Articles I've written, and talks I've given, about my process and the life of a writer; how-tos for using Scrivener, and appearing on podcasts; plus comic script samples and templates.
Process & Productivity
It's not unusual for me to be writing four or five different projects at once, with more on the horizon. Keeping track of each job's progress, and organising my time so I can give them the attention they need, is an administrative minefield.
One way I've made this process easier is by implementing a productivity system. These are common for executives and office workers, but not so much for writers. So a lot of people asked how it worked, and in mid-2007 I wrote this piece to explain and illustrate.
I expected a few dozen friends and colleagues to read it. But to my surprise, it was enormously popular. In the first year after its publication, it racked up half a million views; and it remains popular, consistently ranking as the most-visited page on this site each month. Clearly, there are more disorganised writers out there than I realised!
The most frequently-asked question I get from aspiring writers is, “How do you turn an idea into a story?” It's a perfectly understandable question, and I'm happy to answer it, but the truth is that most of the time those asking want to know what ‘tricks’ and ‘shortcuts’ I use. Sadly, there are no shortcuts, and there is no magic bullet. Not only that, but what works for me won't necessarily work for anyone else.
Nevertheless, my process is the result of many years spent experimenting with different methods, until finally settling on how I work today. So I've written it all out, step by step. Hopefully there's something in here that others may find useful.
You've no doubt heard of NaNoWriMo, the annual event where amateur writers pledge to complete a 50,000-word novel in one month. It has many supporters... and many critics.
I'm one of the supporters; and, while musing on a quotation of mine that refuses to die, I finally put my finger on why. This piece, written and published ahead of NaNoWriMo 2013, explains my reasoning as a way to counter the critics, and encourage those taking part.
I first delivered this lecture at a Game Developers Conference in 2010, as part of the Game Narrative Summit. It's unusual to straddle both comics and games as I do, in equal measure; most writers focus primarily on one or the other. So I wanted to help other game writers and narrative designers understand what exactly comic writers bring to games, and what they could learn from our techniques.
To my surprise, it was voted best talk of the Narrative Summit; third best of the entire conference; and GDC selected it as one of their showcase lectures. I've since delivered it to game studios and other conferences all over the world, often tailoring it to focus on a specific area of interest. It also seems perennially popular with anyone interested in the writing process, whether or not they work in games.
This is a talk I gave at Matt Sheret's 1000 Words event at Thought Bubble 2012. The event brought together creators from comics and other media to talk about what, how, and why we do what we do.
Each piece was just 10-15 minutes (and therefore approximately 1000 words) and the ones I saw were all pretty fascinating. My small contribution was titled My Massive Ego, a confessional piece about the battle between ego and humility that resides within every creator.
I'm a big fan of Scrivener, the all-in-one writing application. I evangelise it to my friends and colleagues, and often recommend it to random people online. It's a great app, with an admirable philosophy, that I believe heralds the future of writing applications... and also happens to be a perfect solution for writing comics.
(In fact, I like it so much for writing comics that I helped the developer create a comics template that is now included in every copy of the app.)
But it's complicated. Or rather, it looks complicated, and so most people give up before they even finish the tutorial. Assuming they even watch the tutorial.
This piece attempts to tackle that problem by demonstrating, step-by-step, how I use Scrivener to write comics — and why I would never willingly go back to a linear word processor.
Have you ever wished you could appear on podcasts without sounding like you're standing in the bathroom talking into a tin can? Then this guide is for you.
Lots of online resources will teach you how to make your own podcast. But almost none will teach you how to be a good guest on someone else's show. This is a particular problem for creators, who might regularly be interviewed on podcasts or call-in shows, but have neither the time nor inclination to become audio experts.
When I created my podcast Unjustly Maligned, I knew many of my guests would not themselves be regular podcasters. So I made a guide to help them get set up, sound better, and record their own audio. It was well-received — in fact, other podcast hosts began asking if they could send their guests to the guide, too, and if I'd consider posting it publicly for all to see. So I rewrote the whole thing to be show-agnostic, and made it freely available.
A small collection of my comic scripts, from early works to later books, including WASTELAND, JULIUS, SHADOWLAND, and UMBRAL. For aspiring artists, there's a 'dummy' script written specifically to help you draw sample submission pages.
This page also contains links and downloads to comic script templates that I use and recommend.