Sunday, 18 January 2009

Back To School

I’ve been busy lately. In November, I found out I’d been accepted onto The Literary Consultancy’s Chapter and Verse mentoring scheme. Every year, the Arts Council fund ten places, and yours truly got lucky. Sara Maitland is the co-ordinator, and after reading my first chapter, she phoned me from her house in the middle of nowhere. We talked about where I was with my novel and what I needed. She then suggested three possible mentors that she felt I might have an affinity with. Sara gave me ten days to decide, but asked did I have an inkling. I did. Instinct is funny. I read work by all three, weighed up the pros and cons and asked advice of anyone who’d listen. And then I went with my first choice anyway. I waited a few days to hear if the person I’d chosen liked my writing and could see themselves working with me. Luckily, the answer was yes.

It’s meant to be a bit like doing an MA, which is the push I needed to get off my bum and go hell-for-leather with my writing. I am up to chapter nine of the first draft of this novel. I have just submitted it to my mentor, who will give me feedback on editing and everything. I need help with editing. I hear writers talking about ‘doing editing’ and it feels like a secret club I can’t figure out the knock to. I go through my work, and I swap things and cut bits out and put bits in, but is that it? I have a feeling there is more to it, and I want to learn. So over the next year, I will be doing big writing, and getting to grips with editing and learning how to take feedback. I think I’m at the point where I’m not precious about my work. A couple of years ago, I would have cried for days if anyone suggested I make any changes to anything I’d written. Now, I want to be good at what I do, I want my writing to work, and I’m ready to take on board any advice/criticism I can get that will help to make this happen.

It feels like I’m at school again, doing homework. It feels good. I have been doing writing through the night quite a bit. My best hours are between two and six a.m. That seems to be when the typing gets crazy and the ideas are all there. I read somewhere that you’re supposed to shake your writing times up. Like if you usually write in the evening, you should try setting your alarm a few hours early and get up and write then instead. I’m not a morning person. I love bed a little too much. I can’t even convey in words how much I love bed. You would have to see my heart-shaped pupils and stupid smile to fully understand. But I am not ruling out getting up early one morning, just to try it. Just don’t hold your breath.

So now I’m trying not to worry what my mentor will make of it. I am expecting them to be quite ruthless, which both terrifies and excites me. When friends read your work, they are kind and maybe not always truthful. With Biff and Nathan, doing the TTO thing, we do offer ideas and views on each others’ work, which is really beneficial, and I think we’re lucky to have that. But having an outsider, a writer, a lecturer go through what I’ve written will be a whole new kettle of fish. And I think I’ll be a better writer for it. And the best part is, I get a great excuse to buy a ton of new stationery.


CathM said...

CONGRATS! It sounds like an exciting mentoring scheme. Hopefully you will have completed your novel by the end of the year. Best of luck with it all!

Jenn said...

Well Done!

This is so good! I am really excited and pleased and jealous for you.

If you find out any secrets to editing, please let me know. I just go over mine again and again and again and eventually, what it is supposed to be just appears - like a fossil I've dug out with a toothbrush.

But I don't think its like that for everyone.

Well done! You spoke to Sara M? From her hiding house?


I can't wait until you finish your book. Put me down on the list of people who want to see it when you're ready.

Jenn said...


Amanda said...

So pleased for you! I never did understand your love of stationery - glad to hear you still have the habit

A x

emma said...

Thanks everyone. I'm expecting my first feedback in a couple of days - eek.

Jenn - i'll let you know any secrets i'm let in on. Did you know Stephen King says it's 'like digging out a fossil with a toothbrush' too? Spooky! Do you think I should get one with or without a tongue-scraper?