About this time last year I was lucky enough to be selected for the Writing East Midlands’ mentoring scheme, a fantastic opportunity to be mentored by a successful author for six months, with the sessions focusing on my writing goals. Following my selection last year, I posted at length about the selection process and how valuable the whole experience was. Since December 2014, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet regularly with award winning novelist Niki Valentine, to discuss my writing goals and receive feedback on both my recently completed first novel and its follow-up which I have just begun writing. Niki’s first novel The Killing Jar, published as Nicola Monaghan, won a Betty Trask Award, the Author’s Club Best First Novel Prize and the Waverton Good Read Award, and she followed up its success with her second novel, Starfishing and a novella, The Okinawa Dragon in 2008. Since then she has also published two psychological thrillers as Niki Valentine: The Haunted and Possessed. Niki is a talented, professional writer with a great deal of experience teaching creative writing at University level and I was thrilled when she agreed to be my mentor. And her blog’s a bit good too.
During the Creative Development Planning workshop that I attended as part of the WEM mentoring selection process, I was encouraged to make clear, achievable goals for the next year or eighteen months of my writing career: completion of a final draft of my first novel to a publishable standard, secure literary agent representation for the novel, and on completion of my MA, move into teaching creative writing. These have since become the focus of the mentoring process.
On meeting Niki for the first time in early December 2014, I knew I was in good hands. During that first meeting we discussed the opening of my novel, which I had sent to WEM as part of the application process, as well as the goals I had set myself during the CPD workshop and I left buzzing with the positive feedback and advice that Niki offered. Since then Niki has poured over a trio of larger sections of my novel and taken my prose and the structure of the novel to task. Following her constructive, razor-sharp criticism I took the scissors to the novel and rearranged and edited, all of which, though extremely tough coming as it did after the months of editing in preparation for my final MA submission last September, has improved the novel no end.
I am now halfway through the mentoring programme, with three meetings with Niki remaining. Next up, I will be sending her the first, blood on the page draft of my second novel, which is a whole different type of nerve-wracking, as anyone who has shared first drafts with other writers will tell you. I am looking forward to hearing her thoughts though, as I am sure, however critical they might be, they are sure to help me make this next novel better, quicker. After all, that is what mentoring can do for a writer. I certainly found that on my MA, the input of my peers and tutors constantly challenged me and my writing to be better and I believe that those three years of part-time study helped my get better much quicker than I otherwise would have done. And hey, I finished a novel because of it. The WEM mentoring with Niki is like a ultra focused, high speed version of the MA, with the series of meetings and writing feedback based on an agenda I have set rather than the unavoidably one size fits all nature of a University MA. I feel extremely lucky to have Niki as my mentor and am very grateful to Writing East Midlands for providing me with such an fantastic opportunity.
The reason I bring all this up, aside from my wanting to show my appreciation to both Niki and WEM, is that applications for the next round of WEM mentoring will open on July 1st and remain open for six weeks. So now is a good time to start thinking about getting your application ready. Writing East Midlands are a fantastic organisation and their mentoring programme is a fantastic opportunity that would benefit any emerging writer immeasurably. I am only halfway through my mentoring and the benefits to me and my writing have been immense. Seriously, if you are a writer living in the East Midlands, get over to the WEM website now and see about applying.
And while you get on with that, I’ll get back to the drafting novel #2.