Web/Tech Writing

Mac and iOS tip: a quick way to type accents

They say you learn something new every day. I’m not sure about that but last night I discovered something through Twitter that I never knew about: a quick way to generate foreign accents on the Mac and on iOS.

Foreign accents on Windows were always a nightmare for me. On the Mac not so much — you just have to remember the option key combination to get ‘château’ for example. But why bother with option keys? Instead just hold down the letter you want to add an accent to…

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 09.42.04

Hit the number for the accent you want and… bingo, it’s there.

Perhaps this has been around for years and I never knew. Whatever, I’ll be using it from now on.


Setting up a chapter synopsis in Ulysses

Most books aren’t a single massive chunk of text. They’re pieces in a narrative jigsaw that, in the end, link together to form a meaningful whole. I don’t outline a novel entirely before starting. But I do set myself waypoints in the narrative, events and character disclosures to aim towards along the way. Think of it as climbing Everest. You don’t begin by staring at the peak; you work out where your basecamps will be on the ascent.

This means that I do need to set down something that says, ‘In this section of the book certain things should happen if it’s to turn out the way I think’. Those things may change, of course, but setting them down gives me a direction, and all writing needs direction, a heading, even if you’re unsure of the eventual destination.


Ulysses 2.5 and a big new update for the iOS version

Writing A Novel with UlyssesIt’s no great secret that Ulysses is my writing tool of choice these days. I really can’t remember how I managed before I moved to it.

Today’s a big day for Ulysses users too. When the App Store swings into an action we’ll get an update of the Mac app to version 2.5. There’s also the release of a brand new version of the iOS app which makes it compatible with the biggest iOS device, the iPad Pro, and the smallest, any iPhone from the 4s up.

The Mac update is primarily under the bonnet stuff aimed at making iCloud sync faster and more efficient. One new feature is very welcome though — if you’re in the habit of splitting sheets there’s now a keyboard shortcut for the job: Command-Shift-B.

For iOS users the new version is very big news, much bigger than just compatibility with a broader range of devices. There are lots of new features and a fresh keyboard layout for writing and editing. All of this is covered in an update to my book Writing A Novel with Ulysses which has gone out on Kindle and iBooks today, with a new expanded section on iOS. It should be live soon though as ever the exact timing is beyond my control. You’ll be able to tell if it’s there since this edition has a new cover, above, and the version number 4.0

Which brings us to the perennial question I’m always asked when I do a free update to this book: how do you get it if you’re an existing buyer? If you bought it on iBooks the answer’s easy. You just follow these instructions and it should turn up automatically.

Unfortunately life’s a lot more complicated for Kindle users because Amazon refuse to send out automatic updates except in the case of books that contain technical errors. A comprehensive free upgrade isn’t enough. This explains everything. It’s daft but there’s nothing any author can do about it. The quickest way to get them to send you the update is to email them at, mention the title, and ask for it.

But fret not. Below you will find a condensed version of the new iOS section from the book which covers most of the new features I think will be of interest to someone writing a novel, which is the focus of the book. Hope you find it useful — and as ever many thanks to the ever-helpful folk at The Soulmen for their assistance in bringing out this update.


Little Sister: the third Pieter Vos book

91xEfCS+pOLDelighted to say that, as I finish the fourth book in the Vos series, the third, Little Sister, is now public and available for pre-order. It’s out from Macmillan on May 5 next year. The draft cover is on the right.

I’ll talk about the story in more detail closer to release. It sees Vos and Laura Bakker go beyond Amsterdam for the first time, into the rural area known as Waterland close to the city, along the vast inland lake once known as the Zuiderzee. A very different place indeed from the city Vos knows so well.

I try to make every book in a series different to the ones that come before. This is a tale about two troubled sisters, newly released from imprisonment, trying to unravel the truth about the family tragedy in which their parents and their little sister were murdered.