Saturday, January 30, 2010

Confession time

Confession one
This month has seen not just the start of a new decade for the world, but also a big half-century birthday for me. I am now officially old, as son 1 charmingly put it (though my lovely friends do tell me I look younger). So you'll have to forgive me if I occasionally fall into grumpy old woman mode...

Confession two
The rapid approach of the big birthday was one of the motivators in completing my first draft. But there was also another one, which I haven't discussed on here before. Just over a year ago I signed up to a mentoring package with a literacy agency.

Those of you who've been around here for a long time will know that I had hoped to go on to do an MA in Creative Writing after I'd finished my OU studies. But, being a carer, there were huge practical barriers to accessing a course and eventually I had to reconsider.

After talking to lots of people who had taken an MA or taught on an MA, I realised that I wasn't too bothered about the academic side, it was the high level support to complete a novel which attracted me most. I had some funding, thanks to an inheritance, but perhaps there were other ways of using it to achieve my aim of actually completing a novel. I was inspired by fellow Novel Racer JJ and started to look at literary agencies' mentoring packages.

That was when my fairy godmother appeared, with the timely launch by Caroline and Gary Smailes of BubbleCow. Many of my readers will already know Caroline and her fiction and I immediately recognised that she would 'get' the structure and themes of the novel I was hoping to write. I begged her to personally mentor me and she has been quietly working with me ever since, editing each section as I wrote it.

I haven't written about this before because there were times, especially last year when my health collapsed in such a spectacular fashion, that I really wasn't sure I was ever going to make it to the end of the novel and all her work could have been in vain. But Caroline waited for me to return and now we're on the final editing stages. I'm even starting to think about my synopsis and submission letter.

For me the mentoring has been a huge success, it has sorted out the problems I already knew existed but hadn't known how to tackle, it has identified other aspects of writing longer work that I hadn't even thought about and it has left me with a first draft in pretty good shape, to now hone during my edit. Caroline has patiently put up with all my angst about where my book stood on the literary/commercial spectrum, something which has actually changed even during the writing. Most importantly of all, my writing has improved a lot.

I'm planning to have my full edit off to her by the end of March.

18 comments:

Caroline said...

You, my lovely birthday girl, are a star. It's been an absolute pleasure working with you x

Helen said...

What great confessions. Caroline as a mentor? How exciting.

And Happy Birthday. xx

Cathy said...

Caroline - thank you sweetie. Now you've made me blush x

Helen- yes it is exciting! I'm only just coming to terms with the birthday though (it was a few days ago)x

Captain Black said...

I love these stories of camaraderie and support across cyberspace. Good luck with the editing.

Paul Lamb said...

It sounds to me as though you're making marvelous progress (despite your setbacks and your relative youth). As for the MA, I really don't see how such a degree can help with novel writing. I have an MA in English and writing and, frankly, I haven't found it useful in that respect at all. It was good to pursue for my personal growth (and to make me more employable) but it had no pertinence to the private, solitary, and idiosyncratic work of writing a novel. In my opinion, formal training is not much use for this. Lots of reading and lots of writing are what will serve. And from what I can tell, your mentoring is doing a fine job for you as well.

Cathy said...

Captain Black - thanks!

Paul Lamb - Relative youth? You flatter me! Seriously though, the more I thought about the MA courses, the more I came to a similar conclusion to you.

Here in the UK MA courses concentrate on a certain type of literary novel and although I enjoy writing literary short stories, I always felt my novel would be more commercial and that is exactly how it has turned out. Having already studied 'literary' writing it has taken a while to get used to the more commercial approach and my early chapters do need some revision as a result.

Sue said...

What inspirational confessions. I have just a couple of years to go before my 'big' birthday and I'm just fiishing my OU studies with an MA in Creative Writing as the next step - until now. You've given me food for thought Cathy.

Congratulations, and good luck!!

Cathy said...

Sue - if you are determined to write a novel than mentoring is an alternative well worth considering, especially as the OU have apparently now cancelled their forthcoming Creative Writing MA. Good luck!
Cx

Anne Brooke said...

That's such fabulous news, on all counts - huge well done to you!!! And happy birthday. :)) Axxx

Cathy said...

Thank you, Anne x

JJ Beattie said...

Oh oh oh! I'm so pleased you were inspired by my experience of mentoring and even more delighted that you've had a positive experience.

Brilliant Cathy - such good news... and a happy belated birthday.

Cathy said...

JJ, thank you.

Yes, I was inspired by the idea of your mentoring (you were the first person I knew who'd actually signed up to a scheme and we were the lagging Novel Racers, after all..)

Andrea said...

Happy birthday Cathy.
Sounds like the mentoring scheme was exactly what you needed. And now you have a friend and mentor so it's all good.

Cathy said...

Hi Andrea, thanks for the birthday wishes. You're right and Caroline is not known as 'Nice Caroline' for nothing :)
Cx

JJ Beattie said...

We were... and then suddenly we have finished first drafts, eh?

Cathy said...

Just proves it works, JJ. Now for editing and submission...

Queenie said...

Caroline is enormously supportive of other writers. JJ's experience of mentoring also inspired me to go down the mentoring road, and I too was lucky enough to find someone who I thought would really 'get' my writing (and she does). We've all had different mentors - which I guess makes sense, as we're all different people - but it seems that, for each of us, the experience has been very positive.

And, while I'm here: Happy Belated Birthday!

Cathy said...

Thank you, Queenie!

Yes, I think mentoring can be very valuable and probably the key is having a mentor who 'gets' it. Mentors or tutors should be flexible, but inevitably some will be a better fit than others.

Caroline is a star, but then we've all known that for ages!
Cx