Writing a Book takes a Team!!

Writing a Book takes a Team!!

What is quite apparent is that writing a book requires a team of people. Rarely does one person have a complete skill set to handle the task.

Writing a book entails:

Having the imagination to envisage the novel.

Having the ability to create a plot.

Having the writing ability to create interest in a reader.

Being able to invent characters.

Being perceptive to see flaws in the plot.

Having the knowledge of grammar, punctuation and spelling to be able to correct mistakes.

Possessing the ability to make the language flow and create pace.

Being able to describe the novel in such a way as to create interest without introducing spoilers.

To possess the artistic skills to design a cover.

To build up the social media connections and other media connections to market the book.

Creative people rarely have the objectivity or skills to redraft, edit or see the flaws in their writing. They require a methodical editor to point out necessary improvements and corrections.

A person skilled at writing may not be at all skilled at design or even able to create an enticing and succinct back cover blurb.

Building up social networks, writing press releases, doing book signings and developing contacts, takes time. Most writers would rather be writing and might well be hopeless at communicating in other ways.

A team can hone and present a book to optimise its potential.

Writing a good book and selling it requires a good team. That’s why writers form relationships with publishers and Literary Agents.

The Process of Writing.

The Process of Writing.

I am certain that this process is different with all writers. We all have our ways of working. It is also clear that it is not always the same with me. Sometimes I have carefully plotted out a novel while at other times, I work with a vague idea and allowed it to unfurl as I progress.

I used the Butch Cassidy principle: there are no rules.

But always, as a novel progresses, as a character develops, a novel takes on a life of its own. It is a coalescence of ideas. I will wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and have to get out of bed to write it down or it is likely to go.

All my novels start with an idea. That might be sparked by a news story, a book I am reading, a programme I am watching or a train of thought. One idea is never enough though. It has to be married to others.

Often the end of the novel is what emerges first. I will often write the end first.

Always there comes that time when you sit at a computer (or a typewriter) and begin. You have a blank page in front of you and a head full of ideas. With me, there is excitement and anticipation.

The ideas have to have a setting and characters. With Sci-Fi, there are infinite possibilities.

I often write a beginning that is later superseded by another beginning. Once I get that first sentence down the rest seems to flow. The characters develop, the scenes change, the ideas flow. I struggle to keep up. It becomes like a line of dominoes. One knocks over another which sets two more falling over. I write quickly, trying to keep up with the ideas, following the characters and inventing settings. I work on the principle that with the first rewrite I can expand and fill everything out. It is as if the first draft is a rough sketch that gives the outline of the book. The rewrite starts to fill in the colour.

It is usual for me to increase the word by a good fifty per cent.

The second rewrite will again add a lot more.

The third rewrite is more of an editing process – changing words, altering sentence structure, correcting grammar.

The most important part for me in writing a novel is to get that first sentence down. After that, it is like an egg-timer. The sand grains are the ideas, characters and settings; I just allow them to trickle through until my head is empty.

Lawrence Durrell – Justine – some thoughts

Lawrence Durrell – Justine – some thoughts

My second literary event in the space of a few hours was to finish my reading of Lawrence Durrell’s book Justine – the first book of his Alexandria Quartet.

I bought the book back in 1969 and it has been sitting on my shelf ever since. It was one of those books that I was attracted to and yet thought it might be stodgy and old-fashioned.

I am a great fan of Gerald Durrell and loved all his books – particularly the Corfu trilogy. I adored his light humorous style. In that book he gives a pen-picture of his two brothers, mother and sister. Lawrence comes out as a bit of an arrogant prig, a bit up his own backside with lots of pretentions to literary genius.

I found that I was automatically thinking of the name Durrell differently in pronunciation for the two men. With Lawrence it came out as a more affected French sounding, refined Du Rell rather that the more common Durrell of Gerald. But that was just me.

