How To Keep A Writer’s Notebook

I’ve previously written about the 7 benefits of keeping a writer’s notebook.

But how do you keep one? Should it be organised or a collection of scribbles? Should you separate prose from outlines, free writes from drafts?

The easiest answer is: do whatever feels right.

But I would argue that you should do whatever will best serve you later on — and that means pinpointing your needs to decide what kind of notebook you need.

A writer’s notebook is a tool; its aim is to help you with your writing. What kind of help do you need?

Perhaps you simply need a place to collect ideas. A place for quick lines of observation, description, snippets of scenes, character names and inspirational quotes.

There’s no structure to this kind of notebook–and no restrictions. You’ll browse through its contents at a later stage when you’re hungry for inspiration.

Julia Cameron promotes keeping morning pages — writing three stream of consciousness pages every morning to get the juices flowing. You may never use this content anywhere else; the aim is to get into the habit of writing and unblock your creativity.

If you want to increase productivity, this is the kind of notebook for you.

For Darksight, I’m keeping a project-specific notebook.

The beauty of a project-specific notebook is that is that it keeps me focused. I flip open to a page, and know that I can only write about ONE story. No procrastination allowed.

To keep myself organised, I’ve split the notebook into two halves.

The front half of the notebook contains outlines, character bios and family trees. (I’ve also seen other authors number the pages and leave space for an index, in order to easily find content as it builds up.)

The back half of my notebook is for snippets and scenes: pieces of prose as and when inspiration strikes.

Eventually the two halves will meet, but I love having all of my notes and reference points in the same notebook as my ideas, yet in some way organised too.

There are many more types of notebooks, from dream journals to diaries.

What kind of notebook do you keep? There is no right or wrong way – only what works for you and helps your writing.

The Day Is Here

SOLID MOMENTS is out now!

Woop woop woop!

Solid MomentsThe collection has also had its first ever (5 star!) review – check it out:

A collection of short stories that define fragments of life. A blind girl, a brother meeting a sister he never knew, a boy hooked on video games, a women in a loveless marriage, a soldier’s story, just to name a few. Each story was unique and touching in its own special way. I liked every story.

What I also like (and found unique and a very great concept) was at the end of the book, the author tells us what inspired her to write each story. I found that to be interesting. I often wonder how an author comes up with the ideas behind each book. Those who love short stories should read Solid Moments.
Goodreads reviewer

Order the ebook now!
Smashwords $2.80
Kindle US $3
Kindle UK £1.99
Kindle IT €2.68
Kindle DE €2.68

…did someone mention PRINT?
Amazon US $6.30
Amazon UK £4.50

Need some convincing?
Read an excerpt now or add on Goodreads for later.

Cover Reveal: Solid Moments

Solid MomentsIntroducing SOLID MOMENTS, a short story collection which will be released on January 9 2015.

I am thrilled to be revealing the cover to you today – once again designed by the inimitable MCM – and very much hope you’ll enjoy these stories.

What’s this all about?

As you may recall, in October I set myself a two months, one book challenge. While I’m running a little behind schedule, Solid Moments is the result of those two months’ work.

Collating 23 short stories of varying lengths, Solid Moments captures the precious minutes when we are most ourselves.

Add it on Goodreads – and stay tuned for updates!

The Power of Storytelling Part Two: The Basic Framework of a Story

As mentioned, I’m attending a three-evening course on storytelling taught by Adam Lebor, a published author and journalist.

The first session examined creativity – and in particular, the key elements of a good story.

The session kicked off with us reading excerpts from our favourite books to get a feeling for different writing styles, as well as what draws us to particular tales. These excerpts were then used as a launching pad to discuss story structure.


Adam Lebor has a tidy, memorable formula: COCR.

You may think I (almost) typed a rude word — in which case, go to the corner of your room and have a quiet giggle.

Immaturity aside, it stands for Conflict, Obstacle, Climax, Resolution.

These four elements are the key to narrative drive; they make your story compelling, addictive, and just generally awesome. If you are struggling with your WIP and the story seems flat, it could be missing one of these elements.

Let’s start with conflict.

In order to have conflict, you need a protagonist and an antagonist.

In my novel Above Ground, the protagonist is clearly Lilith. The antagonist, however, is not a particular individual but society at large: the hatred and separation between humans and those living above ground is the source of tension in the story.

So what’s Lilith’s obstacle?

What does Lilith want or need — and what’s stopping her from getting it?

Lilith wants to get home alive, and the dangers she faces are the obstacles preventing her from returning safely. As she surpasses each obstacle, a bigger one shows up, driving the story forward.

Here comes the climax!

At the climax, all the events in the story come to a head. It’s the turning point in the story, and often a key moment in the character arc. (More about character arcs next time.)

If you’re anything like me, the climax is one of your favourite bits to write.

In Above Ground, the climax is when Lilith is offered the chance to go home whilst having to confront who she really is. The self-realisation puts her main objective of getting home into question — and she has to decide where her priorities lie.

On to the resolution

How does the story end? How does the protagonist overcome the obstacles and where does he/she go next?

In Above Ground, Lilith reaches her new home. It is not the home she was aiming for at the beginning of the novel, but it’s a home that suits the person she has become.

Conflict. Obstacle. Climax. Resolution.

A simple yet effective framework to get the creative juices flowing.


The next session of Adam Lebor’s storytelling course will look at clarity, focusing on character development of both protagonists and antagonists. I’ll let you know how I get on.

In the meantime, what’s the COCR in your story?

Two Months. One book.

I have a plan.

It is a good plan, an achievable plan. A fun one too, all going well.

