Profile of Word Weaver 1st Place Winner Geoff LePard, author of “What If?”

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your humble host

What goes on inside the writerly mind?

Let’s sit down with Word Weaver Writing Contest Winner Geoff Le Pard and find out.

Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006, and he hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels, he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.

Here’s our Word Weaver Profile of Geoff Le Pard, done BEFORE he knew he won the contest – as were all the profiles. (I added a short update at the end from a comment he made after he found out he won.)


  1. Dan: Did you write your story for the contest or was it part of a larger piece or something you had written before?

Geoff: It was a standalone story, that had been bubbling around for a while

  1. Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to published piece /completed story?

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author Geoff Le Pard

I’m what you might call an organized pantser when it comes to novels. Most times I have an idea – sometimes just a phrase or a scene – which I might mix with an idea for a character or setting. If I think that has legs I will write a few pages and see if it grabs me. If so then I can go one of two ways. Mostly I just carry on writing, anything between 10,000 and 30,000 words, without giving much thought to plot holes, arc, character development etc – at this point it’s all about the story and the scenes that seem to follow one from the other. I have, however occasionally plotted a few steps forward and then written. What I don’t do it plot very far ahead. After I have a chunk of work, I will review it in detail, looking for themes and strands, twists and deceptions and begin to note them down. I will now be able to write on. Often I will not have a clear ending yet but sometimes the ending is clear, it’s just the journey to it that I have to find. If I don’t have the ending I have learnt I will find it, I just have to ‘write towards the light’ as I think of it. And then the editing begins and that takes me ages….

  1. Where do you do your writing?

When my father died I inherited his old desk – he wrote poetry. It was a crappy reproduction dark wooden thing with a leather insert on the top. I painted it a reddish pink and covered it on family photos – my ‘memory desk’ – with my mother and father front and centre. If I need inspiration, I sweep away the papers and pick an obscure great aunt in some 1930s wedding and imagine her as a character… and if all fails, I open the drawer and smell dad… that scent won’t ever go!

  1. Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?

Quite a simple one, really; continue to write novels and short stories and publish them; if someone reads them and likes them, even better – but it is the writing and publishing that counts for me. On the way I want to improve what I write too, and I don’t see that learning process slowing any time soon

  1. What helps you the most when it comes to writing?

Time and suppressing the guilt I feel about everything else I could/should be doing! More specifically writing short fiction gives me both a constant reminder of new ideas and exposes me to being creative on a regular basis

  1. What’s the strangest place you’ve gotten a great story idea? Describe in detail. Inquiring minds want to know

Behind a builder’s hoarding near the office where I used to work; I was walking home past this plastic sheeting and saw a movement (it was after 9 at night and I was intrigued); it was a homeless woman with a small fire trying to cook a can of food – this in central London, near the financial district. I think we were both surprised by the encounter and it lead to my novel, Salisbury Square, about the interface between the inhabitants of large cities, above and below the affluence line that divides its inhabitants

  1. What does writing success look like?

More published books, whether novels or short fiction anthologies

  1. What are you working on now?

A memoir of my mother – a change of tack this, based around some blog articles I wrote last year; It is ready to be published and my aim is to launch it in the next month.

After that I am in the final throes of a sequel to my first published book, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, which is a comedy thriller and coming of age story. The sequel, The Last Will of Sven Andersen follows the hero of Dead Flies, Harry Spittle, to his first job in London. It is set in 1981.

  1. What is the best part about being an indie (or traditional) author for you?

I’m a card-carrying indie! Whatever I publish is what I want to publish; no one is telling me to include or exclude a character or theme or scene. I chose my covers (my designer is, without doubt the best) and my launch date. In short, freedom.

  1. There are a lot of writing contests out there. What drew you to this one?

I follow Lucy Brazier; love her stuff. She mentioned this comp, I had an idea that I’d wanted to explore without having had the right opportunity, it fit the theme of this comp so… serendipity!

11. Have you ever entered a writing contest before?

Not many; I do regular flash, some of which are judged weekly but nothing of this kind before.

12. Will we see you again in the next Word Weaver Writing Contest, if there is one?

If the theme works for me, yes.

13. Did you know the piece you submitted was special?

Goodness, what an invitation to polish my ego! I have an ongoing battle with my writing. It pendulums between brilliant and utter dodo’s do-dos throughout the period from idea to completion. Usually by the end I’m no more than reasonably satisfied, mainly because I’ve probably edited the enthusiasm out of it. My deepest affection for a piece comes after the first edit when the basic draft feels in an ok shape. Of course, in this case, I knew it was writerly gold!!