I enjoyed the book and its picture of Alexandria. It was rather old-fashioned and it did take me a while to read. I found I could only do it in small chunks. But it was colourful. It left me with three abiding impressions:

  • One the vacuousness of life with its preoccupation with love affairs and sex
  • The casual elitism and racism that the white elite should exist at a totally different, rarified, level to the native Alexandrians
  • The casual attitude to the suffering and cruelty meted out to wild-life – the mass slaughter of the ducks and geese on the lake and the description of how boats used live tortoises for ballast. They were easier to collect that rocks. They put thousands of them in barrels in the bilge alive – and dumped the putrefying bodies into the sea when they the arrived in port – there were plenty more where they came from.

I think future generations (if there are any) will look back in horror at the cavalier way in which we have cruelly treated living creatures. We will be viewed as barbarians.

This is a book that I will go back to read again. I think I need to absorb more that one can glean from one reading.

Margaret Atwood in York! New book Hagseed! One of the world’s greatest writers!

Margaret Atwood in York! New book Hagseed! One of the world’s greatest writers!

Well I had quite a literary day yesterday and this morning. I went to see Margaret Atwood talk about her new book Hagseed (a reworking of the Tempest – she calls it a reimagining.).

I don’t write this as a review so much as an homage.

I rate Margaret as one of the greatest living writers (along with the likes of Iain McEwan, Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie and Kasuo Ishiguro) so it was a rare opportunity to see and hear a living legend.

She talked about the new book and the themes that were in it and urged us to watch the Helen Mirren film of the Tempest before reading the book – which I shall do.

She talked briefly about The Handmaid’s Tale and the way fundamentalists only want to ban the things people want to do. In this age of religious madness (hopefully its death-throes) I think it should be compulsory reading – if only to see the misogyny in religion.

She also talked about the death of the oceans, from which between 60% and 80% of all the world’s oxygen is made, and that the rich were probably at this minute constructing their underground homes with oxygen making facilities and looking forward to being rid of us all. (There’s a book in that!).

I shall watch the film and then read the book. It was a pleasure seeing a living legend.

p1140537

The graphics before the show were great. The words from Hagseed were used as figures walked through them or they squiggled about. p1140538 p1140540 p1140541 p1140542

Margaret was lucid and delightful.

p1140543 p1140544p1140545

John Fowles – Quote from The Tree – the real tragedy of the destruction of nature.

John Fowles – Quote from The Tree – the real tragedy of the destruction of nature.

I have just finished reading The Tree by John Fowles (writer of the Magus and French Lieutenants Daughter and one of my favourite writers). It was a splendid little book. It encapsulated his feeling of oneness with nature and trees – the wild – something that cannot be captured by science or art but that is a state of being.

While reading it I was particularly struck by one paragraph that resonated with me and would like to share it with you.

‘There is a spiritual corollary to the way we are currently deforesting and denaturing our planet. In the end what we must most defoliate and deprive is ourselves. We might as soon start collecting up the world’s poetry, ever line and every copy, to burn it in a final pyre; and think we should lead richer and happier lives thereafter.’

That sums up the grief and anguish I feel inside at the constant cruelty and destruction we are wreaking around the world. Each tree and creature is a poem in my world – a poem lost forever – and one that makes me all the poorer.

George Orwell Quotes – a man who saw politics for what it is – deceit, control and betrayal.

George Orwell Quotes – a man who saw politics for what it is – deceit, control and betrayal.

George was extremely intelligent, far-seeing and perceptive. His words still ring true.

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
The lies we are fed by politicians and the media!
If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.
Governments and corporations control and manipulate us.
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
History is written by the winners.
Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
We call that spin. They stoke up division and hatred. Make black and white out of grey and get us to vote for war.
War is a way of shattering to pieces… materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable and… too intelligent.
If only all the money spent on nuclear bombs, fighter planes, armies, tanks and war-ships was put into education and music the world would be a better place.
All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.
I thought this was pertinent to all Trump, Clinton, Brexit and Bremain supporters.
Big Brother is watching you!
In this age of surveillance it has never been truer! But it’s in our own interests – right?

