My new writing regime

Posted on January 31, 2014 (Subscribe to Blog)

2014 started well. I have a lot on my plate this year with two Island of Fog novels, two Unearthly Tales novels, and whatever else I can cram in, so I wanted to get into a habit of using my time more productively.

One thing I kept doing before was "having a rest" between books. I would finish a Fog book and sit back for two or three months thinking about the next one, and when I finally got started, I wish I'd got started earlier! So the first change in my new writing regime is the total abolition of rests. (I get enough rests when I sleep at night. What more do I need?)

Another change is something that's occurred naturally, and that's my ability to write betterer that wot I did afore. I have several steps during the writing process that involve different devices and programs, and this has changed over the years. Here's how it used to be:

  1. Write first draft on laptop (includes multiple recaps)
  2. Re-write on laptop (again, includes multiple recaps)
  3. Read through and correct on laptop
  4. Print on paper and read again for final typos
  5. Print as hard copy paperback and read again
  6. Send to brother Darren for his exhaustive proofreading skills
  7. Last looks and publication

Those were the early days. Where I mention "recaps" above, those are multiple re-reads of the bits I'd just written in the days before, so the whole process was more than just five complete sweeps. Overall I probably read the book seven or eight times, initially in small chunks and then as a whole. It actually got really tiresome, and that's why I always had a rest between books!

My methods have changed bit by bit with each book. Lately, I've found that the second step is not so intensive. Apparently I've got better at this writing lark over the years, and my first draft is more polished than it used to be. This means I can sort of merge Steps #2 and #3.

Also, in the last couple of years, I've been making more use of my phone while out and about with the help of the Google Drive app, which allows me to read, edit, or comment "live" on my book – "live" because it uploads my changes immediately, in real time, to my Google account. And when I get home, I can open up Google Drive on my laptop and see the same book complete with all the changes I just made while sitting in a parking lot waiting for my wife to finish shopping (*ducks to avoid thrown brick*). So it's a very mobile way of working.

Using a phone to edit is limiting, though. The screen is tiny, and the keyboard even tinier! So this month I bought a tablet – just a cheap $140 Asus MemoPad, nothing fancy, just something bigger to work on instead of my phone. With a 7" screen, my book in Google Drive looks fabulous and is so much easier to read and edit. (And by the way, the tablet may not be anything fancy, but it's far better than the Nexus I tried a year ago, and about half the price.)

Another big change is the use of beta readers. I try to whip the book into the best shape I can before putting it out there, and even then I end up with a long list of typos and corrections when beta readers are done with it.

My writing regime is now like this:

  1. Write first draft on laptop (includes multiple recaps)
  2. Read through and correct on tablet
  3. Upload to Google Drive for first round of beta reading (fellow author only)
  4. Make corrections and prepare for second round of beta reading (multiple readers)
  5. Make more correction as necessary
  6. Send to brother Darren for his exhaustive proofreading skills
  7. Last looks and publication

You could say it's the same number of steps as before. But it's a far more efficient and less tedious system, and the beta readers give me a way to "test the water" before actual publication, which is nice.

Yet another change to my writing regime is more tea! And by tea, I mean the hot kind with milk and a bit of sugar, not that horrible cold stuff Americans drink. I mean proper Tetley British Blend. Black tea is good for you, and experts recommend at least five cups a day, dontcha know. :-)

So what does all this mean? Well, in a nutshell it means more books! I wrote my first Unearthly Tales novel, Sleep Writer, throughout January and have already re-read and edited it on my tablet. That experiment was a huge success. Now it's in the hands of my writing buddy Brian Clopper, and after that I'll ask for beta readers. I expect to publish it around March (electronic edition only).

This book is half the length of a Fog book though, so don't expect the same turnaround with Prison of Despair, which I started a couple of days ago. I've done the first chapter, but I estimate this book will take about two months for the first draft.

Google Drive + Tablet + Cups of Tea = Lots of Books

A winning formula!

Comment by MELISSA on Friday, January 31, 2014...

I do hope you add the second book of Fractured to your line-up! Pretty please!

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Friday, January 31, 2014...

