All posts in Writing Habits

Writing Habits: Mur Lafferty

Time for another one in my irregular little mini-interview series, Writing Habits!

It is difficult to overstate how much influence Mur Lafferty has had on me as a writer. After dabbling occassionally for most of my life, I first started taking this writing thing seriously back in about 2006, and Mur’s award-winning podcast I Should Be Writing was one of the first I discovered. Over the last five years, that podcast has been a constant companion, and Mur’s superhero novel Playing For Keeps was the first podcast novel I ever listened to. Mur’s writing advice is second-to-none, and the chronicles of her own journey as a writer have been inspirational. Mur is one of the people to listen to.

Most recently, Mur has been featured in Locus magazine and her latest novella, Marco and the Red Granny, was podcast by Hub magazine. Mur also hosts the monthly Angry Robot books podcast and is the editor of EscapePod, one of the premier free podcast fiction magazines. When Mur oversaw the expansion of the EscapePod website last year I was lucky enough to be invited to contribute as a guest blogger.

Ladies and gentlemen, the mighty Mur Lafferty!

Mur Lafferty

Durham, NC, USA

What do you write?
I write superhero fiction (Playing For Keeps), afterlife fiction (The Heaven Series), zombie humor audiodramas (The Takeover), and just about anything else that leaps to mind. I find my mind going more toward novels these days, and usually only writing short fic when I’m solicited.

What are your writing habits?
I have a big problem I’m trying to overcome, and it’s the typical procrastinator’s problem; I don’t want to write if I have something nagging at me, so I have this magical image of having everything done so I can sit down with a clear brain and write. Which is bullshit because that stuff will never be done. My new practice is to wake up early, read either in my genre or a writing book/magazine, and then write. Normally my daily wordcount goal is 1000 but I am trying to finish a project now and it’s “as much as I can get done a day.”

What software or tools do you use?
I like to hand write notes, but I prefer Scrivener and Write or Die to write and edit, and then MS word for copyediting (not to mention everyone still wants their stuff in doc format so I have to make sure it looks good and is in standard manuscript format.) I love nice pens and pretty blank books, but the prettier the book, the more scared I am of writing in it because my handwriting is so awful. so I prefer cheap pads that I can mess up and it doesn’t look awful. (Although I do splurge on Moleskine every once in a while; that book looks *better* the more beat-up it is.)


Mur, thank-you very much! The centre of Mur’s writing world can be found at the Murverse, and Mur herself is on Twitter as @mightymur.

Writing habits: Philip Palmer

I met Philip Palmer quite by chance. Last year I’d bought his novel Red Claw purely on the basis of the outrageously awesome cover, and discovered it was a rollicking pulp science fiction tale. And I’m talking quality, modern pulp − adventure, excitement, really wild things, with strong characterisation and a kick-ass plot.

Needless to say, I was hooked. Then at EasterCon I had met fellow Kiwi and former Tharg the Mighty, David Bishop, and had seen him chatting to Mr Palmer himself. Later, as David and I took our seats for the premier of Matt Smith’s first Doctor Who episode in the cavernous hotel ballroom, I asked if David knew Philip. David pointed out that the guy sitting next to him on the other side, who I hadn’t seen, was the man in question! We were introduced, we watched Doctor Who, and we chatted in the bar afterwards.

That, my friends, is the beauty of conventions!

Philip’s latest book, Version 43, was out in October from Orbit and is again wrapped in a gorgeous cover. His next book is Hell Ship, due in 2011.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Philip Palmer!


Philip Palmer. I’ve never used a pseudonym, which I regret really. I love the idea of having a secret persona. Like Iain M. Banks, who like Superman adopts a disguise so cunning no one can EVER guess his real identity.

I suspect this may change in future, if I want to write SF or fantasy that doesn’t fit the pattern of whatever a ‘Philip Palmer’ novel is.  But then again, the range of the novels I’m writing is already pretty wide − Hell Ship for instance (which comes out next July) is steeped in a fantasy tradition, even though it’s technically SF.  So maybe I won’t ever change my name; let’s see!