A writer on writing – the downside.

A writer on writing – the downside.

IMG_2110

I enjoy writing. I find it a pleasurable experience. But it has many downsides:

  • It takes a long time – my first book took over two thousand hours of working and reworking (and was still crap)
  • It is antisocial. Writing is a solitary occupation that requires focus. It is a problem for relationships, friends and a social life.
  • It gets in the way of doing things. If I have a compulsion to write something it fills my head until I have written it down. Nothing else matters.
  • It can upset people. My life, friends and people that I have met become included in my writing. Some will not like the way they are portrayed.
  • You can become very obsessed and boring!

so it is probably not a good obsession to be saddled with!

These are my six books of poetry. They are available as paperback or on Kindle from Amazon – all for under £5 for a paperback. You could buy the whole lot for just £27.62!!

They are not conventional poetry books. They are like you find on my blog with a page of explanatory prose followed by the poem. The prose is as important as the poem to me.

 

Codas, Cadence and Clues – £4.97

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Codas-Cadence-Clues-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1530754453/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460847766&sr=1-4&keywords=opher+goodwin

Stanzas and Stances – £5.59

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stanzas-Stances-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518708080/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460882298&sr=1-9&keywords=opher+goodwin

Poems and Peons – £4.33

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Poems-Peons-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1519640110/ref=sr_1_25?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460882335&sr=1-25&keywords=opher+goodwin

Rhymes and Reasons – £3.98

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rhymes-Reason-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1516991184/ref=sr_1_28?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460882443&sr=1-28&keywords=opher+goodwin

Prose, Cons and Poetry – £4.60

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Prose-Cons-Poetry-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1512376566/ref=sr_1_35?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460882506&sr=1-35&keywords=opher+goodwin

Vice and Verse – £4.15

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vice-Verse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1514792079/ref=sr_1_36?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460882560&sr=1-36&keywords=opher+goodwin

 

 

Science Fiction books:

 

Ebola in the Garden of Eden – paperback £6.95 Kindle £2.56 (or free on unlimited)

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ebola-Garden-Eden-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1514878216/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461831172&sr=1-11&keywords=opher+goodwin

 

Green – paperback £9.98 Kindle £2.56 (or free on unlimited)

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Green-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1514122294/ref=sr_1_17?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461831333&sr=1-17&keywords=opher+goodwin

 

Rock Music books

 

In Search of Captain Beefheart – paperback £6.91 Kindle £1.99 (or free on unlimited)

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Search-Captain-Beefheart-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1502820455/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=146183144

3&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+Goodwin

 

Other selected books and novels:

 

Anecdotes-Weird-Science-Writing-Ramblings – a book of anecdotes mainly from the sixties and other writing.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anecdotes-Weird-Science-Writing-Ramblings/dp/1519675631/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461832001&sr=1-9&keywords=opher+goodwin

 

More Anecdotes – following the immense popularity of the first volume I produced a second

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/More-Anecdotes-Essays-Beliefs-flotsam/dp/1530770262/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461832001&sr=1-5&keywords=opher+goodwin

 

Goofin’ with the cosmic freaks – a kind of On the Road for the sixties

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Goofin-Cosmic-Freaks-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1500860247/ref=sr_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461832001&sr=1-13&keywords=opher+goodwin

The book of Ginny – a novel

 

 

In Britain :

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1461306850&sr=1-2-ent

 

In America:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=opher+goodwin

In all other countries around the world check out your regional Amazon site and Opher Goodwin books.

