Guest Post by Author Geoff Le Pard

Today I’m delighed to welcome to the Summerhouse the indomnitable Geoff Le Pard ~

unnamedI had the pleasure of meeting Geoff at the Blogger’s Bash in June and he is as warm, friendly and genuine – and yes, funny – as I knew he would be.

A fellow Brit living in London, Geoff is a published author and prolific blogger who tries to fool us with his biting, self-deprecating wit, hoping we won’t notice that he has a heart as big as a lion’s. But it hasn’t worked. He’s a big softie is what I’m trying to say.

As his photo might suggest,  sadly, he won’t be singing or dancing for us today, but he will be sharing how he got writing in the first place, along with great advice for any newbies like me beating down the brambles along the path to publication. So with enough from me, it’s over to him: please welcome my lovely pal Geoff:

My Father and Other Liars

Blog Book Tour

How did this all begin and what has it taught me?

I’d like to say I’ve been writing since X grade at school but the truth is sadder than that. I remember an English teacher, Mr Doubleday, giving us a project that involved writing the first chapter of a novel. I had this marvellous idea; I love cricket so I wanted to set a murder mystery alongside a cricket tour of the Caribbean islands. Maybe the first chapter was a bit cricket heavy and mystery light but Doubleday wasn’t impressed and said so. Instead he praised some bit of fluff by a contemporary, Richard Trillo. I’ve not seen Richard since school and doubt he follows this blog. Ditto Doubleday. I wish them no ill will but they should know they put back my writing career 40 years. Am I bothered…?

Lesson one: do not diss a novice writer. Praise and more praise and yet more praise. Criticism, technique and all that malarkey can come later. Just get people writing until they have enough confidence to withstand the truth.

I had no intention to try my hand at any sort of creative writing. Indeed I considered myself without a creative bone in my body. My father, revered and reviled equally down the years, was the family laureate, turning out poems to order and writing with flair and fortitude. How, or more reasonably why would I try and do something that would be pale by comparison? An example. Dad and I went walking every year for about 15 years, with other friends. On one walk – Offa’s Dyke maybe – our companion threw out a challenge, a first line of a limerick for us to complete. Within what felt like seconds Dad was reeling off limerick after limerick. My one humble offering was ignored. I just listened to a master and laughed.

Lesson two: do not be intimidated by others who have been there, done that. It’s a trite but true statement that we all have to start somewhere and you are nether too old, nor too young, too stupid nor too uneducated to write. If you can write you can tell a story. That’s all it takes, a modicum of language to communicate.

My family, when the children were at school, enjoyed a week at a summer school, held every year over three separate weeks at Marlborough College, a rather grand private school set in awesomely picturesque grounds in the Wiltshire countryside. The courses were pithed at all ages and they had a splendid time while I toiled at the legal coalface. Inevitably the children reached an age where holidays in Greece with friends seemed more attractive. Still my wife wanted to go and suggested I might like to join her. We could do a class together – we learnt to jive and jitterbug, as it happens – but there would be a slot for me to fill while she went off printing or whatever. I chose to write a ten minute radio play in a week. The course was run by an extraordinary woman, who’d been published, written for radio and all sorts. Her ego knew no bounds as all the examples she chose to illustrate her points on character, narrative arc and so one came for her own oeuvre. I enjoyed it immensely and we performed each other’s attempts with vigour if not skill.

Lesson three: take a course, any course, if you need a push. You’ll find the most important thing as you struggle with the notion of you as a writer: there are loads like you out there – novices, all uncertain, fumbling in the dark. No one starts brilliant. They just start.

I didn’t really see playwriting as being for me. I tried a smidgen of poetry which was, frankly embarrassing. But I tried. A week or so later we went, the whole family, to Devon. We hired this massive place in Torbay with a hot tub and heaven knows how many rooms and the kids brought a load of friends. In the evenings they took over the lounge to play Risk or watch DVDs or sat in the hot tube and did teenagerly things (i.e. those that involve your parents being a long way away but within screaming distance). The Textiliste wanted to practice her printing so what was I to do? Read? Sure but I had this urge, this mad idea…

Lesson four: writing is all about a mad idea, given life. For heaven’s sakes we are adults. Making things up is for loons and little ones. Telling stories requires two things. Skill and, erm, skill. Doesn’t it? Don’t you have to be born a genius at this art? Not at all. You just have to believe. And boy is that the hardest thing.

