Writing

Writing.

 

I have always enjoyed reading, right from an early age, and writing seemed a natural progression.

In Primary school, Friday afternoon was my favourite time. We were given the whole afternoon to write ‘a composition’. Back then we wrote with a pen and ink. You dipped your nib in an inkwell. My index finger and thumb were always stained with ink. I was not the tidiest boy. My pages were a mass of blots and smudges. But I wrote reams. It flowed out of me. I struggled to keep up.

It has been that way ever since.

I loved it. I allowed my imagination to run down whatever path it chose. I wrote about anything that came into my head – mostly nature; I was besotted with nature.

I think my love of Sci-fi was nurtured by the old comics we used to read – Adventure and Wizard. They always had a Sci-fi story or two which I greatly enjoyed.

As I grew into a teenager I moved on to Sci-fi novels. John Wyndham was my favourite.

I started writing novels when I was in college.

I had no desire for wealth or fame. I merely had a headful of ideas and enjoyed writing. The ideas came and I wrote them down. It was a natural progression. At college, my friends and I would stay up all night gabbing about life, death and the universe. My mind was lit up. So I wrote it all down. Some were Sci-fi, some philosophy, some nature and some spiritual. It was incoherent, adolescent but fun.

I suppose back then I had a vague notion of living the poor writer’s life, eking a living in some garret and devoting myself to my art. I was transfixed by writers like Kerouac, Henry Miller, Robert Sheckley and Isaac Asimov. They inspired me to write.

Life intruded.

But the writing still continued. After the kids were asleep and the wife had gone to bed I would be at my typewriter tapping away into the early morning – completely absorbed – just me and a stream of ideas. It took me over.

I accumulated great wadges of novels, bored friends, drove the wife to distraction, and yet still carved out a career in education.

But I always told myself that, when I retired, I would rewrite all my scribblings, knock them into shape, and get them published.

What I now have is the result of fifty-years work.

Poetry -Out of Nowhere

Out of Nowhere

 

It came out of nowhere,

Creating somewhere,

Getting bigger.

Then it will die.

 

It was not created,

Not planned,

With no direction.

It just happened.

 

It has constant laws

So immutable –

Create what we are,

Dictate what we do.

 

It is made of energy,

Matter and antimatter,

Quarks and rays,

Lots of space.

 

It has time.

Time isn’t constant.

Time stopped.

Time started.

 

We live in it.

We are of it.

It is in us.

We see it.

 

We cannot understand

How or why.

Or that permanence

Is the illusion.

 

Opher – 27.7.2020

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.

Designing the cover

Designing the cover

No matter how good your book is nobody is going to know that until they start to read it. The only things they have got to go on is the book cover and what you have written about the book on the back cover. If you are not a well-known name you have to rely on attracting potential readers through the visual medium.

An eye-catching cover, along with enticing back-cover notes, might just convince a reader to take a chance on you as a new writer.

I remember having a depressing conversation with an editor. He asked me how many Sci-Fi books an average Sci-Fi fan might read in their lifetime. I enthusiastically replied ‘thousands’. He was more sceptical but asked me how many good Sci-Fi books, by established writers, were already published and out there. We left that hanging.

He then asked me to imagine I was going on a long flight and I wanted to buy a novel for the journey. He told me to imagine I was browsing the Sci-Fi section at a book shop. Would I be more attracted to an Isaac Asimov or an Iain Banks that I had not read than taking a chance on a Ron Forsythe?

It was a tad disheartening.

All one can do is to design a cover that attracts, like a flower touting for bees. The cover can be a make or break. It has to stand out from the crowd.

A cover should say something; it should visually relate to the story. It is a statement. It tells the reader what the book is about within a scan of the eye.

The cover should also capture something of the author.

A picture says more than a thousand words.

Designing a cover is crucially important.

Here are the covers I have designed for my books:

The wonders of Editing.

The wonders of Editing.

Having written the book, restructured and rewritten/redrafted the text, it is time to start the editing.

Having now achieved a book whose ‘shape’ and story you are happy with, it is time to make sure it works for readers. The writing has to flow so that a reader becomes absorbed in the story and not the words. If a piece of writing works, it creates pictures in the readers head, it conveys emotions, the characters come to life and the world inside the story becomes real.

Part of the success of a story is the sentence structure, the grammar and the spelling. Clumsy sentences, spellos and bad grammar break the spell. Once the spell has been broken, the whole of the magic you have worked hard to create dissolves.