Anecdote – My Dad and a mug

Anecdote – My Dad and a mug

My Dad and a mug
My old man worked up in Fleet Street. He ran a news reporters office. They all called him Ron. He demanded high standards and made sure he worked harder and longer than anyone else.
Every day he was up at half past six. He smoked a roll up and drink a cup of tea before sorting his breakfast. He’d catch the seven thirty to Waterloo and be in the office by nine. He finished at five thirty and was home at six thirty. Mum would have his tea on the table. He’d eat an then sit on the soafa reading all the newspapers, (he had every single national paper), checking out the stories, places and names, and watch a bit of telly. He’d either smoke his pipe or roll-ups. At ten he would make a milky drink and go to bed.
I used to think the Kinks – Well Respected Man – had some resonance with his life. It was regulated. There did not seem room for anything else. He worked Saturday and Sunday followed a pattern. He’d mow the grass, carve the joint and occasionally go down the pub for a pint on the green.
I think he found his work satisfying, maybe fulfilling, but to me it looked drab. I despised the predictability and the way it demanded all of him. My mum resented it too. She did not like the way he put his entire being into it. She said he never turned off. I wanted something more out of life. Work was not going to steal my spirit.
When I was seven or eight he took me up to work with him. We went up on the train. I enjoyed the bustle of it. It was exciting to go into his office. I remember him walking into the place with confidence and purpose. He was the boss. As he walked through the door the teaboy handed him a mug of tea – milk and two sugars – he did not even break stride. It was as if he had been waiting. He probably had. Dad was like clockwork. I was super impressed.
Dad took me to his office. We sat with mugs of tea while dad checked all the raw reports sitting in his in-tray. He corrected grammar and spelling and sent it off to the editorial office or filed it elsewhere.
I watched the office. I was intrigued. Dad had thirty people working for him on telephones plus a bunch of ancillary staff such as the teaboy and clerical staff. All of the telephone reported sat in little carels with headphones on and a Remington typewriter. Reporters at the scene would phone in their raw reports. The telephone reporter typed it up. They had to type at the speed the news reporter spoke – and sometimes they spoke fast. The task of a telephone reporter was to type fast enough to get it down and to ensure grammar, spelling and punctuation was correct. That was quite an ask.
I sat and watched, mesmerised, by it all. All around there were typewriters rattling away, mugs of tea being delivered and drunk, fags smoked and ashtrays filling to overflowing. There was a blue haze in the room. My dad sat in his office as report after report rolled in. He scrutinised, corrected and sent them on their way. Phones were continually ringing, people rushing about and a general buzz of excitement.
This was where the news happened. It was intense. You could taste the adrenaline.
Dad’s role was crucial. He hired and fired and ran the office. He sorted and made decisions about what to pass on and where it went. He corrected the script. There were deadlines and sometimes great spurts of activity so that he was inundated. Then it might ease off for a while.
Dad had a good team. He only employed the best. He told me his system. He always met with the person applying then he gave them a test that probed their weaknesses. It was a speed typing test with punctuation and spelling. He told me he had two tests – extremely hard and impossible. If he liked the applicant he gave them the extremely hard one. If they passed he hired them. If he did not like them he gave them the impossible one.
I enjoyed my day at his office. I was pampered by the clerical staff and the reporters. I could see that they liked and respected dad. I could also see that the adrenaline and frenetic nature of the job was addictive. There was a camaraderie and professionalism. It was hard, intense and required skills and concentration.
But what impressed me most was the way that mug of tea had been placed in his hand as he walked in. That spoke reams.

Extract from Maslow’s Stranger (a long short story)!

The stranger found himself back out in the dusty street.

The next house called him across to it, and this one felt right, though he doubted that he could trust his feelings any more. He was still shaking from the previous experiences. He was beginning to doubt himself and his own intuition.

Inside the rooms were empty apart from rows of huge vats. He looked at them with mounting trepidation, reining in his feelings and gathering himself back under control.  Past experience had caused great internal conflict. He was not sure he could he could trust anything again. He did not know if he could take much more of this.

He frowned to himself as he studied the vats. He no longer knew what to expect. This whole sequence of events was outside of his experience. There was no way of knowing what was going to happen next. It seemed that he was being led and all that was open to him to do was to follow, to go where he was pulled. Giving himself up to this new feeling of predestination he walked across to investigate. Each bucket was equipped with a huge spoon.

