Planning with Scrivener

In a previous post I explained how I was going to approach NaNoWriMo 2016 by sticking to the three act structure and creating a pulse for my novel, by introducing cliff-hangers at the end of each scene.

Now I’m going to think about what the skeleton of the novel looks like in practice.

I used to plan novels using a combination of powerpoint, word and excel. Word provided my synopsis, powerpoint allowed me to draw out the plot chapter by chapter and shift boxes around, and excel helped me get into the detail of each chapter and keep a record of what had been included where. This wasn’t an ideal solution as it involved flicking through lots of documents.

Now I use scrivener, which provides all of that planning functionality for you and also provides a place for you to actually write the novel itself, easily move around the chapters and transform it into a manuscript ready for Kindle publication. You can trial Scrivener here and see what you think.

So, I’ll talk about the actual plot of the book at later, but for now I’ll talk about planning for NaNoWriMo. I’ve done NaNoWriMo a few times before now and I know whatever I do I’ll need to do a lot of editing. I also know it can be disheartening if I hold myself to too high a standard when I’m writing the first draft, as some of it’s likely to be a bit rubbish. The key is to get the words out and get to the end. You can edit later.

With that in mind, for me it’s best to over-produce, rather than underproduce. It’s easier to write 100,000 words and edit out 50,000 of them than to try and write 50,000 good words the first time. Sometimes you have to get all the rubbish writing out of your system to hit the gold.

NaNoWriMo has a target of 50,000 words in a month (which is certainly ambitious) but the average novel is at least 70,000- 80,000 words. For NaNoWriMo 2016, I’m going to write at least 100,000 words, in the hope that 70,000 of them will be good.

How will I split up these 100,000 words? Well, given my last post about the “pulse” of a bestseller novel, I’m going to split this up into very small pieces – 100 scenes of 1,000 words. I’ll edit these later and split them into chapters, but for planning purposes I’ll broadly divide them into the following:

Act 1: 25-33 scenes

Act 2: 33-50 scenes

Act 3: 25-33 scenes

I’ll put as much info on the outlines of these scenes into Scrivener, using the corkboard functionality and then take it from there.


Well D-day has come and I’ve finally uploaded my debut novel, 27, to the Amazon kindle store. Amazon willing (and let’s be honest Amazon does have deity-like powers these days), it should be available tomorrow.
It seems like it’s been a long journey, from writing the actual novel in the first place, to the 18 months of editing, to the real pain of proof-reading and then the last 24 hours of formatting.
Of course, those in the know tell me that the real journey starts now, that the marketing is much, much harder than the writing. I’ve been pretty lax on the marketing side and now need to get emailing all those book bloggers and influential publishing types. I did have one stroke of luck, though: I’ve been asked to do an interview on Resonance FM on Tuesday. The interview will focus on my work on Five Stop Story, but I’ll try to throw a bit in about my novel too! The show starts at 6:30 on 104.4 fm. I’ll be joined by poets, Indigo Williams Armando Halpern.

6 degrees

So now I have my feet firmly planted back on British soil, I have started to enjoy all the culture that London and the UK has to offer. I’ve been busy, and although I’ve been back in the UK for two months, I only went to my first play last weekend.

“6 degrees” was performed at the Soho theatre to a packed auditorium. The play wasn’t really one play, but seven shorts, all connected by thin threads. Part of the fun was watching the drama unfold and part of the fun was working out just how all the people were connected to each other.

The plays were all by up-and-coming writers and were focused on the younger generation, an audience which I sometimes feel is underserved by the theatre. The standard of writing was superb and the pace of the stories kept my eyes glued to the action unfolding on the stage. There were also too many talented actors to list. I didn’t look at my watch once, which is practically unheard of for me. (I’m usually thinking about what time the interval is and planning how to strategically maneuver my way to the front of the ice-cream queue.)

Soho theatre runs it’s own writers’ centre to develop new writers so it’s certainly one to check out if you are interested in writing for the theatre.


CatNav Reviews the Five Stop Story App – 10 out of 10!

I recently received a completely surprise review for the Five Stop Story app from Cat Nav. CatNav helps readers navigate the vast number of reading apps available in the app store. It identifies the best apps, reviews them and rates them.

It gave the Five Stop Story app 10/10. See the review below. You can download the Five Stop Story app from the app store here.


Review of Five Stop Story

Five Stop Stories Limited (Age +12) [10/10]

Similar in style to the Watchbook app, Five Stop Story is a gateway to a number of exciting stories. The app comes loaded with three short stories that give an indication of the type of quality you can expect. If you like what you read, you can subscribe for a year for just £1.99.

Five Stop Story’s interface is clean and minimalistic, allowing you focus on reading the stories. The text size can be increased or decreased and – aside from sharing your favourite passages on Facebook and Twitter – that’s about it.

