouble spelling. I have never been able to spell ‘restaurant’ at first go. I don’t know why but it always bugs me and I either have to look it up or use the spell checker. I get the ‘a’ and ‘u’ in the wrong place or miss them all together. Another word is ‘definitely’ which I seem to want to put an ‘a’ in. Or it comes out as defiantly. I have seen others who make this particular mistake.

I know that most of us mistake the ‘there, their and they’re’ sometimes but I usually correct that in the editing stage. (I hope).  Most of us realise the difference in UK and US dictionary words. (realize)

I find it quite annoying, though, when I find errors in a books or magazine stories. Something that has managed to get past the editors and proofreaders which seems to jump off the page at me. Having read some of the self-published e-books I find that mistakes are commonplace and really good stories can, for me, be spoiled by a lack of concentration. I don’t blame the writer as we are all guilty of reading what we think is there, especially when we’ve written it and our brain knows what should be written. Perhaps employing a proof reader would help in these circumstances but it’s easy to judge.

Do you have any words that trip you up constantly?