• Eliza Chan

Mentorship and Novel Writing

Exciting news, I have once again picked up the novel mantle under the mentorship of Maisie Chan. Maisie is a fiction author who write middle grade novels as well as other pieces for teens and adults. She has experience running teaching creative writing sessions also and put a call out on Twitter last month about looking for a British-Chinese writer to mentor because she was disappointed there were so few. I jumped in with an application which she happily accepted and now she can’t get rid of me. Mwahaha. That is to say, she has agreed to mentor me for free for a whole year, giving me feedback on my writing and encouraging me to keep writing. Huzzah!

The first piece of great advice I had from Maisie was to PLAN the novel. Oddly enough for someone who has written dozens of short stories, I don’t plan. Which is fine for a short story but was the bane of me when I tried to novel write previously. Turns out (well I’m sure there are still exceptions to the rule) that the inspired writer who just starts writing and comes out with a perfect novel plot, is a lie. People follow structures, put in climaxes, turning points and twists. I was genuinely (stupidly) surprised to hear this. So I have spent May structuring and developing plot and started to write the actual first draft last week. GULP.

This is actually the same novel I started in Nanowrimo 3 years ago. I wrote myself into a corner and then freaked out every time I picked it up again because it’s scarily intimidating. Second piece of advice Maisie gave me: write regularly, schedule it in like a job, get the momentum going. This is all well and good in theory but always more tricky when you have a full-time job, weekend plans, holidays and relatives visiting. I have however, decided to shout loud and proud this time and be very non-flexible about needing the time to write. I think the more people, the more I will NEED to write it for fear of losing face (so Chinese…).

The third piece of advice Maisie gave me (she’s given me lots more advice, let’s be honest, these are just the things that stuck), are pep -talking yourself. Rather than wallowing in the social media funk of EVERYONE IS BETTER THAN ME, praise yourself for achievements so far. Writers are our own worse enemies. We wait for the muse to come, we are too busy, it isn’t the exact right word we need… we actually need to give ourselves a pat on the back for finishing a story, for spending our free time writing than watching telly, for imagining things from our little brains that are wonderful and emotive. WELL DONE US.

So the novel is back on. When I say it’s on, I’m on chapter two of the first draft but that was better than a month ago. Short stories are taking a back-burner for now but I have bought my ticket to Fantasycon in Chester and hope to catch up with some folk there. I shan’t ruin the surprise too much but it’s very much an evolution of The Water Museum and One More Song. I love mythology and I’m drawn to the sea. It’s just ironic I can’t swim!

#writing #mentorship #advice #novel #maisiechan

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