Wednesday 20 February 2013

STAC? What's that?

Welcome Wednesday has a great post to share from my fellow Crooked Cat author - David Robinson

David writes cosy mysteries - fast and furious - along with some of what he calls 'darker stuff' , but it's mainly his STAC mystery series that he's sharing with us, today.  

What does STAC stand for? Why it's the Sandford Third Age Club and at its forefront is super sleuth, Joe Murray.

I’m known for the speed at which I can turn out my work. “How do you do it?” is a question I’m often asked. The answer is simple and anyone can do it.
I can turn out a full-length novel in as little as a month or as long as two years. The underlying truth is that both take the same amount of writing time.
Last year, my publisher, Crooked Cat Books, took on a previously self-published title, Voices. At 110,000 words, it’s the longest novel I have ever published. The first draft ran to 120,000 words and it took just 33 days to write. But to revise, edit, re-revise and complete up to publication standards, it took just under two years.
Contrast that with my series of minor bestsellers, the STAC Mysteries. If I pushed myself, I could turn out one every six weeks, and just recently we’ve not been far short of that: Murder at the Murder Mystery Weekend was published in November, My Deadly Valentine, followed in February, and The Chocolate Egg Murders, the seventh in the series, is scheduled for March 20th.
How is it done? 
When I’m writing the STAC Mysteries, I keep the prose simple, and my vocabulary limited. The essence is on the entertainment value, the inherent puzzle and finding the vital clue which unmasks the killer. I work to a plot outline, which gets me from A to B via the shortest route, and I’m not troubled by descriptions of bloodied corpses or steamy interludes between characters. There is no sex in the STAC Mysteries, only hints, and there is no violence other than the thinnest skim, and that is less than you’ll see in a Tom & Jerry cartoon.
There’s usually a subplot, but it tends to act merely as an aside to main thrust of the tale. With the exception of My Deadly Valentine, the locations I use are real towns and cities, and although the hotels, pubs, cafes within them are fictitious, they’re easily recognised as British High Street institutions.
Because they’re so direct, they’re also much shorter than the standard 100,000-word novel. Murder at the Murder Mystery Weekend, The longest STAC Mystery, is barely 83,000 words and the shortest comes in at about 50,000 words.
Everything is set up, therefore, to turn the titles out quickly, and with good reason. I may not have hundreds and thousands of loyal readers out there, but those I have clamour for more the moment they’ve read the latest.
The process has one final ingredient: my work ethic. I’m fortunate in that I’m semi-retired, by which I mean I no longer work for an employer. When I did, it was never less than 35 hours a week, and often it was up to 60 hours a week. Half a century of that gets into your blood, and these days, I’m at the keyboard no later than seven every morning, and when I’m pressing to get out a new title, I put in a minimum eight to ten hours a day. It’s rare that I will go through a day without producing at least 3,000 words, and often, I go way beyond that.
The math is very simple. Three thousand words per day produces an 80,000-word title in 27 days. I don’t hold with this business of put it away for two months and come back to it fresh. When it’s finished, I take one day away from it, then come back and re-read., making adjustments as I go along. From there it goes to my good friend and editor, Maureen Vincent-Northam, who can usually turn them round in a week. I make the corrections, pass it back to her and if she okays it, the M/S goes off to Crooked Cat.
Does it work?
As I write, all six STAC Mysteries are in the top 100 of the UK Kindle crime/mystery/British Detectives chart. They’re not setting the world on fire, but they sell consistently, and for the most part, readers enjoy them and come back for more.
I’ll never win the Booker, I’ll never challenge 50 Shades or Harry Potter, but I enjoy working with Joe and co, and as long as that is the case, I’ll carry on turning them out.
Buy Link:
David Robinson is a freelance writer and novelist. A Yorkshireman known for his and one-megaton sense of humour and outspokenness, he is a trained hypnotherapist and former adult education teacher, now retired. He writes in various genres, but is best known for the STAC Mysteries, a series of traditional British whodunits, published by Crooked Cat Books and available as both e-books (all formats) and paperbacks.
He can be found at  and the background to the STAC Mysteries can be found at
Thank you, David, for that great insight into your writing methods. I'm delighted to see they are paying off with great ratings in the charts.  Best wishes with all your books and a happy launch of your next!


  1. I still don't know how you do it. I suppose it helps that you don't have all the stuff in yours that I do in mine, like History. Tell me why I do that? I'm currently bogged down in the English Civil Wars. However as my publishers don't want this one until July, there's no rush, but I'd love to write them in six weeks...

    1. Hello Lesley. I'm curently writing a historical, too, and wish I could just dash it off as quickly as David does. Though, I do have to say his dedication and typing speed are not something I can compete with either!

  2. I can't imagine me being able to turn them out as fast. My research takes hours, and that is not procrastination time! It took me four years for first, 18 months for second, and I am pressuring myself for six months with current wip. Discipline is required! Keep up the good work.

    1. Hello, Glynis. (Excuse me. Can't resist commenting here, David) Glynis - your name is one of those tagged by my friend Paula Martin for the latest 'blog hop' tagging thingy. See you there. :-)

  3. What I didn't mention was that having a sad life helps, and as lives go, they don't come much sadder or more boring than mine :(

    1. Aww! How can you say that, David? You've just had a lovely wee holiday to the Costa Fortune! You seem to do heaps of 'living' from your desk as well! :-)


Thank you for reading my blog. Please pop your thoughts about this post in the comment box. :-)