He peered inside the first and found that it was full of letters. Taking hold of the spoon he stirred the contents and watched in unexpected fascination as the letters first formed themselves into words and then the words arranged themselves into sentences. He peered into the layers and layers of swirling paragraphs forming countless stories, reading them, drawn into them until immersed. The stories spoke of such adventure and intrigue, lust, honour and imagination that they sent the soul soaring. With each new stir a new story appeared.

He was fascinated and continued to stir and read. When he stirred rhythmically the words arranged themselves into poems and danced with fun or illuminated feelings with metered insight. The words revealed wonder that transcended the limits of their inspiration. A lifetime could be spent in awe and fulfilment in the thrall of this magic; a lifetime peering into the magic of the characters, feelings and worlds conjured up by the arrangement of those words. He stopped stirring and they settled back into independent letters again, each a potential explosion of nuance waiting to be awoken.

His mind thrilled to the power of those words and urged him to once again dip and stir. But he felt the pressure of time. There was so much still to do, so great a gamut of experience, so many buckets to stir. It was time to move on.

The next vat was full of colour and when he stirred this images flowed before his eyes. They arranged themselves into shapes, beautiful collages, and spectacular scenes. The vibrant colours shone with aching intensity. The images spoke to him with emotion as they captured the scope of human experience.

The third produced sound and as he stirred the sounds interacted to produce music, and the music weaved its magic patterns to soothe his brain and then rose to jerk the passion from out of his soul until the tears flowed down his cheeks. He stirred harder and the music rose majestically to fill him with pride and resolve.

His spirits soared. It felt like play and he rushed from vat to vat stirring and delighting in what was produced.

He had ceased to be amazed by anything anymore. He had stopped having expectations and no longer looked for answers. For the moment ‘doing’ was quite enough.

For hour after hour, lost in time, he rushed from vat to vat excited to find what he could see. The rhymes, the rhythms and the shapes. The mysteries explored and the truths revealed. And every one of them new. Every one unique. Everything as no one had ever seen before and would never see again. And when he stopped stirring then everything was lost. Only he could create these new patterns, these forms, and these sounds. They all came out of him. They were of him and he gave them life. Maybe that was sufficient?

He ceased playing with the words, colours and sounds in the various vats and whimsically made his way back out into the deserted streets.

There were many other houses. Who knows, maybe he would find someone who could tell him who he was, where he had come from and how to get out of this place? There had to be someone to ask, some way of making sense of this experience.

The sun still shone intensely.

The dust devils played around him.

The stranger set off to discover more.

Visiting Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller at Big Sur.

This is Big Sur. It’s a holy place in my mind – Sacred Ground.

This is the place where two of my biggest heroes came, lived and wrote – Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller.

This is the country, high mountains and rocky shores, where mountain lions call and the bush is tinder dry.

This is where we hitch-hiked back in the Summer of 1971. A place where the Milky Way was a mystical dust spread across the heavens and Pfeiffer State beach was a magic sanctuary of warm, friendly strangers, where we shared stories, music, food, drink and spliff and watched the sun go down over that warm, inviting ocean.

Back in 1971 Henry Miller was still alive and we discussed trying to find out where he lived and going to visit. But we were crazy kids. What would he want with us? So we didn’t.

I wish we had.

We went in search of his ghost in 2011. We’d seen the ghost of the Grateful Dead in SF at the Fillmore. We’d seen the ghost of Kerouac in another Beat Museum in SF.

Now it was Henry’s turn.

This was his house, where he’d written, got drunk and entertained friends. We’d found it much too late.

He was not there.

Like Kerouac he only existed in the dust and words that blew around my feet and in my head.

We had the sunset, the stars, the rocks and waves; and we had the books.

The Mountain Lions still roared.

It didn’t matter.