Editing requires objectivity. Objectivity is almost impossible because, having created your ‘baby’, you are emotionally connected. When you read back through your work you are subjective, you know exactly what you meant. Your brain reads it as it imagines it is, not as it is. Your bad habits, failings and wrongly learnt language are glossed over. But to a reader these faults stand out.

I have discovered that if I read a piece of my writing over the shoulder of somebody who is reading it, all the faults jump out at me. It is as if I am seeing it through their eyes. Unfortunately, I do not have an editor hidden away in the cupboard to bring out as required so, initially, I have to do it on my own.

Unlike with redrafting, I have to leave the novel for a period of time before starting to edit.

When the time is right I start. I need to summon my full concentration and focus on the work word by word. The task is to analyse each sentence in order to make it flow, to create a variety of length and complexity so that it reads easily and the language has interest for the reader. I have to avoid repetition, correct spelling and grammar and ensure that the correct words have been selected, the ones that contain all the subtlety and nuance required.

A novel is a long piece of writing. Editing can be daunting. It can be tedious and frustrating. When I am editing I will often work eight to ten hours a day. I am focussed on completing the task. I tend to work fast.

I usually edit a book twice. It is amazing how many glaring errors make it through the first time.

Then I send it off to one of my editors. They bring a totally objective eye to bear.

When the document comes back to me I am always surprised by the amount of work that still needs to take place. My editor will have noted lots of repetition (of words and ideas – I have a habit of putting things in twice, often reworking the same idea with different words), grammatical errors, sentences that do not work and the odd spelling mistake. Once these mistakes/improvements have been pointed out they are obvious.

Every writer needs a good editor. Being objective with ones own writing is almost impossible.

Redrafting is looking at the big picture; editing is looking at the minutiae.

When fully edited the book is now ready – but that is not the end of the story!

The Process of Redrafting.

The Process of Redrafting.

I love writing but I used to hate redrafting and editing. As my skills developed I have grown to love them both. They do not create such a feeling of satisfaction but they are fulfilling. Redrafting and editing is hard work. There is always great enjoyment to be gained from completing something difficult.

After I have produced the first draft I immediately start redrafting while it is still fresh in my mind.

I read through and begin fleshing out the bones. While my first draft may be forty or fifty thousand words, my second draft could be a third longer. It is as if the first draft is a skeleton on which I then place the flesh.

This is also the time when I attempt to focus on the areas that do not really work and rework them. This is when I flesh out characters, look at consistency, address areas of the plot so that it makes sense and start addressing grammar, punctuation and flow.

Usually, I will then leave the novel in order to gain more objectivity.

When I am ready and eager, I come back to it. The second redraft is the process of making the reading a smoother process. This is where I begin addressing sentence and paragraph structure in order to make the language flow.

My second redraft will usually add more words to the novel.

By the time I have completed the second draft I am usually ready to edit, but I may well play about with certain sections that I have been unhappy with until I am satisfied.

At this point, I am usually exhausted by the process and the novel. I need a break from it. Writing and redrafting require great concentration and effort. You have to hold the whole structure of the book in your head and mentally manipulate it. I always need a break.

As I normally have two or three projects going at the same time I can turn my attention elsewhere and happily leave it.

By the time I have completed redrafting it is ready to go off to my editor. Editing requires objectivity.

The way the writing process works with me.

The way the writing process works with me.

I am an obsessive writer. I find writing compulsive.

The first thing that happens is an idea or inspiration will trigger a process in my brain. That might result in a compulsion to write something down immediately in order to capture that idea.

Once the seed is planted the idea may lie dormant in my head for a while. It will require other ideas. It will have created problems that need solving. It will need a setting. It will require characters. It has to have a plot.

On occasion, this all happens at once. I start writing the original idea and the other ideas, characters and plot pile in and I find myself desperately writing to keep up. I am a one-finger typist.

Some of my ideas have lain dormant for years, waiting. I find myself mulling them over; searching for a way in. It’s similar to looking for a crossword puzzle answer.

Some of my novels are closely plotted. Each chapter laid out complete with pen pictures of characters and settings. Other books flow organically. The characters appear fully formed; I have a picture in my head of the story and the ending; I merely allow it to flow.

Writing like this is the easy part. I find it joyful and fulfilling. The novel consumes me. Nothing else is of importance. I wake up in the night with my head buzzing with ideas, developments and solutions. I cannot wait to get writing. Often minor characters grow into major ones. Characters change and develop. Plots change. A novel takes on a life of its own.