14. What’s next for you?

After the memoir and The Last Will, I have a choice: I want to really knock into shape a book I wrote about 8 years ago and which has remained in my WIP folder since; I also have a fantastic idea for a modern fable, based on a short piece (750 words) that I wrote at Christmas. I think I’ll probably write the first draft of the new book and then re-stitch the older idea… unless I leave the new idea for Nano and start my summer with a re-stiching!

15. What was Dan’s critique process like?

Harsh but fair! Sorry, that is rather glib. Excellent, in fact. A mix of nice encouragement and good pointers. Took me a fair while to make the changes but it is a far better story now. Thank you, kind sir!

UPDATE: after Geoff found out he won, he started replying to all the comments and made this note:

Dan, what can I say? I’m humbled, delighted – no, scratch that, I’m rock ‘n’ rolled with delight; it’s like being told I have to bath in chocolate or something – and grateful. As you’ll have realised, your suggestions led to a significant redirection and refining of my story, giving me the chance to get so much more out of the word count. It’s such a pleasure to get thoughtful guidance on ones writing – someone giving of their time like this makes it so much easier to pen the next story and so on.

And to the judges, an enormous thank you for the efforts involved in judging. Obviously you are people of taste and discernment and if you’d let me know where to send the cheques, I’ll dispatch them forthwith.

And you my fellow contestants, winners and those whose turn will be next time, thank you for participating. And for such kind thoughts here (on the original post and winners announcement), too.

I think it’s time I told my wife… she’ll be anxious about the screams and hoots…


Gang, join me in congratulating Geoff for a terrific story!

Here’s where you can read more of his work:

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My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.

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Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

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Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

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Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

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Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.

This is available here

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

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Buster & Moo is about about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

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Life in a Flash is a set of super short fiction, flash and micro fiction that should keep you engaged and amused for ages

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Smashwords

Geoff Le Pard’s Amazon Author Page

 

Mini Writing Conference aka Writing Craft Day

FWA Focus Day April 28 2018

 

Time to step up your game! April 28, these brilliant ladies and I will be giving you the goods, directly, on what to do to improve your writing.

Florida peeps: It’s a short hop over to the hotel!

You can learn cool stuff and then buy me a drink afterwards. We’ll talk about how awesome I am.

People In Cold Places: Use this as a spring board to get somewhere warm and beachy

and then learn cool stuff and buy me a drink and talk about how awesome I am. Or these other cool people.

It’s an awesome opportunity.

This is a great chance to get good info form great writers. We’ll answer questions you have about writing. YOUR questions. About YOUR writing.

What’s better than that?

Kicking it at the bar and sharing cocktails with other writers, that’s what.

I’ll be hanging out in the hotel all evening Saturday, so why wouldn’t we sit back and chat? Contact me from the blog or from Facebook and I’ll hang out with you.

LET’S DO IT!

How To Assume Your Reader Is Smart

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We writer types aren’t always sure readers know what we’re talking about.

As a result, we can explain things when we don’t need to.

Check out this partial scene:

“Alright, but you have to promise.” Lori held out her pinky. She was making him pinky-swear. Something they had done as kids.

“I promise.” Jaxton held out his finger to lock it with hers. “Pinky-swear.” Humor was his way of dealing with stressful situations, and her comment made him feel a little more at ease.

 

Kinda telly, and a little repetitious – but aren’t we really spoon feeding the reader here?

 

We don’t need two explanations of the prior pinkie swear reference.

But… we writer types aren’t always sure readers know what we’re talking about!

There was a scene in a movie, probably Stand By Me, where the kids spat on their palms and rubbed their hands together as a bond. We didn’t do that as kids, but we did something similar. Doing an Indian Swear was a big deal. You had to cut yourself and mix blood as part of the handshake. Usually that was a pin prick. (Heck, usually we were too chicken to do any blood drawing, so we just pretended.)

But nobody stopped the movie to explain what the spit-laden handshake was all about. Viewers got it. My daughter comes home with rituals and phrases she learns from other kids at school. How she acts about it tells me what concern level to give it.

Some readers won’t know what a pinkie swear is, but most readers will.

The ones who don’t, certainly will after they read this; and even if you didn’t say “pinkie swear,” they’d understand it as a kid-like ritual. No need to over-explain.

 

Revised:

“Alright, but you have to promise.” Lori held out her pinky.

