Saturday, 24 December 2016

Happy Christmas

It's end of the year wrap up time again. I don't know about you all, but in general, 2016's been a bit rubbish. From Brexit and the US election, to an awful lot of misery around the world.

I've had a couple of bright spots: -

I finished Intertwined
I wrote a new draft of Eight Minutes
I've written every single day - it's never going to stop now.

I guess the biggest thing for me this year was being the runner-up in the 2016 One Giant Write competition here in the UK, for Intertwined.

Hopefully they'll make a decision soon on publishing Intertwined.

Thanks to everyone who's tried my apps this year. I hope they've helped you towards your own writing goals.

I hope you all have a safe, happy, and creative Christmas and new year. Happy writing!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Where does the time go

I think November is the first month I've missed posting anything at all here since I started. Time has just slipped past with everything being very busy.

I'm still working on my interactive fiction idea, as well as editing a manuscript, and writing every day.

Thanks to everyone who has tried my apps in the last couple of months, particularly in the lead up to the just-finished National Novel Writing Month. I hope you're finding the apps useful.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Short and sweet

Only a quick update for now. I'm still working on a potential interactive fiction game outline, and I'm also letting rest a draft of a new novel.

It's National Novel Writing Month in a few days, so if you're gearing up to take part, I wish you the best of luck.

I'm still writing every day. It's a habit now. A must.

I'm still working on some app ideas as well - but there's only so many hours in the day - and between a day job, writing, editing, and game design, not even counting actually 'living' - some things will take a bit longer than others.

Happy writing!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Happy Birthday, Subplot

On 19th September (tomorrow as I write this) Subplot, and AFK Creative as a whole, is five years old. It's been an interesting time. I started building Subplot initially because I couldn't find anything to help me plan novels in the way that I wanted.

Actually there was one particular rewriting problem that I had, which prompted the design of Subplot. I have an old story, Eight Minutes, which I first wrote in the late 90's and revisited in the mid-2000's. Around 2011, I wanted to look at redrafting the story, but technology had moved on a great deal. When I wrote Subplot, I used a minidisc as a plot device, for data storage that the characters needed. Jump forward to 2011, and minidiscs have gone the way of the floppy disc and the zip drive.

I needed to replace all uses of the minidisc in my manuscript with a reference to a USB drive, but it wasn't enough to do a find and replace: there were so many variations of minidisc, disc, drive, etc. It was a painful exercise, and it made me think: I'd like some software that would help me keep track of where I've used all the important 'things' in my story.

From then, Subplot was born. Keeping track of who, what, where, when, and why, for a novel or a screenplay. It was quite well received, getting 3.5 mice out of 5 from MacWorld at the time.

Since then, most of the apps that I've created have expanded on what I want as a writer: Word Count Dashboard (which I use every day, as I write every day). Character Folio, which I'm always referring to for notes on my characters. Continuity, which I use when editing.

There's also Plotline, on the iPad - i created the outline for my novel "Intertwined" in Plotline, and that's the novel that I'm really happy to report, won the runner-up place in the Gollancz/LiteratureWorks "One Giant Write" competition recently.

I know not everyone writes in the same way - some people like to plan everything, some people don't. The software I've designed has been very nicely received by my customers, so I'd just like to say a very big thank you to everyone who's tried one of my apps over the years. I hope they've helped you get a bit more enjoyment out your own writing.

Happy writing!

Friday, 12 August 2016


As the summer creaks on in Wales, I'm looking into the possibility (nothing decided yet) of bringing some of my apps to the Windows platform.

I'm also knee-deep in developing an outline for an interactive fiction game, so that's taking up the bulk of my development time at the moment.

There's not much else to report - it is however coming up to 5 years since Subplot launched on the Mac App Store. It's gone by very quickly.

Happy writing.

Thursday, 7 July 2016


The programming side of things has taken a back seat over the last few months, while I work on finishing my novel, Intertwined. In the midst of all that, I've also been writing another book, Eight Minutes, as well as planning some of the storylines I'm thinking of doing for my interactive fiction project.

As an aside, I'm still using my own Word Count Dashboard to keep me on track with Eight Minutes - I currently have a gold star for every day of the project.

With Intertwined almost ready, I'll hopefully be able to focus more on some development work in the near future.

Happy writing!

Saturday, 11 June 2016


It's been a quiet time here. While I've been working on some Unity designs for the game, the enormity of the art task ahead of me has really hit home, and I think it's time to reassess what I can realistically accomplish as a solo/indie developer.

With that in mind, I'm still developing the storyline for the game pretty much as I intended, but the likelihood is that I will return to the Choose Your Own Adventure format to tell the story, so that I'm not dependent on a huge amount of art assets (as well as all the graphical programming that would accompany actually building the game.

The story is the important part for me, so for now that's the plan.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Game engine settled

I've been working on my game design for a while now, and while it all sits nicely in my head, translating that into a working "thing" is a lot easier said than done.

Originally I prototyped it in Xcode, for iOS, with the intention of using SpriteKit, but the sad state of the iOS App Store these days, with the dominance of the "free-to-play" model that I hate (and in most cases is just an excuse to try and sell "crates of gems" at prices of up to an eye-watering £70!), means that I don't think initially I would want to ship on iOS.

So I've turned to Unity, which means down the line I can still of course ship for iOS, but at the moment, I'm looking at Mac and PC - the Mac App Store is something I'm familiar with from my other apps, but the PC arena is a bit of an unknown in terms of getting to market - there's Steam of course, but that's still a daunting prospect to try and get involved with.