The idea? One of the discussions at Marlborough centred on where to get story ideas from. Our facilitator suggested taking a phrase, any phrase and imagining what might be behind it. We were given the task of using the phrase to sketch out a synopsis for a play, do three or four and then ask the rest of the class which we should write. I had this idea for a buddy story, with the title ‘Right to Roam’. A comedy. The class trashed it in favour of ‘The Light at the End of the Tunnel’ which turned into a Victorian melodrama/ghost story. But I liked ‘Right to Roam’. I thought it had legs. I thought it might even be a novel. But a novel is huge. How on earth do you write a novel?

Lesson five: Anyone can run a marathon if they can run; anyone can write a novel if they can write. One is a series of individual steps leading to 26 miles, 385 yards; the other a series of sentences that add up to about 80,000 words. I’ve not run a marathon but I could. It would hurt, it would be exhausting but I could. All I have to do is want to do it. Same with a novel. But unlike my bucket list marathon, I really really wanted to write that novel. So I typed a first sentence.

Lesson six: that was the hardest part, really. But it wasn’t that hard. Really. It was shit, but so what. You must write that first sentence and then move on. Don’t not sit and agonise over its quality.

The novel grew and grew. It turned dark, then darker. The comedy went. A dead woman appeared and became the centre of the story. I plotted none of this.

Lesson seven: whether you plot or you use the seat of the pants there is no right way to develop a story. All that matters, like the marathon, is that you continue to an end. It may not even be the end but just get there. Procrastination is a desire to perfect, an understandable feebleness of mind. You can, you will, change damn near everything in the editing but unless you get the four corners of your story on the page you can’t move on to the polishing.

I wrote 135,000 words in four months. A few good friends read my masterpiece and tried to be nice. I owe them so much for reading my verbal stodge.

Lesson eight: people will be amazed at you writing a book length set of words and mistake it for a novel. They will want to read it; they will insist and you will be proud of your achievement so you will let them. Please understand if they find it hard to be garrulous with the praise. The achievement is finishing your first marathon, not the time you take; same with your novel. You have a start. After that it’s all… hard bloody work. But that’s another story and I for one am grateful I took the plunge.

My Father and Other Liars is the second book by Geoff Le Pard.

Published in August it is available as an ebook and paperback here:

Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com

My Father & Other Liars

His first book, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle can be found here:

Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com

Dead Flies & Sherry Trifle
Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls.

*******

Thank you for your wonderfully honest and encouraging guest post Geoff.  And you never know who might be reading – Richard Trillo and Mr Doubleday perhaps?  They do say life is stranger than fiction…

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
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88 Responses to Guest Post by Author Geoff Le Pard

  1. That was a wonderful post, and I picked up some very handy tips from it. Thanks to you both, Sherri and Geoff 🙂

    Like

  2. I was quite surprised that I hung on every word. I expected to be bored with it. Thanks for sharing this wonderful bit of information on writing. My favorite part: Procrastination is a desire to perfect. Now, I’m going to read it again. 🙂

    Like

  3. jeanne229 says:

    Enjoyed seeing Geoff here in this space and reading about his road to writing. Interesting what he says about just getting to the end. I have struggled with that whole question of whether to outline or just dive headlong into the story. But I have to agree that for many, just getting those words on the page and working towards some kind of an end is crucial. It’s too easy to get stopped in your tracks before you walk a block!

    Like

    • TanGental says:

      Thanks Jeanne. I force myself to keep going. I want to go back, revise, tinker but I know I mustn’t. It isn’t easy!

      Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thanks Jeanne. This is exactly what I had to keep telling myself in getting my first draft written, recently completed as you know. I had to resist with all my might going back to ‘tinker’ as Geoff puts it, and just keep going. And then, it wasn’t until I got to the end that I knew how the beginning needed to change. That was a revelation. And yes…it’s great that Geoff reminds us to enjoy that sense of achievement when we walk that block, then the next one…and the next after that…

      Like

  4. Thank you for introducing up to Geoff, Sherri. These are terrific tips. “You just have to believe. And boy is that the hardest thing,” hit home for me.

