Okay, so it’s been very polite and nice so far…but we’ve reached the stage in the relationship where the mentor needs to be tougher on the mentee and be honest, because some stuff just isn’t working…and if it’s not said, I know I won’t make those tough changes on my own!
In case you’re not up to speed, we begun this chronologue of my mentoring and the development of my novel, Ghosts of Mars.
When it sells for millions on a pre-empt, and sells foreign rights into 45 languages, we’ll all look back on this, and realise that it was once absolute dog poop.
So, we ambled into August, with me still not 100% happy – I’d had this nagging feeling for nearly a year that there was something not quite right with the story and I either didn’t know what it was, or I did, and I hid from it!
And of course, when we, as writers, have a sense that something isn’t right, it almost certainly isn’t! Sometimes we can’t pinpoint it, which is why we need the help of others.
Some great specific, and more general points, from Emma here, which are good questions for us all to think about in anything we write. And every point she makes here are things which existed in my head as doubts, but not in the specific form that she has presented to me, and not just given me the issues, but solutions. That’s the key – we all have problems, but what defines is how we solve them.
So I sent over the next few chapters, but we tried a different approach this time – I said nothing in advance – of course, I still had a head full of doubts and worries, but sometimes you can push those to the forefront of the mind of the person who is reading your work and so they’re looking for that.
By not saying anything this time, I got what I really wanted (and didn’t want at the same time): a brutal, honest and detailed account of what is wrong with my story, not just in these chapters, but at the heart of it.
And this is where something really clicked in our relationship, in terms of developing this book. The thing I’d been flapping about, trying to find, the thing that was wrong with the story is expertly dissected and analyse by Emma in the response above.
But what is important and impressive in her response, IMO, is not just the identification of the numerous problems of these chapter, and the book as a whole so far, was the detailed suggestions on what to do. So many questions for me to ponder and consider in order to try and get the book back on track.
I think this email, more than any other, has made a different to the direction and the heart of my story. I’ve removed a few elements, as suggested by Emma above, and I’ve deepened some of the other issues that Eva faces in the book.
Honestly, this book has been the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life.
I started it in 2018, at the same time as I split with my agent and publisher, and thought I’d finish it by the end of 2018.
I got very ill shortly after, followed radiation treatment, followed by a year of fluctuating thyroxine and energy levels which left me with no mental energy to come back to it, really. I sent off an early draft into UV2020, and was lucky to long listed, but it wasn’t good enough to make the anthology.
Would it be good enough now? It’s certainly a stronger version now, I believe.
But most importantly, the heart of the story has really been identified and nailed down, and now I’m also stronger, both in body and mind, I feel ready to finally finish the book.
We’ve set a tentative deadline of end of November, and I’m going to enter the Bath Novel Awards, without hope or expectation, but simply to give myself a clear target.
I’ve discovered I am hugely eternally motivated when it comes to writing. I sit, for hours, imagining my story, but when it comes to punching those keys, it’s the external which works for me.
Clear targets, with immediate feedback and rewards.
This is a good time to mention a website I’ve been using lately – 750 words.
It’s a great wee sit, where you sit and type 750 words – you might ask why can’t I just do that into a word document. And it’s a fair question, but the complex neurochemical reactions in my brain appear to not induce dopamine to the same degree with that, as they do with 750 words.
And it’s the analytics, I think. It gives you the most wonderful feedback at the end of the session, an example of which I’ll post below. Maybe it will be useful for you, too?
Interesting huh? Well, I think so…but then again, I am a fully grown man, who still wishes he had a toy lightsaber.
Until next time,
May the Force be with you!