Ha! Yes, that's the other book if I/we can cram it in. :-)

Comment by DANIEL ROBINSON on Friday, January 31, 2014...

A really good read that was! Do you add biscuits to your tea, or is there no time for that yet?? Hehe

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Friday, January 31, 2014...

Biscuits! I should, shouldn't I? I don't normally, but... *rubs chin and nods slowly with smile on face*

Comment by LAURA CANNING on Friday, January 31, 2014...

Great ideas, Keith. I got a fancy new phone for Christmas and have just started updating with Google Drive. The cheap memo pad seems like a good idea too. But what on unearthly are you doing not having milk in your tea?!

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Friday, January 31, 2014...

I *am* having milk in my tea, Laura! You must have read it wrong. It's okay, I'm a true Brit when it comes to tea and toast. Nothing will sway me there. I even had crumpets yesterday; we had Warburtons saved in the freezer. And we need more of them (hint hint, soon-to-be-visiting-in-2014 parents).

How's your Lisa sequel?

Comment by BRIAN CLOPPER on Saturday, February 1, 2014...

You mention how much tighter your first drafts are now. That's something happening with my own writing. Three years into producing over a dozen novels, I'm finding my writing is more thought out from the get-go and that much less needs to be overhauled.

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Saturday, February 1, 2014...

I've noticed that with yours as well, Brian. It's all about putting the time in and writing a lot. How many words do you think you've written overall? My seven Fog books are about 95-105k each, plus Quincy's Curse at 70k, my half of Fractured at maybe 40k... and my new Sleep Writer book at 50k... So that's about 810,000 words. Nearly at the million mark! Some editors have been known to suggest writing a million words before ever trying to get a book published. I understand the sentiment but I think a million is a bit much!

Comment by BRIAN CLOPPER on Saturday, February 1, 2014...

You got me curious. I tallied up the word count of my sixteen books, that's including my half of Fractured and 40,000 from the book I am writing currently, Irving 2.

I came up with 1,063,000. I'm a millionaire in something! Holy cow, how did that happen?

I will say that writing every day feels amazing. Very rarely do I skip a day. Even if I only squeeze out a 30-minute session, I find my day feels somehow more complete and I actually come away creatively refreshed. With the recent snow days here, I got 10,000 words in 5 days.

Also, having a fellow writer who keeps you motivated is a big plus!

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Saturday, February 1, 2014...

Ditto! And here's to the next million. :-)

Comment by DEB on Friday, February 7, 2014...

You are so right. Having a rest doesn't give me the magical feeling of creativity that I get when I'm writing. I do think a conscious holiday is ok - a week of recharge.

Comment by HAKEEM on Saturday, February 15, 2014...

I have a question, what kind of books do you like to read. Or do you read at all, being so busy with writing and all.

Comment by PETE9012S on Sunday, February 16, 2014...

Enjoyed the resume of how your writing is improving and getting easier, Keith.You're becoming like a well oiled machine! (in the nicest possible way of course!)

Have you (or would you) consider writing an adult book at all?

Best wishes


Comment by ROGER ESCHBACHER on Sunday, February 16, 2014...

Impressive! I'm coming around on your Google Drive step. It was such a productive and pleasant part of the whole 'Wonderstorms' experience that I think I'll be incorporating it into future beta reads.

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Sunday, February 16, 2014...

Deb — a week of recharge is acceptable, just time to have a celebratory drink or three. :-)

Hakeem — I read mostly fantasy of some kind, occasionally zombie books. The last book I read (last week) was Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which I would recommend. It has a foggy island (in Wales) filled with peculiar children with special talents. What's not to like? Roger, you might like it too because it's filled with creepy old photographs. Check out the reviews and so on.

Pete — I've certainly considered writing an adult book but am honestly not sure it suits me. I'm sure to try it one day. The subject matter would still be creepy-weird or horror or supernatural, just a lot darker.

And Roger again — so glad Google Drive worked for you! Still looking forward to your (revised) Leonard Book 2. ;-)

Comment by ROGER ESCHBACHER on Tuesday, February 18, 2014...

I've heard good things about 'Miss Peregrine' and will definitely check it out. Still working on Book 2 but hope to have it to you soon.

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