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...
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.