Thankfully, there are options for sorting through the featured stories. Tabs are included for the latest and most popular. You can also choose to browse by author, genre, date and so on.

With so many stories available it’s probably best to focus on The Other Dave Clark, which is included free with the app. Written by Dave Clark, this short satirical story imagines a nightmare scenario where Nick Clegg wants to see more competition in society and so proposes cloning everyone. This spells trouble for our hero Dave as a committee decides who deserves to live, the original or the clone.

The Other Dave Clark is a perfect showpiece for the app. If every other story is only as fractionally entertaining as this, then the app is going to be immensely successful.

As the name suggests, Five Stop Story is designed to be read in short bursts, on a daily commute for example. There are already lots of stories to suit every mood and this is a great start to Five Stop Story.

This app is essential for iPad and iPhone owners, it’s as simple as that.

Joshua Douglas-Walton, CatNav


You can dowload the Five Stop Story app here.

If you want to see your own work featured on the app, you can enter our monthly competitions on the writers page of the Five Stop Story website.

You can find this review on the Persian Cat Press site here.

You can find more great reading apps on the CatNav app here.

Have you missed the boat?

Almost a year ago, I spoke at the Bangkok Literary Festival about Five Stop Story and the state of the publishing industry. Other speakers included Ken Hom, Stephen Leather and Christopher Moore  and I felt a little out of my depth. How would people respond to me, an unpublished writer who had just set up a short story competition?

When I was researching my talk I looked into the success of Amanda Hocking and how she had achieved it. I remember thinking, “that’s amazing, but surely I’m too late to ride the back of that bandwagon?” She had started publishing her books in April 2010. Since then millions of authors have followed her path. I told myself it wouldn’t work today. Additionally, and more importantly, my book wasn’t ready.

After my own talk was over I went to watch Stephen Leather’s talk. He told of how he made his book a bestseller by releasing it on Christmas Day 2010, when loads of people had just been given a Kindle for Christmas. It shot up the charts. Again, I was inspired by his story, but again I felt that that boat was now just a spot on the horizon. I’d missed the opportunity again.

Now, I’m starting to look at self-publishing again and this time my book isn’t so far off. It just needs one more edit from me, a proof-read then a professional edit and I’m good to go. This time I’m not going to let myself believe I’ve missed any boats. There are always more boats. The trick is not to watch the ones that have left but to look to the horizon to spot the ones that are sailing in.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel – Round 2

A few weeks ago I learnt that my novel, “27,” was through to the next round of the Amazon Breakthrough novel. 10,000 people entered and they chose 2,000 people to go through to the next round based on the pitches for their novels. I was one of the lucky 2,000.

I know. 2,000 is a lot. My chances of winning are 1,000 to 1 (there are 2 winners.) It doesn’t matter. Just getting through to the second round has given me a boost and reminded me how much I love writing and how it is worth doing!

Now my opening chapters are being read by 2 Amazon Vine readers. I keep telling myself that the readers are always subjective. Some readers even hate best-selling authors like J.K. Rowling and Jodi Picoult, so it’s more than possible that some readers might hate my work. Equally, most readers I’ve shared the book with have been very complimentary (some are my friends, but others are other authors) so I probably have some chance.

For the moment, I’ll just congratulate myself for getting to Round 2 and keep my fingers crossed for the next stage. I should find out if I’m through on 20 March.

Celebrating 11 years of the Bangkok Women’s Writers Group

I’ve been a member of the Bangkok Women’s Writers Group for nearly a year now, and sadly will soon be leaving, as I’m heading back to London to work. The group is a talented bunch and their feedback on my novels and short stories has been invaluable.
Luckily Anette Pollner, who leads the group, is organising an event, which happens to place just before I leave the country. On 10 April, writers from the group will read from their works in progress at the artspace@newsong on Soi 39/1 Sukhumvit, Bangkok. The readers include Anette, myself, Carol Stephens, Dana MacLean, Lenora Bell, Mariejoy San Buenaventura, Michaela Zimmermann and Tejaswini Apte.

About the Group:

The BWWG meets every second Tuesday 7 PM at Starbucks Soi Lang Suan to workshop their writing in a supportive and creative environment. Current members include several published and international prize winning authors, novelists, essayists, academics, humorists and poets, as well as a few complete beginners. The authors come from different continents, and from a wide range of backgrounds and age groups.

The BWWG has been meeting continuously for 11 years. In 2007 they published the Thai English language bestseller ‘Bangkok Blondes’, and in 2009 they gave a reading at the British Council and published a pamphlet.


Traditional or Self-Publishing?

For ages, I’ve been considering the question of whether to self-publish my novel “27” or to seek traditional representation. A couple of months ago, I couldn’t decide, and so as I often do in these situations, I decided that I would just pursue both options and see which one worked.

