Just one page...

The benefits of starting small

Just one page...

It was three days before I was due to break for Christmas. The greenlight had come in late on a new graphic novel and the editor needed twenty-eight pages written before the big Ho-Ho-Ho. The only trouble was that I was exhausted, running on fumes. Twenty-eight pages seemed a mountain too high to climb in the days I had left before shutting up shop for the festivities.

So I did what I always do. I blocked out the pages, planning what would happen on each. Then, I started chunking up the work. Three days. Could I write fourteen pages a day for the first two, giving myself the third to edit them into shape? That was possible. I try not to write more than ten pages a day to maintain my energy levels, but then I wouldn’t have enough time to polish the zero draft before submitting.

Still a mountain, then. Still daunting. Fine, I’d break it down even more. If fourteen pages was too much, what if I thought of them as seven pages in the morning, seven in the afternoon? That was doable, wasn’t it?

In theory, yes, but sitting there on day one, it still seemed impossible. I was spent. I’d formatted the document for writing, had my page plan on my second screen… and was considering emailing the editor to say it would be in after Christmas. Yes, I told myself, that’s what I’d do. I just didn’t have enough juice in the tank. The world-weary, bleary-eyed devil on my shoulder was telling me to give up, to knock off early. I mean, Die Hard 2 wouldn’t watch itself, right?

The lure of John McClane almost got me, but I knew I wouldn’t enjoy the world’s second-greatest Christmas movie unless I at least tried to write something. What about just the first page? It was a splash page, after all. One picture, little in the way of dialogue. Get that done and I’d feel like I’d achieved something.

So that’s what I did, typing ONE (SPLASH) at the top of the page, followed by the panel description and what little dialogue there was…

And before I knew it, I found myself typing ‘TWO’ at the beginning of the next page and jotting down the next line of speech… and the next… and the next.

Before too long, I’d written the dialogue for the first six pages of the comic, (very) roughly broken up into panels. All I needed to do was go back and add the descriptions and then write the seventh page. Then, it would be time for lunch: a beautiful fresh pumpkin soup my wife had made the day before, leaving it in a big pot on the stove. Yum.

Fast forward to the end of the second day, and I had all 28 pages drafted and ready for editing.

(Plus, I’d watched Die Hard 2 over three lunch hours! Yippee-Ki-Yah!)

Now, I don’t want you to think I don’t believe in rest or recuperation. As someone who is learning to live with chronic pain and fatigue, it’s essential I listen to my body, but I also believe in the power of ‘just one page.’

In fact, it doesn’t even have to be just one page. It can be just one panel. One paragraph. Just one line even.

The point is that you’ve made a start and even the slightest motion can generate momentum. Yes, you may have to go back and edit what you’ve written, but it’s on paper or the screen. It’s started, and once you’ve started, it’s so much easier to keep going.

I’m writing this on the 2nd January 2024 when the year seems shiny and new, but new years bring a shed-load of pressure to start that big project you’ve been putting off. Forget one lousy mountain — it can feel like an entire mountain range! So, if you’re starting the new year feeling overwhelmed or daunted about the path ahead, don’t worry about the rest of the journey; just take the first step and see where it leads you…


In a change to previous newsletters, I’m going to start listing my latest podcasts and news at the bottom of my main posts rather than sending out dedicated round-ups. Hope this works for everyone!

Recent appearances include a chat about all things High Republic and more with Talkin’ Tauntauns

…and Star Wars, Doctor Who and general writing craft talk with Coffee With Kenobi!

Meanwhile, artist Luke Horsman and I chatted to Comicbook about our return to 2000AD with Enemy Earth Book 3.

Elsewhere, I was really happy to see Tales from Vader’s Castle topping a list of Star Wars stories that would make great horror movies!


One of the best things I did in 2023 was reinventing my newsletter. Substack made it super-easy and I’ve loved how this community has grown from your comments on posts to our video hangouts. And, seeing how sporadic I used to be sending out newsletters, I’m chuffed to little pieces that I’ve managed to publish 43 weeks in a row since March!


However, just before Christmas, the Substack founders made comments that haven’t sat well with me. Substack, it seems, is quite happy to continue taking money from those using the platform to monetize Nazi views and propaganda. You can read more about the statement here on the New York Times website.

I’m currently looking to see what alternatives there might be to get this newsletter into your inbox. However, finding the right service will take some time, especially while juggling my various projects this month. Please bear with me in the meantime.

And when I do make the switch, you won’t have to do anything, as your email will be ported over to the new service, so you keep receiving the Cavletter as usual! Stay tuned!


Throughout 2024, I’m going to try to sign off every Tuesday email by answering one of your questions! If there’s anything you’d like to ask me, simply reply to this mail or ask it in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer it in an upcoming newsletter.

Subscriber Dave Williams asks:

Any targets or goals for 2024? Any special releases you’re looking forward to?


Happy New Year to you too, Dave!

Yup, I’ve set some goals for 2024. Workwise, one of my main goals is to write a new spec screenplay, hopefully by the end of June. Away from work, I’m trying to build a new habit: at least 10 minutes a day practicing the concertina! I bought the squeeze box a while back on a whim, and it’s been glaring at me from a shelf ever since! Believe me, I’m going to need the practice! I’m wondering if it’s the right instrument for someone with banana fingers like me, but nothing ventured and all that jazz.

I’ll let you know how I get on!


And there you have it, my first newsletter of 2024! Perfect Sunday will return this weekend, so keep an eye out for that.

In the meantime, stay safe and keep taking those small steps…