WoMentoring

A few months ago I hit a bit of a wall. I’d been writing some short stories, and though the ideas kept coming, the wall I hit was more of a metaphysical one. I totally couldn’t tell if what I was writing was actually good or complete baloney. There was no way to tell. Though the stories were all different in terms of tone and theme, I couldn’t grade any of them, or work out if some were better than others or why. It mightn’t sound that bad, but an inability to judge what you’re doing probably means you can’t edit either. So how could I tell if I was making the stories better, or worse?

Totally coincidentally, I spotted that a poet friend of mine (also being published by Valley Press this year) was a Poetry Mentor through something called WoMentoring. I investigated further, and discovered that it’s a collective of literary women who are trying to help women writers who are lost in the mires of uncertainty. Their mission is:

‘To introduce successful literary women to other women writers at the beginning of their careers who would benefit from some insight, knowledge and support.’

You choose a mentor from the lists of relevant exceptionally talented women and write a little letter, telling them what you need help with and why. I wrote to a mentor (the fantastic Tracey Emerson) and heard back within a few weeks – and it was a big fat yes! I sent her three short stories and a clutch of flash fictions and the feedback Tracey has since sent back to me is just wonderful. Overall, it’s actually really encouraging, though she’s picked up some niggles here and there that I’d never have thought of but are altogether right. It’s made me think about what to look for whilst editing – and I think it’s at this point, after days and days of the early editing is over, when I start to lose the plot.

The next stage for me is to rework one of the stories and sent it back to her for another look. I’m taking my time – I need to do it justice. I’ve officially finished the first draft of my first novel now, so I’m resting it for a month or so (if I can!) to do these WoMentoring edits and work on editing the White Noise & Ouija Boards Anthology. And then back to the novel!

If it’s relevant to you, I can’t recommend WoMentoring enough. I really can’t. I somehow still can’t believe it exists without a catch! What it does is give you hope, a hand to hold, and a way out of the wilderness. It’s perfectly summed up in this illustration, created by one of the mentors:

womentoringillo1-larger

You can read all about WoMentoring (and how to even become a Mentor!) here: https://womentoringproject.co.uk/ .

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The Thing About Endings…

It’s been a helluvafewweeks. All go, and no stop. Writing, writing at the day job, attending the Northern Poetry Symposium, editing an anthology, blogging… All at the same time as managing the rest of life and bit of a sick cat.

This task mash-up normally results in my not being able to really concentrate on anything, and the sensation of my heart flit-flit-flitting in my head, rather than my chest. Does anyone else feel this way? From the outside it sounds like panic, but I don’t know if it’s actually just adrenaline. It means I’m alive – though sometimes I do wonder if feeling so alive on a long-term basis might actually do me some damage.

Brain

I’ve been keeping going with my novel plan – 1000 words a day. Sometimes I’ve done a little more, sometimes a little less, but it’s worked out pretty much there. I’m on the cusp of 36,000 words now, and since I’ve planned it as quite a shorty this means I’m in the final leg.

Endings are hard. I love writing beginnings, I love the beginnings of films, of plays. I love learning about a world and seeing the people in it for the first time. I love the mystery, the wonder. I love first impressions. But endings… Those are far more difficult. When I was younger and I used to write little stories here and there I most often used to kill the main character, as it seemed the only thing to do. So many dead protagonists… Died for nothing.

The truth is, I find it hard to imagine anything being ties up in life, so how can I emulate that in a novel? Every action we take starts a string of consequence, and sometimes they can come back to meet us again later. We go through awful things and great things, and both stick with us, so how can anything truly be resolved? This might reflect my own inability to leave things behind than anything else! And I know you don’t need everything to end at the end of a novel, but you do have to learn something that’ll change the way you live afterwards. I’ve tried to remember my favourite endings to novels and they tend to be novels that close quietly, with a thought, rather than an explosion or definite END. I don’t have such a problem ending poems, but I think this is because I see those as a snapshot. Even the poems with a  narrative tend to end on an important feature, rather than massive change. Maybe there’s something to learn from that?

Anyway, all going well, I should finish the first draft by the end of May. I’ll print it and rest the whole thing in a super-secret-cupboard during June, and then resurrect it in July, and start the long and (at the moment obscure) editing process. I imagine the editing process is going to take a LOT longer than the drafting processing. I’m not giving myself a tight deadline for this – and I’m just aiming to have it completed by the end of the year. This will mean I can work on all the other projects zipping about above my head – the full poetry collection, the book of short stories, the graphic novel, the children’s book… Not to mention the requests I’ve had for extra poems and bits and bobs for journals, and the Ghost Anthology I’m guest editing for Three Drops Press. Eeek. I’m sort of forgot about all that.

Oh well. Wish me luck!