Crystal Palace, South London − once known as the Fresh Air Suburb. We still have dinosaurs in our local park.  That’s a true fact that is! (They’re life sized replicas built in Victorian times.)

What do you write?

My writing spans quite a wide range in fact.  I’ve written several radio dramas which are quite serious, including some that are highly political.  One play for instance was about workplace safety − more exciting than it sounds! Another was about military interrogation.  I’ve also done some period dramas, with plays about Isaac Newton and Marco Polo.  For telly, I’ve written mainly crime dramas. And the movie I’m currently trying to get made is a film noir, one of my favourite genres.

As a novelist, though, I would put myself in the genre territory called ‘pulp’.  That’s not really a genre  of course; like Chinatown, it’s a state of mind.

What are your writing habits?

My writing habits are forged out of decades of being annoyingly frustrated at staring at a blank page.  So I try to avoid doing that.  If I’m blocked, I go for a walk. Or go for a run. Or go to the movies. Or do anything at all rather than stare at the blank page/screen.

Writing is largely about combining ideas imaginatively and freshly; so you have to first of all PUT IDEAS IN THE BRAIN.  So researching or doing something else, are often better strategies than simply striving to write. I sneak up on writing,  in other words.  Sometimes I give up for the day, and then think − maybe just ten minutes more!. And I do more work in that ten minutes than in the preceding X hours.

My wife is also a writer − movies, radio and television − so we both work from home and meet up at coffee time and lunch to confer and grumble.
My dog is also a key collaborator in my creative process.  ‘Just walking the dog,’ I’ll say, and then I’ll be gone for hours, dodging writer’s block.

What software or tools do you use?

I hate writing with a pen. I can barely write a postcard now.  At University I did all my essays on a typewriter, but when I came to my Finals I was unable to write a legible essay and had to do handwriting classes.

I hate Word! What is it with Word?  I used to use Word Perfect which I was comfortable with and which had a great tool for creating contents pages, indices etc, which I don’t seem able to do at all nicely on Word.  But that’s the tool I’m lumbered with for writing prose.

And another thing! New computers have a version of Word that’s incompatible with MY version. My editor sent me notes on my current novel which I couldn’t read − he had to save it in a different version.

But when I write screenplays I use Final Draft. It’s a dedicated software for screenwriters, which defaults to Courier 12 font (the only acceptable font for movies), and does all the work.  Final Draft is more than a software, it’s a philosophy. It’s beautiful, it’s simple to use, it’s elegant, and really successful screenwriters use it which makes ME feel really successful by proxy.  If there was a Final Draft for novelists, I’d use it. I dabble with Adobe PDF, but it seems expensive to buy the full version.

My office has a wall planner so I can see what my deadlines are.  However, my daughter generally fills up all the squares with the birthdays of her friends.


Philip, thank you very much!

Philip’s website, Debatable Spaces, can be found at, and he can be found on Twitter as phil2palmer.

Writing Habits: Michael A. Stackpole

Welcome to Writing Habits, Season 2!

Writing Habits is an ongoing series of mini-interviews in which I talk to creators and writers not about their books, or current works-in-progress, but about what they do to get the job done. I must admit, I’m the kind of person that likes nothing more than sitting down and writing out a really good list, so when it comes to the nuts and bolts of writing – routines, habits, schedules, goals and targets, you name it – I get a real buzz when I talk to professionals about how they do it. Of course, there are no easy answers and quick fixes and magic solutions for those of us working to build a career as a writer, but such insights are valuable, and this topic is often overlooked.

Last year I had the pleasure of speaking to a number of my favourite writers, and you can read about their Writing Habits here. I also spoke to two important novelists – SF-horror-thriller maestro and New York Times Best-seller Scott Sigler, and the new queen of steampunk-romance Gail Carriger – in more detail. You can hear them, and me, here, and on iTunes.

So without further ado, let’s kick off Writing Habits 2010 with a name that will be, I hope, familiar to a lot of you.

