Peculiar as it would be to review a book of which you are the co-author, I will instead answer the question which I have been asked most frequently on the subject of the national captain’s recently released account of the most successful period in the country’s cricket history.
“How did you actually work together – how do you co-author a book written entirely in Smith’s words?”
We faced a number of huge challenges, not the least of which was Smith’s off-field commitments which meant we weren’t able to have more than three or four face-to-face meetings in the two months it took to write (even though we were mostly in the same city and very often at the same cricket ground.)
So we needed an efficient way to keep the diary content ‘flowing’. It needed to be versatile, easy to use and, most importantly given the constant demands on Smith’s time, he needed to be able to make use of every five or 10 minute gap he could find rather than sitting down for two hours at a time which is what most authors need to do.
The answer was to prepare a series of thin ‘back-pocket’ notebooks with key note reminders of important moments, on and off field, during the period covered by the diary with plenty of space in between for the captain to make his own notes. Then he was armed with a digital voice recorder (DVR) no bigger than a lighter which he could also carry with him at all times.
The result was that he could record his thoughts on certain moments at any time – even when he had just five minutes in an airport lounge before departure.
Of course, nobody in the world speaks like they write – or writes like they speak. The job of transcribing his voice fell to Alison Ward who also applied the first process of ‘editing’ as she turned his thoughts into words. The natural umms and errs, the repetition and the bits and pieces which came as afterthoughts were rearranged.
The subsequent script was then re-arranged by me to turn the ‘spoken’ word into the written word. It was vital to keep the text true to Smith’s own word, and style, which inevitably meant using many of his favourite phrases more than you would if writing a magazine feature, for example.
But the most important thing for fans and followers to know is that Smith’s commitment and determination to the project exceeded all my expectations. In fact, when he first suggested the project and we met with the publishers, I had no hesitation in telling the skipper that I believed he would not be able to meet the deadlines. He did. But only just! If his motivation had been money, or contracts, or acclaim, he would never have come close. He did it because he wanted to tell the story.
The experience of writing Gary Kirsten’s biography, ‘Gazza’, helped enormously. Many lessons were learned. But until somebody has written their first book – without any guidelines, advice or previous experience – the sheer weight of commitment is impossible to imagine. Hours after hours drift by with no more than a couple of hundred words emerging. And the prospct of a publisher demanding 80,000 of them weight you down as surely as a sheet of lead.
But you get there, eventually, after many late nights and early mornings.
I cut my teeth a dozen years ago with “The Beer Drinkers Guide To Losing Weight.” A true story, believe it or not. Fat sports journalist loses 20 kgs and runs Comrades. I was going to be rich. It was going to make my fortune. But then, just as I was about to sell a million copies, the publisher was taken over by a rival and my book was pulped. I’ve kept the weight off, though.
Still, it’s now been revived by a clever friend who has made the book available as a ‘pdf’. Excuse my ignorance. but I think it means you can download the book from the internet.
And finally, if you ever want to write a book, don’t ever do it for the money. Sure, you may get rich, but even when a book does well it takes forever before you see a cent. Eight months after beginning work with Graeme, not a bean has entered my account. No doubt one will.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.