Ten Things You Should Know About Writing a Novel With Ulysses, by David Hewson

Prize Draw: Win a Hand-Signed Hardback of David’s Latest Mystery Novel

David Hewson’s latest novel set in Amsterdam, ”Little Sister”, appeared in the UK on May 5 and will be published in the Netherlands in September. It was written entirely in Ulysses. Here are David’s top ten tips to follow if you’re planning a Ulysses novel too.

David Hewson
David Hewson is a bestselling author of mystery novels. He has also published several guidebooks for aspiring authors, among them “Writing a Novel With Ulysses” (available with

Amazon and iBooks).

1. Don’t wander. It’s tempting to try to use other pieces of software — outliners, notes apps — to monitor your novel as it progresses. With other apps maybe you need that. With Ulysses you don’t. Simplify, simplify, simplify by putting everything into Ulysses and nowhere else.

2. To do that you’re going to need organise things. Have a main group for your novel project, a subsidiary group for your manuscript and a second for management. Use the latter for all the subterranean detail your novel requires — location, research, characters, a book diary.

3. Monitor your progress. At the end of every week I make a note of how many words I’ve written over the past five days and how I’m feeling about the project. When you’re wondering if it’s going anywhere you can go back to these entries and hopefully convince yourself you’re still on track.

4. Always, always, jot down brief scene synopses at the beginning of each sheet so you can see in brief what’s going to happen. Try to end the day by creating a new sheet synopsis. It will help drag you forward when you come back to the work.

5. Take your work with you. Now Ulysses is on the iPad and iPhone too you can keep an eye on your project anywhere. Remember: writing isn’t just about setting down words. It’s about editing and having ideas too. I can’t write seriously on an iPhone. But I can set down chunks of dialogue and possible narrative events very easily — and do.

6. With that last point in mind… always jot things down. Never leave anything to memory. Use Ulysses as an idea dump. If it’s a dumb idea it doesn’t matter. If it’s a lost one it does.

Little Sister Cover
Ulysses users can win a hand-signed copy of “Little Sister”.
7. Be brave when it comes to playing with the narrative. If a scene feels too long split it and perhaps divide it between a different narrative thread. Ulysses is so adapt at cutting, merging and splitting scenes. You’ll be amazed how easy it is sometimes to fix a story problem just by juggling what you have already. You can always wind back to an earlier version of course. Or just duplicate the scene and put the original in a group somewhere for easy retrieval.

8. Don’t feel the need to work in a linear fashion. If you have a brilliant idea four scenes ahead of the one you thought you’d be working on write it. If it’s good it may well improve the earlier scenes you have yet to produce too.

9. Keep up the continuity with other scenes by viewing them as you work on a new one. The simple way to do this is just to select the scene before the one you’re writing. But Ulysses is much smarter than that. Imagine you have a scene that depends on a storyline much earlier in the book. Command click that earlier scene (or scenes) and you will see them above your current one as you write. This makes it very easy to avoid simple continuity errors and keep a consistent voice to your work.

10. Stay in Ulysses throughout. I have to deliver books to my publishers in Microsoft Word. There’s a temptation to think, close to the end, that you might as well export into Word and finish everything there. Don’t. You’re only adding to your workload and Ulysses is much better for revision than Word. Finish the book in Ulysses, export to Word, give it a read through there, and make any necessary changes. Then, if you want, drag the final revise back into your project group. That way you can handle any editor revisions in Ulysses or Word — whichever suits.

Are you a mystery fan? We’re giving away one first edition hardback of “Little Sister”, hand-signed by David Hewson. To enter the drawing, write to giveaway@ulyssesapp.com, subject line: Little Sister. Closing date is May 22, 2016.

Update: The raffle is closed, the winner is Jay Ray.

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Rebekka Honeit

Blog-curating writing maniac and public relations person. Loves coffee, chocolate cookies and literature. Finds peace in tweaking press copy.