Please welcome Michael A. Stackpole! Continue Reading →

Writing Habits Special 2 – Gail Carriger

GailcarrigerWell now! What better way to celebrate the launch of my new website than to give you another special podcast episode of Writing Habits!

Gail Carriger is a California-based archaeologist-turned-SF writer whose debut novel, Soulless, has generated quite some buzz. This steampunk romance Victorian urban fantasy comedy of manners – yes, you read that right – has already gone back for a second printing.

Here’s the low-down:

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she is being rudely attacked by a vampire to whom she has not been properly introduced!

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire, and the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible.

Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

I talked to Gail about the Parasol Protectorate series, steampunk, social media, and why the measurement of the soul was important to the late Victorians.

Gail’s website and blog is at, and Soulless is out now at, and all good bookstores. UK readers can order it through

To get a taste of the world of the Parasol Protectorate, click here to listen to a full-cast reading of Soulless chapter 1.

You can subscribe to Writing Habits on iTunes.

Soulless, by Gail Carriger – chapter 1

PrintHeard the Writing Habits interview with Gail Carriger? Want to know more about her debut novel Soulless? Wanna take it for a test run? Thanks to Gail and JD Sawyer, you can!

I’m very pleased to present a special audio presentation of chapter 1. Enjoy!

You can subscribe to Writing Habits on iTunes.

Writing Habits Special 1 – Scott Sigler (re-release)

Time to get the Writing Habits podcast on the road, and as I have shifted servers and have a new website, I need to do some housekeeping.

So, in case you missed it the first time around, here’s an encore of the first special episode of Writing Habits, in which I talk to New York Times Bestselling author Scott Sigler. Download, share and enjoy!

As if you didn’t know it, Scott Sigler is a New York Times Bestselling author, the king of podcast novels, and our Future Dark Overlord. He’s also a real gent, and his limited edition hardcover of The Rookie shipped in August 2009. Just look at the blurb and pick your jaw up off the floor when you’re done:

Set in a lethal pro football league 700 years in the future, THE ROOKIE is a story that combines the intense gridiron action of “Any Given Sunday” with the space opera style of “Star Wars” and the criminal underworld of “The Godfather.”

Aliens and humans alike play positions based on physiology, creating receivers that jump 25 feet into the air, linemen that bench-press 1,200 pounds, and linebackers that literally want to eat you. Organized crime runs every franchise, games are fixed and rival players are assassinated.

Follow the story of Quentin Barnes, a 19-year-old quarterback prodigy that has been raised all his life to hate, and kill, those aliens. Quentin must deal with his racism and learn to lead, or he’ll wind up just another stat in the column marked “killed on the field.”

The FDO himself, Scott SiglerI spoke to Scott about The Rookie’s journey from podcast to print, his five-book deal with Crown Publishing, and his writing habits.

Scott Sigler himself can be found at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter as @scottsigler. You can order his books from Amazon and all good bookstores.

I hope you enjoy the interview. I’d love to hear your feedback, so please leave a comment.

You can subscribe to Writing Habits on iTunes.

Writing Habits #8 – Mike Carey

Liverpool-born comic writer and novelist Mike Carey is another talented creator with fingers in many pies – perhaps best known for the Eisner Award-nominated Lucifer comic from DC Comics’s Vertigo imprint, Mike is not only the ongoing writer for Marvel’s X-Men: Legacy comic series, but the fifth novel in his series following the adventures of occultist and ghost-finder Felix Castor, The Naming of the Beasts, was released by Orbit/Little, Brown earlier this month. The Felix Castor novels are gritty and noirish, and written with a flair that makes them, quite honestly, absolutely fascinating. The urban fantasy genre is crowded with vampires and gothic romance and teen angst, but Felix’s world is far darker and dangerous, and all the better for it. The magical and supernatural system that Mike has crafted for Felix Castor is also highly original and imaginative. Yes, you might call me a fan. Have I mentioned how good the Felix Castor novels are yet?

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Mike Carey.

