12 Jun A Story Dialogue – Mentoring and Me by Vashti Hardy
(Warning – I may overuse the word wonderful)
It was this time last year that I sent my writing off to Golden Egg. I’m loving my journey with GEA and thought it only fair to share my experience of the last year with new eggs and the egg curious.
There are many things that have made GEA a great experience for me: wonderful industry professionals and editors, quarries of enthusiasm, a superb network of writing buddies (the most lovely and supportive bunch you can imagine), thought provoking workshops, great industry panels, brilliant editorial feedback, and the fact that being in the GEA means you become part of a dialogue.
With GEA you are part of something that’s with you for the long haul of your story. All of us work differently, are at different stages, and have different things we need to work on. Golden Egg helps you with any gaps in your writer’s toolkit (that’s where the workshops are amazing) and the editors really take the time to get to know you and your writing. There’s a personal touch, and such genuine love and enthusiasm for the world of children’s and young adult stories all wrapped up in industry professionalism with the most insightful brains to nudge you where you need to go.
When Imogen offered me mentoring just before Christmas I leapt at the opportunity. The chance of someone reading my 75,000 words with new eyes was invaluable, and to have the chance to work on my story with Bella Pearson who has edited some of my favourite books is such a privilege.
Bella read my story in January and we met up in February. Bella’s advice chimed with my thoughts on what needed to be done to take the story to the next level. Many of her suggestions tuned into my niggles. We all know we should listen to these right? Niggles sit buried beneath your skin and twitch your writing nerves, BUT the difficulty is having the confidence to see them and act on them, to trust yourself to make the right decision. Having Bella to chat things through with has been extremely helpful. Sometimes the act of verbalising a choice is all that is needed to set you on the right path. The story I’m being mentored with, the Seer is a complex fantasy. The world has been close to me for so long it can be difficult to be objective. Bella’s helped me keep focused on the core of the story in every scene, which can be tricky in fantasy when you have a million ideas buzzing in your brain!
Bella is insightful and intuitive in her feel of story and of dramatic tension. I’ve learnt so much through the mentoring process at GEA that I will be able to take with me into other stories. How to hold the answers back until the right moment, how to slow down and hold on to the big moments (which aren’t always the loudest most action filled moments), how to strip out areas of the story that might be great but aren’t really necessary to the core of the story, to the main character’s journey, and so much more.
Although my basic structure didn’t need too much work, Bella helped me enormously with the balance of reveals. Juggling what the characters know when, and what the reader knows when, is a web woven with different moments connected to and depending on others – alter one and there is a ripple of change through the novel. Having extra eyes helps enormously with this (as does the fabled Book Map!). Mentoring has helped me see which information to hold on to for a little longer, what to show for clarity – it is a difficult tightrope to walk and Bella always kept the main back bone of the story in mind. She was like my tightrope steadying bar (sorry for the dreadful simile but you get the picture!).
Imogen has also helped me hugely in 1:1 meetings at workshops with ensuring I had a complete ending to book 1, that I have the overall arc of the series in mind etc. If you are writing a series it is important to ensure book 1 will stand alone. Imogen guided me so that I made the ending more powerful, so that when I submit it is complete in itself.
Short courses, conferences and retreats are wonderful, however, there are times when it can feel like a conversation cut short and you wish you could go back in a month or two and discuss the next stage with someone that knows your story. Being part of GEA means that there is support there as you need it for the whole story journey. So for me GEA is the most wonderful story conversation you can have because it doesn’t cut short. Becoming an egg is just the beginning and it is a dialogue tailored to your needs and in the universal language of story. No matter what stage you are at, you have the feeling that Imogen and her team are there for the whole journey – to see you through to writing the best story you can, and what you learn will carry you forward in every story you go on to write.
The anti-muse is a dangerous beast. My friends and editors at GEA are my support when it strikes, there to ninja elf kick (thanks Lorraine), drown her (thanks Emma), put my strengthening armour on (thanks Andrew), and make me laugh (that’s pretty much everyone!), and I have a great crit group from the journey too (thanks Andrew and Kirsten). AND the weekly #GEAQA is there for everyone, eggs and other writers – do pop in and say hello to the lovely Imogen, Vanessa, and host of super guest speakers Monday 7:30.
So a huge thank you to Imogen, Bella and the rest of the GEA gang. What you are doing is a wonderful thing! As I step onto the road to submission there’s no-one else I’d rather have beside me.