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    • Sherri says:

      My pleasure Jill, Geoff is a wonderful writer and yes, he does indeed share many great tips. That really struck me too…

      Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Hi Jill. I hope it resonates and maybe helps. I think the thing I’ve learnt is we tend to think it’s just us who has this or that issue. Then I went on a wonderful course my wife bought for me for my birthday and we were all the sams, the same issues, dressed up differently maybe. Boy was that a relief.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. TanGental says:

    Sherri, you are a kind and generous host and I’m grateful to take up your space in the ether today. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. TanGental says:

    Reblogged this on TanGental and commented:
    So here we are, the end of my blog tour and we go back to the start of how I started writing and what I learnt about writing on the way. Sherri is a generous host so do have a visit if you have time.

    Like

  7. A really fabulous interview, Sherri. Thanks for introducing me to Geoff. I’m definitely going to try one of his books. The titles are brilliant. 🙂

    Like

  8. Ali Isaac says:

    Love this post, Geoff! Agree with everything you say. I think there are many reasons why people write. For me it is escapism from parts of my life which are hard to deal with. Its different for everyone. But I think once you start you cant stop, and its something you cant live without, and I think in that, we are probably all the same.

    Like

  9. Charli Mills says:

    What a warm and wonderful introduction, Sherri! That Geoff didn’t sing or dance is okay…:-) Great tips he has to share and really supportive of those who want to write and that long stretch between wanting and publishing.

    Like

  10. Well, I read it and I’m nobody – but I really enjoyed it and I like the take of ‘just do it – write!’ Geoff shows a lot of understanding and empathy for the beginning ‘wannabe’ writer. Actually, I think everything said – all the tips and insights – can be applied to other areas of creativity [and life ] too. Great post, nice to meet your friend Sherri. Hi Geoff!!

    Like

    • TanGental says:

      Hi Pauline and tanks for the thoughtful comment. I leant a lot form my wife about the creative process before I started writing (she weaves and knits and embroiders – textiles generally) and the echoes are so true. Good to meet to you and have a chance to visit your blog!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Dear Pauline, you are definitely not nobody! You are wonderful you and you make a great point here. Glad to introduce you to Geoff, and I see he’s following you now…fantastic! But yes, it is in that ‘just do it’ philosophy that the balance hangs. I remember writing that first sentence of my book, thinking ‘it’s now or never’. Thank you for your support of Geoff’s guest post 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Excellent post, Sherri, and it’s a pleasure to meet Geoff. The lessons–especially the first two and the last–really resonate, and his titles (and covers) are excellent.

    Like

  12. restlessjo says:

    You two make a good double act. 🙂 Thanks for the insights, Geoff.

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  13. Told straight form the hip. I like this no nonsense post. I learned some things too, in the reading. Fabulous guest, Sherri. Thank you, Geoff. Nice to meet you. 🙂

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  14. Nice to meet you, Geoff. Like the others, I think Sherri is the bees knees and I’m glad I got to know a bit about you through her blog. 😀

    Aw, you two, this is an awesome post. I love that, at the end, you revisited the beginning. If you get me. Great set up: I like the “lessons” under each experience. All-around fabulous post though I am quite fond of this one: “writing is all about a mad idea, given life.” Brilliant.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much Sarah, delighted to introduce you to Geoff …you’ll find he’s a very nice chap 😉 😀 😉 And that’s a great quote, I agree! I get you 🙂

      Like

    • TanGental says:

      Ah yes, well Hello!! I’m sure we met somewhere else? And you say such lovely things, how can one fail to *grins stupidly* feel all warm and happy. And oh yes, that ‘mad idea’, they must be let out before a psychosis sets in…

      Like

  15. dgkaye says:

    What a fantastic post with Geoff, Sherri. His lessons are excellent! 🙂 Shared everywhere. xo

    Like

  16. Great advice Geoff. I had a Mr Doubleday at school except it was Mrs Cowdery. She didn’t take away writing from me but she did remove fiction from my vocabulary which I am only just starting to get into with Charli’s 99 word flashes and Friday Fictioneers. We both needed a Norah when we were at school. Lots of great tips put in such a wonderfully Geoff fashion. Great introduction Sherri. Great post all round.