Continue Reading →

Writing Habits #7 – Leah Moore and John Reppion

I must admit, I’m a latecomer to comics. I never liked them as a child, and aside from the odd Batman and Iron Man issue sometime in the late 1980s, it wasn’t until I was 25 that, on a whim, I picked up my first copy of seminal British weekly, 2000AD. Six years on, my taste is more for the American superhero periodicals of DC Comics (a lot of which, ironically, are both written and drawn by British artists), but two names still stick out as key writers who helped develop my latent appreciation for sequential art.

Leah Moore is the daughter of the legendary Alan Moore – and while I’m sure she’s sick of that being mentioned every time, given her own talent for writing, Alan is to me the greatest writer (comic or otherwise) in the English language, and I’m starting to think there is something genetic going on. John Reppion is Leah’s husband, and together they have formed a mighty writing partnership that has given us Albion (with Alan Moore, Shane Oakley and George Freeman), Wild Girl (with Shawn McManus), and Doctor Who: The Whispering Gallery (with Ben Templesmith), among many other titles. They also share my interest in the strange and Fortean, John having written one of my favourite features to appear in Fortean Times, The Childe of Hale, as well as 800 Years of Haunted Liverpool from The History Press. It came as a surprise to find myself living more or less in the same region as the pair when I moved to the UK in late 2006, and although I’ve only had the pleasure of their company on an afternoon in Manchester hot enough to melt boron, we’ve had many fascinating exchanges on Twitter regarding the importance of tea, the influence of steampunk, and popular moustache styles of the late 19th/early 20th centuries.

Their latest projects as a writing team have all been for Dynamite Entertainment using classic characters from literature – The Trials of Sherlock Holmes (with Aaron Campbell), an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in The Complete Dracula (with Colton Worley), and coming in November, The Complete Alice in Wonderland (with Erica Awano).

Ladies and gentlemen, Leah Moore and John Reppion.

Continue Reading →

Writing Habits #6 -J.C. Hutchins

For those of us familiar with the world of podcast fiction, today’s writer in the hot seat needs no introduction. J. C. Hutchins kick-started the podcast novel revolution in 2006 with 7th Son, a serialised technothriller trilogy dealing the aftermath of the US President’s assassination… by a four-year-old child. While it started life as a podcast novel, the award-winning 7th Son was optioned for development as a feature film by Warner Bros in April this year, and will be released as a print novel trilogy by St. Martin’s Press, starting with 7th Son: Descent in October 2009.

The Hutch’s latest project is a mind-blowing interactive, multimedia, immersive supernatural thriller novel Personal Effects: Dark Art. This book comes with actual physical objects – driver’s licences, credit cards, psychiatric hospital certificates, and much more – that link the reader with the events of the story, and seeded through the book itself are phone numbers and websites which are real and can be called and visited. This engaging and exciting project is the result of a collaboration between Hutchins and game designer Jordan Weisman, and was published by St. Martin’s Press in June 2009. Hutchins has followed this with a Personal Effects: Sword of Blood, a free podcast prequel novella.

On top of all this, Hutchins is a champion of social media and an all-round top bloke. He’s also a frightening creative power, his friendly, charming exterior belying the horrific and twisted stories he delights in telling us with a childlike glee. An evil, evil, childlike glee. If you want further proof of his secret powers and not-so-secret genius, Hutchins teamed up with alt-culture and pin-up site Suicide Girls to create a Personal Effects-themed photoshoot. Suicide Girls is not safe for work and is adults-only, but a PG-13-rated photoset can be downloaded from See? A genius. I wish I’d thought of that first…

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr J. C. Hutchins.

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Writing Habits #5 – Scott Sigler special edition!

Writing Habits Special

As if you didn’t know it, Scott Sigler is a New York Times Bestselling author, the king of podcast novels, and our Future Dark Overlord. He’s also a real gent, and his limited edition hardcover of The Rookie is due to ship at the end of the month. Just look at the blurb and pick your jaw up off the floor when you’re done:

Continue Reading →