So far, I'm really liking Unity - I used it for a little bit last year, but it's starting to make a lot more sense now, especially since the UI implementation introduced a while back.

As for my game, it's an RPG with storylines that will hopefully give a player pause, to think about the consequences of their actions, as well as give them a fun and rewarding experience.

More soon.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Quality over quantity

Hmm. Talk about running to stand still. March has been a frustrating month, where I've been looking at what I want to achieve with my game design, and what I think I can realistically create.

One troubling development seems to be the trend for the Choice Script games to aim for larger and larger word counts. Two of the latest releases are a 440,000 word story, and one is a 1.25m word story! I honestly don't think I've written a million words yet in my own writing, and the thought of doing it for one title alone, let alone one that would likely be sold for £2.99, well the effort really isn't worth the gain.

So, while I'm still writing every day, as well as editing the first draft of Intertwined, and also looking at what I can achieve with animation in DAZ Studio, things are going slowly.

One positive is that I've got the nugget of an idea for a new "normal" app - whether it ends up on  Mac or iOS yet, I'm not sure. But, it's been a while since my last release, it's nice to think about ordinary app development again.

Anyway, with Spring (and therefore rain!) here in the UK, 2016 is motoring along, so it's all systems go here, but for now, the plan for creating a Choice Script story is on hold.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Interactive Fiction

I'm currently working on an interactive fiction title, using Choice Script, by Choice Of Games. It's an interesting way of thinking about a story, and having tried quite a few of their games myself as research, I'm really looking forward to telling the story. More details soon.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Marching onwards

This week was the third anniversary for Word Count Dashboard. It came about when I started using my other app, Savings Jar as a word counter and progress marker for my novel, Spark of Humanity. When I found it so useful, I decided to create a dedicated version for writers, and Word Count Dashboard was born.

The app has changed aesthetics quite a bit over the years - from its original inception as a virtual pinboard, with a cork board background, and multi-coloured sticky notes, it's evolved into a more sedate looking app, partly as a consequence of Apple moving to the more garish and flat looking iOS 7 versus the older look of iOS 8. When I updated the iOS version of Word Count Dashboard, it made sense to retrofit the Mac version too.

Do I use it? Yes. I use all my own apps. Currently, according to Word Count Dashboard, I'm sitting at over 86% complete for my next novel, Intertwined (the first draft at least!) and I'm updating it every day. I am thinking of adding a couple of other stats to the Mac version, so that you can see some averages of what you've written over the course of the project, we'll see, no promises.

Work is still carrying on with my game idea, so while there's not a lot happening on the surface, there's plenty going on behind the scenes.

Happy writing.

Sunday, 31 January 2016


Work on my first game is ticking along in the background while I work on finishing my next novel. I found some notes for the story a while back, and realised the initial idea I had is from nearly six years ago. Although it's not nearly close to being "finished" yet, I am closing in on completing the first draft, which will be a milestone in itself.

I'm hoping then that I don't go through my usual year-long dithering during editing. I really like the story, and a lot of the plot strands and ideas are paying off now as I approach the conclusion, so I'm really looking forward to reading through the completed draft.

I hope you're all doing well with your own writing projects. With January pretty much done, a lot of those new year resolutions such as "this year I'm going to write my novel" tend to fall by the wayside, so I hope you're getting to keep the momentum going.

Happy writing!

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year

The beginning of the year is usually a time to take stock, make plans, create lists: all those things you should have done last year, but somehow didn't get around to. All those things you know you should do in the coming year, but may or may not have the will to get on with.

This year I have pretty clear goals: -
  1. Continue with the design and development of my first game.
  2. Finish my next novel, Intertwined.

I'm also going to learn a bit more about 3D art, so I'm hopeful that the cover to Intertwined will look as good on screen as it does in my head.

One of my goals as a software developer, has always been to create things that I hope are useful: I've seen ads for things to help you find the "exact" niche book market that's on the up on the Kindle Store - and "what's the best genre of game to make to get the most money" - honestly both those ideas are terrible to me.

If you're not creating something that you want to read, or you want to see/use, then why are you bothering? Money? People will see through it - they'll see the lack of conviction, the lack of vision - when it's not something you're invested in, then it's never going to be your best work.

So if you're writing novels, or building games, or creating anything this year, please do it for the right reason: because you need to create it, not because you want to make money off it.

Of course I'd love it if my apps suddenly became chart-toppers on the app store - but it's okay if they don't: because I created them for me. I use them myself, every time I do a novel, I'm planning it either in Subplot, or Plotline, and sometimes both. When I'm writing, I'm using Word Count Dashboard to keep myself on target. My iPad has my Shelf Life book list on it, and Novel Ideas is on my phone. And I use Peace of Mind too - even though it's one of those things that you don't use that often. I also used Continuity to do some editing for a manuscript this year. I even have a Savings Jar file for a holiday - and maybe some day I'll get to go.

I'm not going to include links to my apps above - I just wanted to make the point that they all exist because I wanted their functionality - it's not about the money. And it's the same with writing - the headline authors, like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, yes they make millions, but they really are the exception. I write because I enjoy it, and I want to read the story that's growing in my head. If anyone else reads and enjoys them, then that's a really great bonus. And yes, one day, it'd be lovely to make a living from it, I'm not daft! But I am realistic.

So to everyone who's tried one of my apps this year, and everyone who's taken a chance on Life Support or Spark of Humanity, thank you - and have a wonderful, safe, creative 2016.

Happy New Year.