“I promise.” He held out his little finger to lock it with hers. Their hands moved up and down in unison. “Pinky-swear.”

(Then SHOW him becoming more at ease. Maybe he sighs or nods, then changes the subject.)

But – but – but…

Assume your reader is smart.

It’s okay for not every little thing to be explained in a scene. In Shakespeare In Love, he twirls around and rubs the quill before starting writing. It’s obvious it’s a ritual the second time we see it, but it’s fairly obvious the first time just from how he does it.

Or when the guy throws spaghetti at the wall in The Big Chill. “Still the best way to see if it’s done.”

Oh. That’s all we need.

Let the reader figure some stuff out. They’ll be more immersed in your story as a result.

I actually like it when there’s a little mystery involved in small stuff. I feel like there’s more to the story, and it’s between the characters. Maybe I’ll be allowed into the excusive club if I behave.

 

Word Weaver UPDATE: I have received the rankings from the last judge (Yes, it was Jenny) AND a question about FUTURE writing contests

Jenny sent me her scores! That means I can tally the votes.

Saturday.

Because I’m slammed today and tomorrow. I’m in the middle of publishing 18 books in the next week or so, and it’s a bit hectic. (It’s part of my deal with Great Oak Publishing Florida and the Young Authors Club I do with local grade schools.)

GREAT OAK PUBLISHING

Plus I’m in the middle of an amazing story I’m editing from another author, which you are all gonna wanna read when it’s done. And I’m supposed to be writing that murder mystery for those USA Today bestselling authors that asked me to be in their anthology…

Busy, busy, busy.

But while I have you here…

Is 3 writing contests a year enough?

Should we try for 4 with varied themes, or maybe have one every other month so you can really develop your writing skills? Maybe a best of/stories of the year announcement, too, showcasing the best of the best?

Because writing short stories forces you to work on getting the story up and running, and that’s the goal of a first chapter, too.

After being a judge in a different contest, an author friend noticed how much writers need to work on brevity, and getting to the point, in their stories. Stephen King has offered a similar opinion:

Stephen King, Bazarr of Bad Dreams

Miscues that can be overlooked in a novel will become glaringly obvious in a short story. Strict discipline is necessary. The writer has to rein in his impulse to follow certain entrancing side paths and stick to the main route.

That’s a great way to hone your opening chapter, too.

I usually say we writer types take a while to get our stories up and running.

As an editor, I usually read the start of a novel and recommend: cut, cut, cut.

Get to the good stuff, and get there quickly.

Writing short stories does that. So it’s a skill we all need in our work, and doing it more will force us to get better at it.

It will build your ability to hook your reader with a better first chapter, and hone your pace to make each successive chapter better, too.

Practice makes perfect. But how do you practice writing?

Write short stories.

I know when I worked on a bunch of book covers for my Young Authors, after about twenty or so I was seeing ways to do it and noticing ways it wouldn’t work. When I was in an online critique group, putting up several chapters a week forced me to hone my writing skills. Editing causes me to be more aware of issues in others’ writing so I see it better in mine.

That’s all a way of saying practice will make you better, and writing more short stories will make all of your writing better.

Besides, it takes a while to write a novel. A short story can get completed quickly, you can let it rest a few days, and revise it a few times before the entry deadline. That process builds those writer muscles we all need.

What do you think?

  • Should we move to holding writing contests every other month?

  • Have different, varied themes to force you to challenge yourself?

  • And add new skills that will enhance your other works?

Thoughts?

 

Word Weaver update: winners will be announced Sunday morning April 22

In the original contest announcement, it says winners will be announced “on or around April 20,” but I’m not sure why I did that because I always announce the winners on Sunday morning. Maybe I should learn to read a calendar.

And even though I might know who the winners are by Friday, I might not.

So rather than have everybody checking in all day Friday and driving themselves nuts and driving me nuts, I figured it was better to just go ahead and let you know now that it’s gonna be Sunday morning. I envision myself compiling the winners post all day on Saturday.

I’m very sorry for any additional tension this causes any of you. Probably.

And I did say “on or around” the 20th. Well, the morning of the 22nd is around the 20th, isn’t it? Of course.

I also said in the original post: WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON OR AROUND APRIL 20, 2018

“…unless I get an overwhelming amount of entries, and then I’ll delay that part but trust me you’ll know way in advance because I’ll be whining about it here on the blog.”

This is that whining part.

Besides, the stories are so good, they are worth waiting for.