When I’m in collecting mode, everything–ideas, characters, titles, dialogue–goes into nvALT. (The app is actually Notational Velocity, but I prefer this fork for some of its additional features, such as live word count). The beauty of nvALT is in its simplicity. Type a word into the search bar to find the notes you’ve made previous; if there are no notes with that word, hit ENTER to make a brand new one. That’s it. Notes are easy to make, easy to find, easy to edit. Everything is saved in plain text. I had upwards of a thousand notes, all saved in a 20MB folder.

I say “had” because I like to review my notes regularly. There are some things I save for reference purposes: song lyrics, resumes, a reading log, the full text of HENRY V. But a lot of the notes in nvALT are one sentence long. Here’s one: “Have to tell the story of a thousand rainy days.” That’s a Sting lyric, but it’s also a book idea. Once it becomes a book, a blog post, a newsletter story, and I don’t need the note anymore, I delete it. (They’re easy to delete, too). I’m down to 476 right now.

Here’s a treat for all of you waiting on AWAY GAME: the very first notes I wrote on the characters. This is the entire text file; no changes. (Yes, I often talk to myself as I type. It’s a habit born of 750words.com.)


I use this character generator a lot because if you ignore the ages, it’s just a good source for names and personality traits. I needed names for the next thing I’m writing, a pro hockey player sent down to the minors, who discovers the local sports reporter is his ex boyfriend. They broke up because he wouldn’t come out of the closet. Here’s what the generator gave me for the hockey player: Ethan, jock, responsible, leader, disciplined. His unique trait is that he’s estranged from his family. Here’s what the generator gave me for the reporter: Colton, book worm, honest, courageous, strong. His unique trait is that he has a big grudge.

Zach is a hockey player. He used to be a star. He was a first round draft pick, he has two Stanley Cups, and he scores goals. Or he used to score goals. Now he’s 36, and he doesn’t get as much ice time as he used to.

Now he’s a leader on the team. But not on the ice or in the locker room. Zach is the guy who make the team a team. He throws parties. He organizes trips to strip clubs. He has season tickets to the Chargers.

One night, after a game and drinks after with the rookie on the team, Zach is driving them home, and he’s a little drunk. They both are. He swerves the car off the road and crashes his car into a pole and puts out the lights in that neighbourhood.

He’s in trouble, not so much for the car, but for having the rookie star in the car with him. The team sends him away to deflect the press away from their current star. They send him down to the minors.

I don’t remember if there was a reason why I changed their names. It might have been as simple as when I started the actual writing, I forgot the hockey player was originally Zach. My nvALT notes are about capturing thoughts before they disappear. They grow from there. Sometimes they become even bigger than I could have imagined.

If you haven’t ordered AWAY GAME, what are you waiting for? Only $4.99 for 48k of Zach (the reporter) and Aaron (the hockey player) and their inconvenient feelings.