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A thought on the tools of a technically-minded writer

I am in no way affiliated with or suggesting purchases are made from a single company. I recommend the company I used for their service and ability to test in the UK, but keyboards should be bought from any company you can find in your region, trust, and – preferably – allow you to test the keyboards you wish. Any opinions here are solely from my personal experience; YMMV.


Having recently done my usual amount of intense research into bang-for-buck and quality-of-use products, I realised that I should probably post about it.

It is of constant interest to me, working as I do in the IT field and as an author, that people tend towards the flashy and cool and ignore the basic tools they use. Mouse, Screen, Keyboard, Applications, all are vitally important in their own way.

Of course, you can circumvent this by using the time-honoured pen and paper, but these days unless you are high profile – or very lucky – the chances are you are going to need to use the technical side extensively at least for edits.

Of all the tools a writer should respect, the keyboard is obviously the foremost. Keyboards are cheap these days because of their composition and manufacturing process. Everyone uses them on a PC, so they are churned out, and are, by and large, pretty basic.

This, of course, can lead to large problems. RSI, wear, unreliability, and inefficiency can all play a part. Many people find they are perfectly adequate for moderate use, but gamers and writers know better.

So I approached the problem with the plan, first and foremost, of writing; second to usage for many other things including gaming and online use. Rather than list all the differences and go into boring detail here (there are multiple YouTube videos on the subject if you are interested), I decided to pop in the section from my FAQs on keyboard which I recently updated, outlining what I bought, where from, and why.

So, please enjoy. I hope this is useful…



This is a must. If you spend any amount of time writing (or gaming), something that reduces RSI and gives tactile comfortable feedback is essential. I used to use the Roccat Ryos MK Pro with Cherry Brown switches, but like the other Roccat kit I’ve had it had poor build quality. LEDs were not protected for ESD correctly, and it was becoming harder to accurately type for some reason. It was decent when I first bought it, but I can’t recommend Roccat to people now.

So, I went looking and did a LOT more research. In the UK there is virtually nowhere to TEST mechanical keyboards, but this is CRITICAL if you are buying one! Although you can get 100/80/60% factors and many different switches with lights, effects, macros, etc, if this is mainly for typing focus on that. A lot of keyboards now have RBG lighting per key, macro keys, and so forth. Great for gaming, but for typing… less so.  I found The Keyboard Company, and they excelled at helping with this.

The most important things to consider are use (typing, typing/gaming etc) and the build quality, switches and feel. After that comes size, lighting, portability, etc.

There are 3 switches I recommend for serious typing (all rated to 50m keypresses):

Cherry MX brown

If you like quieter keys. My least favourite – feel too light and not tactile enough.

Cherry MX Blue

Lovely to type on, very tactile, clickety clack! Approaching typewriter. Heavier than the browns.


These are the cream of the crop, but very expensive hybrid membrane/mech capacitive switches. Most amazing things I have ever typed on. I am immediately MUCH faster and more accurate on these. There is no click, however.

Also, keyboards are built in different ways. If you want a long lasting keyboard, look at ones with a backplate of metal and keys made from PBT. ABS keys shine quickly and are light and clacky. PBT keys are superb – heavier, quieter, smoother, grippier, and don’t shine so much. Also more expensive!

After several hours testing of approximately seven keyboards, I finally selected the Japanese-built Realforce 105UB UK. It is NOT cheap – but I have never typed on such an amazing keyboard, and despite the 100% factor, lack of lights and lack of anything other than a standard keyset, it is utterly sublime to use. The gold-on-black is a dye sublimation limit on PBT (white doesn’t work well), but it actually looks fine in the flesh, and the keys won’t wear out.

The Varmilo VA69M Ice Blue was a close second on Cherry MX blues, as it had everything else I wanted. If it had been Topre, I’d never buy another keyboard, but the switches were the priority over portability for long term use. It’s also fully metal, so heavier than the Realforce! And the Blues are louder.

In the end, I actually bought both. The Varmilo is for casting the laptop to a tv and typing, or travel. It’s compact, solid and very nice to use. The Realforce is my dreamy desk typer, for longer sessions, and is just the best feeling keyboard I have used. Both are amazing, and highly recommended.

Other recommended typist’s boards are the Topre Heaven, Realforce RGB (ABS build however and costlier), Filco, and Das Keyboards. I did a LOT of research before settling for the Realforce (and Varmilo as a second), but you need to test one yourself, as everyone is different.

The Keyboard Company are based in Stroud and the only place I could find to test the things out before buying. They are knowledgeable, friendly and extremely helpful, dedicating testing time of several hours to me. I can’t recommend them enough.

The message here is… Don’t scrimp on the keyboard.

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I’m still going. Draft One still looms.

Life in general seems to have got in the way, but I am a lot closer to beginning the first edit. Book 2 has real form now.

More to follow soon!

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I can almost see the end of the first draft on the horizon…

…so that means book two is nearly finished!

Or, as we like to say in reality, so then the real work will start.

‘I’m nearly finished!’ I cry, eyeing the approaching culmination of the book, trying to ignore how lax I’ve been, slotting words in one by one in a veritable Jenga tower of epic proportions until the entire edifice is a superb masterpiece of thought, laid out in text. Of course, that isn’t it at all. One thing I learned with the first book, as every author does, is that although many people never even finish writing a book, finishing it is the end

…of the first step you take in that journey.

It is tempting to call the first draft FINAL, as if you lend flesh to it by the mere name. And it cannot ever be.