Left completely to my own devices (which is rare) I will write from morning into the night until exhausted with just short breaks for coffee or a snatched snack.

A day’s work would result in between thirty and fifty pages.

I do not reread or edit as I write. I allow the novel to flow out of my mind on to the paper.

I find the process very satisfying.

The day starts with a blank screen. By the end of the day, I have created the start of a world. By the end of a few weeks, I have created a whole world.

But that is the beginning, that is the pleasure. It is what happens next where the real work begins.

The Sci-Fi novel Green and the Green Movement

Green and the Green Movement

The setting for this novel was in the distant future. The planet is heavily overpopulated and polluted. Nature has been ravaged.

I was exploring the philosophical nature of mind and whether the inner universe is infinite.

The other major theme was that of the Green Movement. In a last desperate attempt to safe Nature from complete destruction, they were trying desperately to get the government to take drastic action.

The Greens were split into three distinct factions who argued fiercely among themselves.

One faction believed they could gain public support and force the government to take action through the sheer force and rationale of their argument.

A second faction believed that big business was too powerful and that most people were simply not interested enough until things became so bad that it directly impacted on them, by which time it would be too late. They believed force was the only way to get big business and politicians to take notice. They were using terror and attacking the polluting industry.

A shady third faction believed that the problem was people. They hated mankind and believed that there was an inherent flaw in all people. There was no hope while humans were around. They believed it was only a matter of time before we destroyed the world. Consequently, the only way to save the planet was to eradicate mankind.

It set the background for the intrigue and drama as the two themes interweaved.

Why not give it a read?

Available in both paperback and kindle from Amazon.

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Star – the way the Sixties youth rebellion was incorporated into the story.

Star – the way the Sixties youth rebellion was incorporated into the story.

The main idea that I was playing with in this book was the youth rebellion of the nineteen sixties.

Having lived through it and, as a student living in London, being heavily immersed in it, I felt that I knew a lot about the sixties phenomena. I found the idea of taking the underlying principles and applying them to the future quite inspiring and intriguing.

I set the book in the future in the sixties of the year 3167 AC. We had an intergalactic civilisation. Rock Music performed, not in stadia, but huge arenas in space on a gigantic scale.

There were a lot of elements to bring together.

The glue that held the sixties movement together was Rock Music. I had to create a band featuring a larger than life Rock Star – based on Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Arthur Brown, David Bowie and John Lennon.

The Civil Rights movement was an important element. I had to create an alien species who were subjected to abuse and yet were highly intelligent.

The antiwar movement was another. I had to create two competing powers and a proxy war being waged on a remote planet.

I then incorporated many of the events and people from the sixties in many guises. There was the Black Panthers, the Yippies, the Fugs, the Chicago riots, Peace Park, free festivals, Woodstock, Altamont, Games in May, Martin Luther King, the antiwar marches, the raising of the pentagon, the civil rights marches, Bob Dylan’s motorbike accident and many more.

My main story was the way the lucrative Rock Music business was being controlled by big business and the mafia. Behind the scenes, my Rock Star was subject to all manner of forces. His manager, based loosely on Albert Grossman, Peter Grant and Bill Graham, was caught up in the politics. My star was trying to remain true to his principles but the pressures were building.

Would the revolution change society? Or would it be incorporated into the money-making establishment?

Available in both paperback and kindle from Amazon.

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What readers said about New Eden by Ron Forsythe – a Sci-Fi novel.

What readers said about New Eden.

‘The measured, seemingly almost real-time narrative made it even more chilling in its pragmatism. The glacial momentum carried over into the horror of unstoppable inertia. Who hasn’t contemplated the almost ubiquitous runaway human population growth and its sequelae for our planet? The meek shall inherit the Earth…and probably do a much better job.’

‘A great read of a disturbing future. Well written and delightful in places, shocking in others – all too real. It tells the story of over-population and a world government’s attempt to solve it. You could really identify with the characters and the scene were pictures in your head. You’ll cry in places. If you love good Sci-fi then you will enjoy this book.’

‘An incredible read! If you’re a fan of futuristic books I would definitely recommend this book. It is so realistic because a lot of the problems we face today are shown in the future that may just come true if we don’t solve them soon. Really loved reading this!’

Available in both paperback and kindle .

In the UK:

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In the USA:

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In India:

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In Canada:

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In Germany:

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In Australia

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Or from your local Amazon Store.