I need to get back into writing, but the novel is refusing to cooperate. So my plan is to recapture my enthusiasm by revisiting the short story format.

More specifically, I’ve decided to release a short story collection in December.

I toyed with the idea of a werewolf follow-up to Hungry For You, but it didn’t quite take hold of my imagination. I needed a new challenge.

What could I write about instead?

I’ve done fantasy scenes with showy set pieces, but what about the quiet moments in between? The slices of life, the intimate times when we are most ourselves?

Those precious minutes are what I’m going to be exploring for the next two months.

And, all going to plan, I’ll have something to show for it come December.

Two months. One book.

Wish me luck.

There Be Pirates!

The other day I came across the following forum post:

Where to download above ground a m harte?

I have been looking for a reliable way to find and download this book for free, but I so far I got nothing solid. […]

I am looking for specific titles, and usually they are not classics, like Dorian Gray or Wuthering Hills, but new literature of fact, like above ground a m harte?

So, is there something I am missing, or is there no reliable way to find such interesting books to download for free?

My initial reaction was annoyance.

How could someone want to steal from the “little guy” – the indie author? How could someone want to steal at all?

Buying Above Ground will set you back all of £2. It’s cheaper than a Sainsbury’s meal deal. Come on.

But the calming effect of time has given me a different perspective.

People are working hard to pirate my book, and there is nothing I can do to stop them. While it’s unfair that they want to enjoy the fruits of my labour for free,  they do want to read my novel. Is that not the tiniest bit flattering?

So to all you pirates out there, I say this:

Torrent Above Ground. Heck, ask me for a free copy. I’m glad you want to read it.

But if you can’t — or won’t — pay for my books, then I ask for your support instead.

Post an honest review of my book on your blog, Goodreads, Amazon… anywhere. However long, however short. Just spread the word.

It’ll cost you nothing, and will make a difference to me.

There be pirates, yes. But pirates can have honour too.

We Had Stars Once

What an excellent title for an anthology, don’t you agree?

I’m sure you’ve already heard of We Had Stars Once. Organised by some of the folks from, this anthology celebrates three years of Thursday Tales (a weekly writing meme).

Why am I telling you this?

Firstly, because the cover is so damn cool. Check it out:

* * *

perf5.000x8.000.indd Join a girl discovering her true, supernatural origins. Follow a famous babysitter into space. Journey through dystopia with a man who has lost everything, and experience the exhilaration of finally making it home.

Aliens, cocky knights, and superheroes do battle with inner darkness and things that go bump in the night. From the writers of Thursday Tales comes an imaginative anthology of darkness, adventure, betrayal and mystery. From sixteen minds come sixteen tales of fantasy, horror, and science fiction.

A world of worlds awaits.

* * *

Secondly, because it includes my (silly) story “Rescue Missions”.

I have read every story in there and can guarantee you’ll like some (if not all) of them. My story acts as comic relief amidst excellent speculative fiction tales of action and adventure and danger.

What are you waiting for?

You can grab the hardback or the paperback or the ebook! Woo!

(Or if you run a book blog and are interested in review copies, give me a shout and I’ll see what we can do!

Teaser Excerpt: FTSB

Every door in the village was barred shut, every window sealed from entry. The red dirt of the main street was baked dry and clouds of dust stirred with their footsteps. If it weren’t for the scent of the people hiding behind closed doors and the sound of their heartbeats—fast and frightened, like hummingbirds—Fang would have thought they had wandered into a ghost town.

He looked over at his companion Jake, who was weary and covered with dirt but still handsome somehow, and felt a stab of guilt. It was his fault they were in this state, his fault they were fleeing further and further away from Jake’s home.

“This is the third village like this,” Jake remarked grimly, untying the sweat-soaked bandana from around his neck. “Where’s a werewolf going to get a shower and a drink these days?”

“Perhaps the next village will be better,” Fang said. The skin between his shoulder blades was crawling with the weight of the villager’s stares. They knew what he was; Fang was sure of it. “We should keep moving.”

“Fuck that. I’m tired, I’m thirsty, and I’m all out of cigarettes.” Jake continued down the road, hunting for an inn. When he spotted a likely door he strode up to it and knocked. “We know you’re in there,” he called. “We’d like a room for the night.”

Silence. Fang hung back, alert for trouble.

“We’ve got cash,” Jake added.

Now there were murmurs from behind the door. The summer drought was at its peak, and judging by the fine dust permeating the air this village had been hit worse than most. There wasn’t a hint of green as far as the eye could see—even the weeds growing in the shelter of the house were twisted and yellow.

“Step back,” a woman finally said.

Jake backed a few steps away from the door, keeping his hands slightly away from his sides to show he wasn’t armed. The door opened a crack.

“Turn around.”

Jake turned on the spot, looking amused. There was no place to conceal a weapon in his baggy trousers or vest top, but he had no need for weapons. Even without shifting to wolf form he was stronger than the average human. They both were. Fang put on a smile and did his best to look harmless.

The inn door opened fully. A girl barred the doorway, human by the smell of her. Her dark brown hair was tied up in a bun and she was wearing tight trousers under a loose shirt. In her hands was a long broom, held before her like a weapon. Her breathing quickened as they looked at her but she stood firm, and there was something about the way she lifted her chin that reminded Fang of his little sister. His heart twisted painfully in his chest and it took all his focus to keep on smiling.

“Hello,” Jake said, his voice sinking that little bit lower as he smiled at the girl. She flushed under his attention and Fang suppressed a flash of jealousy. “Could we stay the night at your lovely establishment?”

* * *

An except from my current WIP, which is set in the Above Ground universe. I’m aiming for novella length and am having good fun with these characters.