It might be virtually perfect, but you will have written too much, in all likelihood, or not enough in some places. You will have missed out some ideas, some thoughts you needed to express, and others will be wrong, or skeletal. However concisely you thought you wrote, notes crept in, ideas jotted down, and you will end up having to cry like an owner putting a loved pet to sleep as you brutally cut and slice chunks out of your creation, your art, your masterpiece.

It’s heartwrenching. It’s necessary. And that too is just the start. After that, you have to make sure it flows. You have to rearrange bits, and by bits I mean half of it.Then you go back through and check for spelling mistakes.

Once you have read your book in eight different versions in eight different ways, you might – might – think you are ready to have someone look at it, either for proofing (I’d still leave that for later, because of course you fucked up and need to fix things, and don’t even try and tell me you didn’t) or for general editing. And you can’t do that yourself, much as you think you can.

You see, it’s hard to navigate when you’re too close to the sun. You’re in the story. You see it like another world, at times. You don’t have the distance to make the right decisions. You need, God help you, a constructive criticiser. Not one who is snide, or snarky, or focuses on the unimportant things, but one who is positive, encouraging, and brutally, brutally honest about what is not working, and what is. And you need more than one. You need many. From many different loves of genre and walks of life. Professionals, casual readers, lovers and haters of the genre.

A first draft is a funny thing, really. It’s the finishing of a book, and the bigger and more complex, the more Olympic Golds you feel you have won, just for surviving to the end of the damned thing. And it’s about a third of the work.

If you know what you are doing and wrote well, you may spend less than a third editing and filling in. Probably, you will spend more. And that’s not including the spelling, and come what may, something will slip through. You will need to wait for people to read and get back. You yourself will need to take a break from it, let it lose immediacy and allow you a more cynical eye.

I can see in the distance the end of Tides of Chaos. It only makes me realise how much left there is to do, how many notes I have forgotten from a year ago I need to re-read, what is new I need to include, what should wait until the next book, what I have to tie into book one. And to my slightly more experienced eye (than last time), it is still probably at least 30, 000 words away. Yes, the length of a novel. And no, it won’t all make it in. I write like I sculpt, or like a bodybuilder preps. Add the substance, and then lean down, cut in, lose the excess, and leave the tight show-ready core exposed. (I tried to write it all perfectly. The books have had their own ideas on that method).

That’s the theory. It is more chaotic than that, partially because as I write a sizeable amount is left to whim as it happens, which can end up taking the story unexpected paths on their way to the goal. That is good. It surprises me. The muse takes control. That’s what happened with Aldwyn, and to a degree with Grukust. That’s how I knew what the title of The Serpent Calls actually meant.

I expect to get through a good ten drafts of this blighted book before it’s ready to even go to editors and peer reviewers for them to point out everything shit so I can make it flow and work. I know how it goes, but sometimes my head merges with the words and it’s hard to split them out and see what the hell I have written. Your mind fills in gaps; that’s why you need other people.

It doesn’t help that when I’m writing, it has the feeling for a long time of a vast, nebulous hurricane, a ponderous slow-moving storm that slowly and organically takes shape. All I feel I am really doing is pushing it along, and the shape changes often. If you get it right, it breaks and it’s perfect, or as perfect as you admit it when you finally stop tinkering.

Finishing writing a book is an incredible achievement. But it isn’t the final step.

Be prepared for at least as much work again afterwards, and that your child may feel like a changeling more than once before it is truly born. You need help, you need time.

But it is so, so worth it.

Don’t give up. If you feel you have a book in you, write it. If you only ever want to write it for yourself, do that. It’s quicker, easier. If you write for yourself and to share with others, there is more to do. But do it anyway.

Stories must be told.

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Has it REALLY been that long?!

Welp. I need to not Tweet so much and update the site more.

Exciting stuff so far – Book 2 is much further along, feels like it is coming together at last. The First Vampire has had a great reception, and lastly – and oddly – someone wants to open a Coffee Shop in Beijing named after Aldwyn.

So. Interesting times…

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Christmas time… Yosgaloth doth dine

Work progresses (slowly!) on Book 2… but it is Christmas, meaning I can put a bit more time in behind the keyboard.

Meanwhile, since it IS Christmas, the Kindle version of The Serpent Calls is free from the 24th to the 28th on Amazon.

Merry Christmas!

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The First Vampire out now

With good initial feedback from test readers, The First Vampire short story is out now in mini paperback and on Kindle!

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New short story incoming

News, everyone! A new short story set in the world of Kuln is about to go live both here and on Kindle.

The First Vampire is an origin story of the vampires of Kuln, their genesis, their horror and their tragedy.

It will be available for 0.99c/0.99p on, or as a free PDF download here.


The First Vampire

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Progress update…

Well, somehow I am about 60, 000 words into Book 2 (working title) and it’s a right old mess, but after writing a little backstory which took on a life of its own, I am pleased to say that shortly there will be another short story available on Kindle or here as a pdf.

Anyone who likes origin stories may find it interesting…

Keep your eyes to the ether.

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Two New Paperbacks

Very pleased to announce that both Involve Me and Notes on Dragons are now in paperback and mini-paperback respectively.


Site to be updated with versions for all books shortly!

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The new website has arrived…

As you can see. There will be a few tweaks and refinements upcoming for content/domain visibility/SEO and so forth, but this is essentially it. Feel free to explore… and let me know via the contact form if there is anything amiss.

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Deadline met!

I had a tight deadline for an opportunity to get the two ebooks into print, and I just about managed to get there. As a result, Notes on Dragons and Involve Me will both be shortly available to buy in paperback…

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The new site is nearly up!

Good news, everyone!


The site is almost go live, with a few exceptions. Best get it going, quick smart.

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