Using a very useful spreadsheet from the Writers’ Workshop (available here) I went through all the UK agents, looked at each of their websites and shortlisted them based on these criteria:

  • – Represents authors I have heard of
  • – Open-minded about new writers
  • – Good website and seems au fait with social media (The target audience for my work is 20/30-somethings so I wanted to select an agent who understood this audience)

I got as far as a shortlist of 20, and then I spent two days drafting a query letter.

Then I stopped to think. Stopping to think is sometimes dangerous as it can lead to inaction. On this occasion though, I think it stopped me from wasting time.

  • I thought about the ratio of query letters to publishing contracts (less than 1 in 5,000?)
  • I thought about the length of time, it takes to i) get an agent ii) get a publisher iii) get published ~ let’s say a year each for i) and ii) and 2 years for editing and marketing in part iii) – so 4 years in total (if your book is what they are looking for)
  • And then I asked myself where will traditional publishers be in 4 years? I suspect that with the way the market is going, some of them won’t even exist.

So do I want a traditional publisher? Well, I wouldn’t say no if one tapped me on the shoulder right now and offered me a good deal. But for the time being I think I’ll try self publishing.


My blog has been somewhat neglected lately. It’s sat lonely and unloved in some shady corner of the ether, probably reading under a palm tree, while it waits for me to return and bless it with my ramblings.
Lots has happened since my last post. Firstly I have decided to bite the bullet and self-publish…More about that tomorrow, when I will share some of the resources I’ve found so far to help me prepare.

I Don’t Miss my Massive Walkman and Soon we Won’t Miss Books

Today I welcome Adam Charles, Director of iwritereadrate, to my blog to talk about the evolution of digital media and how he eventually managed to separate himself from his clunky Walkman and the stack of CDs in his living room and now only buys digital music. He believes the same process is inevitable for eBooks. Will there be a demise of bookshelves across the UK proudly displaying pristine copies of Dickens and Tolsky which have never been read? Will everyone really go digital? Only time will tell…(I must admit I still have my stack of CDs, but they are confined to the cupboard.)

Over to Adam…

I Don’t Miss My Massive Walkman and Soon we Won’t Miss Books

One of my prized possessions as a child was a cumbersome, stealth black, Walkman. It gave me hours of joy, listening to low fidelity recordings from the radio through uncomfortable, angular, foam earphones. Even with the clunky, jumpy, and enraging cassettes I still adored the damned thing.

The world of music has advanced since through digitalisation to be so integrated with my life, so simple to find and incredibly accessible anywhere I happen to find myself. I always have my music with me, comfortably in my pocket. It’s ready for action whenever needed.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was a little resistant to begin with, predominantly as a result of my first MP3 being an ugly, hard to use, glorified USB stick. This, and I’d invested in CD’s; which could be delightfully displayed in my living room to illustrate my musical education and eclectic tastes.

Fast forward 10 years and I’m fully digital. I buy all my music sitting in comfort with my feet up. In fact I actually buy more music as a result; it’s the convenience, the control, and the ability to sample before I press the button to buy.

Let’s not forget that back in 1997 the music industry tried to stop the sale of MP3 players. Sites offering downloadable digital music disrupted the traditional status quo, and they panicked; rocking back and forth in denial of the inevitable revolution.

The music industry insisted on Digital Rights Management (DRM) with their hands held up to their proverbial ears, intent on forcing the consumer to accept their all-seeing control over something we had paid good money for. They cited concerns about piracy as a reason to limit paying customers – a paradox that should have made time fold back on itself.


In 2007 EMI was the first major record label to agree to sell DRM-free music on iTunes; everyone else had followed by 2009.

Since then digital music has flourished, it has revolutionised our experience and access to auditory stimulation. The industry hasn’t become extinct, the meteorite of digital hasn’t thrown up enough dust to block out the sun for the music industry. If anything music has become more integrated with people’s lives. Being easier to make a purchase can only be a good thing for everyone.

Digital is more convenient, more accessible, more democratic, more searchable, more competitive, more social, more, more, more.

As a consumer, a writer, and a human being I’m often amazed by the parallels between the digitalisation of music and that of my first love, books. In an article I read recently they called the iPod ’The Box That Saved Music’. It is ever more obvious that eReaders and eBook Apps, with all the benefits they bring, will do exactly the same for literature.

Whilst I have fond memories of my massive Walkman, I certainly don’t miss it. I’m sure the same will be true of books ten years down the line of digitalisation.

Adam Charles is a proud aspiring author. He’s been ‘squeezing out words’ for as long as he can remember. He and a team of like minded writers & readers started following frustrations about not receiving useful feedback from the traditional publishing industry. You can read The Story of iWriteReadRate to find out more.

Connect with him directly here: Twitter, Facebook. View a free sample of Adam’s fiction novella: My Tiny Universe on