Tools of the trade: Scrivener

Scrivener is a writing tool that allows you to organise your novel into chapters and scenes and format your manuscript for publishing (among a bunch of other stuff). It can be purchased out-right for either Windows or Mac, and for iOS there is an App for writing on the go, which will allow you to synch things up. For a more expansive explaination of what it can do, please see Apple Insider’s pretty rad article (and yes I’m bringing rad back).

I have a Mac, but unfortunately an Android phone so no app for me. However, there’s a workaround that involves synching to Dropbox as a middleman. It works pretty well, especially with a light wireless keyboard if you’re on the move (provided you don’t mind using it in conjunction with a small phone screen).

Check out Scrivener’s prices

See the Scrivener overview

I don’t work for these guys, and it’s always worth checking out the competition, so here’s a few alternatives you may want to try (and it looks like at least one of them is free, so may be a good place to start).

In time, I intend to join up the dots with these ‘tools of the trade’ blogs to present a bible of the tools and methods I use when tackling a novel-length (and indeed series-based) piece.

Of course, if you know any other great writing tools or tips, please give me a shout in the comments!

Tools of the trade: Writing on Wallpaper

A long time ago I was part of a Plymouth-based writing group. One of the members mapped her novel out on wallpaper. She wrote, sticky-noted and otherwise scrapbooked on the back of it (non-design side), and then when she was done for the day, rolled it right back up (I believe she got the idea from someone else originally). It’s a great method if, like me, you have limited space or time to work with, and/or you want your planning portable. You can map out and entire timeline of events, character studies, or whatever it is in your head that you need to get out, and then tidy it all up into an easy-to-carry and innocuous roll of wonder.

I found some cheap wallpaper on Amazon with a brick pattern (I figured it went well with the genre I write; Urban fantasy). The roll was actually pretty wide, so I cut it in half (I’ll likely use the second half for another novel). If you’re using post-its on your wallpaper, use an additional bit of celotape to stick them down. Then when you’re repeatedly rolling and unrolling the wallpaper, they don’t get lost/move around and mess up your planning.

Interview: Ed Evans on Jack Knife

Here’s a little interview my dear friend Laurie conducted over Custard Creams and builders tea. With me (Ed Evans).

L: Please explain what you’re writing at the moment.

EE: My latest novel tentatively named “Jack Knife” is set in a near-future London. London has expanded both outward and upward, reaching into the sky.

L: What’s the general premise?

EE: Selena is “saved” from drugs by an underground anti-establishment leader named Onkel. Beliveing a war is coming, he’s set up shop under London in a top secret shelter with all of the others he’s rescued from various bad life decisions. As repayment Selena collects intel covertly, using her old skills as a confidence fraudster. Onkel gives Selena the names of VIPs to find and steal information from, but the first person on her list is dead. A serial killer is running riot around the city and she soon finds herself embroiled in the search for this killer, eventually fracturing away from Onkel’s group with the mysterious Jack Knife.

L: What genre would you say Jack Knife fits under?

EE: Jack Knife is primarily an urban fantasy story with occasional horror elements and a touch of the supernatural.

L: What was the inspiration behind your main point-of-view character, Selena Frischmann?

EE: I wanted to write about someone I hadn’t written about before. I was reading quite a few books on addiction at the time and things just fell into place. I can’t really recall where Selena came from, she just sort of arrived one day. I think I originally named her after Naomie Harris’ character in 28 Days Later. A dear writer friend then informed me that Selena meant “Moon Goddess” in Greek, which I thought was awesome and seemed to fit the vibe of the story nicely.

L: You mentioned London has expanded into the sky. Can you explain a little more about the city and how it has changed?

EE: Most of the old landmarks remain but it’s now a tiered city. A train line called the Skyrail connects the ground to the city in the sky and zeppelin docking platforms. Many rich people live there. London now looks a bit like a cross between Gotham City, Coruscant and the dystopian London Depicted in V for Vendetta. Lord Horatio Redden is the long-running PM and obsessed with Victoriana. Due to his influence and charisma, some of London’s aesthetics, denizens and popular culture has its mind set firmly on the past.

L: Who is Jack Knife?

EE: Jack Knife is a man with no past who is discovered by Onkel below London on a long-forgotten train track. When they find him he’s half dead. He’s super-intelligent and obviously there’s a story to tell there.

L: What is your schedule like?

EE: Sporadic. I fit it around my day job but write whenever I can. I’ll sometimes write on the bus and in the morning with my first cup of tea of the day. I ike blocking out a couple of hours after work sometimes to jot down ideas or sections of writing in a local cafe.

L: Do you do deadlines?

EE: I find my writers group is a good way to set deadlines. I know each time we meet I need at least another chapter, but I like to be a few ahead of the game.

L: What do you do when you’re not writing?

EE: I currently work as a digital designer in Bristol 9-5. In my spare time I like to watch films, read books, take pictures, go out with the girlfriend and potter about the house looking for (but often not doing) odd jobs. I also like sketching, but don’t do it enough outside of work these days.

L: Will there be a Jack Knife sequel?

EE: I have already written a story set in the same world as Jack Knife called “Romanse Macabre”. Chronologically “Jack Knife” is set before this and I plan on writing further entries in the series, too.

L: What’s Romanse Macabre about?

EE: It follows a meek factory worker named Laurence, a sleeper agent named Amelia, and a reanimated fallen soldier named Ithaca. They’re forced to face their pasts and team up and escape the fictional sea-side city they call home as a plague breaks loose.

L: Are you writing anything else?

EE: I plan on writing something different for NaNoWriMo this year. It’ll be based in a single location, with multiple point-of-view characters. And booze.

L: Finally, what’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?

EE: Probably “Animals” by Emma Jane Unsworth. Dubbed “Withnail with Girls” by Caitlin Moran, it struck all the right chords for me. Beautiful, hilarious and heartfelt. Real quotable prose. A close second would be Girl on The Train; completely different but a masterclass in uncomfortable page-turning.

Our writers group

I’ve been planning to post again for ages, but life got in the way (that old chestnut). I’m happy to report though that my writers group is alive and even kicking. We’re a small but busy group who’ll snugly fit a table of 6 with one chair to spare, but that’s generally taken up by bags, coats or any stuff I may have purchased for the garden (which, thanks for asking, is coming along too). After a few false starts, I feel like I’m getting into the groove of the group and everyone is contributing, discussing and appears to be enjoying it so far – testament to what a lovely bunch they are. They next big step we’re making is to send our first chapters around (three of us are novelists) for constructive critique. This feels like definite progress, and I will likely post more about the group when the time is right.