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
Note: This article from 2007 is the original precursor to the ORGANISED WRITER book, a much more detailed and comprehensive productivity guide for writers of all kinds.
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!
One of the most frequently-asked questions aspiring writers ask 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; there is no magic bullet; and worse still, what works for me isn't necessarily best 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 you may find useful.
The Fundamentals of Planning and Writing scenes
This piece 'does what it says on the tin,' as the saying goes: it outlines the fundamental questions any writer should ask themselves when planning and writing a scene. It then reviews the critically-lauded 'diner scene' from the movie HEAT, and examines how it answers those same questions.
Originally written for the staff writers of a project on which I was a consultant, I've removed the project-specific elements, and revised what remains so the advice is now universally applicable to any script.
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.
In July 2020 the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain hosted a week-long series of daily online panels focused on game narrative. I took part in a couple, including one on worldbuilding for games. During the panel, the live audience could ask questions using a Q&A function... and boy, did they. We didn't have anywhere near enough time to answer them all. So afterwards, I took the Q&A transcript, pulled out some of the questions I could answer, and wrote them up in a Medium post.
Whether you're an experienced games writer, just starting out in the industry, or someone looking to move from another field to games, I hope you find it useful.
A lecture from the Game Developers Conference in 2022. It was delivered remotely, but live (complete with Q&A) to conference attendees, and is now available on the GDC YouTube channel for all. Giving talks remotely is an odd experience, and it's particularly difficult to connect with an unseen audience! Thankfully this one was popular and well received.
Writers' rooms have been a staple of TV production for more than half a century, but they're relatively new to game development. In this lecture I explain how to recruit and run a successful writers' room, why it's more than just a writing team... and why you should use one if you don't already.
It's of course aimed at those who work in game narrative, either as writers or managers, but many people in other fields have told me the advice about team leadership and communication is universally helpful.
You can also download a PDF of the slides for your own reference.
My first ever lecture at Game Developers Conference, delivered in 2010. I wanted to help other game writers and narrative designers understand the skills comic writers bring to games, and outline what they could learn from those techniques.
Comics to Consoles was voted best talk of that year's Narrative Summit; third best of the entire conference; and GDC selected it to be a showcase lecture. 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's also popular with those interested in the writing process, whether or not they work in games.
Each piece was just 10-15 minutes (i.e. approximately 1000 words), so there was only time to make a single, bold point. My Massive Ego is 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 that kickstarted a wave of modern writing applications. I was the first pro comics writer to use it, and even helped the developer create the comics template 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 finish the tutorial. Assuming they even watch the tutorial. Which they totally should.
This piece attempts to tackle that problem by demonstrating, step-by-step, how I use Scrivener to write comics.
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.
Plenty of online resources will teach you how to make your own podcast — but they don't 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 Unjustly Maligned, I knew many of my guests would not be regular podcasters. For some it was their first ever appearance on a podcast. So I made a guide to help them set up, sound good, and record their own audio. Then other podcast hosts began asking if they could show it to their guests, too. Eventually demand was so great I rewrote the whole thing to be show-agnostic, and made it freely available to all.
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.