    Like

    • TanGental says:

      Thank you, Irene; it’s a wonder what might have been but possibly a distraction from what was after all a pretty good career so maybe I’m not that saddened that I have to catch up now…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      I agree Irene, where was our Norah when we were at school? I had a good English teacher in high school, I don’t remember any particular ‘bad’ moment, other than being told off for having nail polish on and having to suffer the indignity of being sent out out remove it (‘You look as if you’ve dipped your nails in vampire’s blood’ she said, in front of the entire class, and I’ve never forgotten it!) I took a creative writing course three years ago, which gave me the confidence to submit articles for magazine publication, start my blog and then, of course, write my book. When I started the fiction part and sent off my first couple of short stories (which I wrote with a particular magazine in mind, not my kind of stories at all, and yes, I admit, they were stilted and boring because I hated that assignment), and was told by my tutor that perhaps I was like so many other writers who had discoverd that ‘they weren’t cut out for writing and should give up’, I was devestated. I did call him on it and ask that if my writing was ‘so bad’, why had my tutors for the first part been so encouraging? He apologised, saying he was ‘used to being tough on students to get the best out of them’ and went on to give me constructive critisicm, mostly about ‘show’ not ‘tell’. But the damage was done, it destroyed any faith I had in writing fiction for a good long while. And again, like you Irene, it is only through writing flash thanks to Charli that I’ve clawed my way back into fiction. I felt like a right twit at first, expecting to be laughed out of blogland. Some teachers have an awful lot to answer for…
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post Irene, and I’m glad all three of us found our way back 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. TanGental says:

    I’ll be making this decision soon enough so timely advice Sue

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  18. TanGental says:

    opps wrong response to wrong post! Sunday madness!!

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  19. I’m looking forward to meeting Mr Le Pard later on this month. I’ve already got a list of questions about publishing that first novel. This guest post really boosts the confidence and tells me it’s not as frightening as I think it is going to be. Is there a link for that radio play you wrote, Geoff?

    Thanks Geoff, and thank you Sherri.

    Like

  20. True, true, true … all of it true! Thanks Sherri, my dear friend, for this chance to meet Geoff in blogland. Will go and pay him a visit.

    Like

  21. Annecdotist says:

    Marvellous post, Sherri and Geoff. I especially like the metaphor of running a marathon. Something I’ve never done, but having done several half marathons in the past, I’m sure I could manage it despite my dodgy knees. Likewise writing a novel.

    Like

    • Lisa Reiter says:

      Inspiring post. I’m sure I’m a pantster but the memoir needs its preordained plot which is a bit of a kill joy. Still. Nothing truer than putting down one sentence after another – I love lesson six .. And then a dead woman appeared.. I planned none of this. Envy.

      Like

      • TanGental says:

        Yes we have to start and forget it will change; my first pages, first everythings are always the bits I change most.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sherri says:

        Yes, we have our plot and characters already written in stone with memoir, so no room for Geoff’s kind of surprises, but I’m a pantster too Lisa, and I didn’t find my title until I finished the first draft when I discovered a parallel story weaving its way through the main hub of the theme. And now I need to totally rewrite the first few chapters…again. Loved your post today, hope the rewrite is going well… 🙂

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      • Sherri says:

        I am learning this Geoff, as per my reply to Lisa. I guess Hemingway didn’t say the first draft of everything is shit, or something like it, for nothing…I’m beginning to get the message…

        Like

    • TanGental says:

      It’s exhausting. I’ve never done more than 10k so claps all round for the halfs. I’m dead impressed. My abdng memory is walking backwards downstairs the next day or two. Grim.

      Like

      • Sherri says:

        But you did it Geoff! I’m so impressed with both of you..I was always more short distances, but fast. Hmmmm…think I need to go ‘marathon’ speed from now on, but without the walking backwards down the stairs bit 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Anne, it’s my pleasure to host Geoff, although of course you know him well! Dodgy knees or not, your wonderful accomplishments on both the running and writing fronts are inspirational 🙂

      Like

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