Three weeks ago I attended a writing mentorship in Adelaide. The week was a full-on intensive learning about novel structure and general editing. If you ever get the opportunity to do a writing mentorship, I encourage you take the time, and be open to learning all that you can.
Like most writers I know, I find it hard to be objective about my work. I can't see the problems with the work because I'm too close to it. During my week of mentoring I learned how to stand back from the writing and evaluate each sentence, paragraph, scene and chapter. I already know a lot of the weak areas in my work. I try and correct them as I go, but when I've revised it many times I go on auto-read so the words in my mind aren't necessarily the ones I've written on the page. In other words I read the words in my head instead of what's on the paper.
Before I went to the mentorship, I hadn't worked on the manuscript for two weeks. I approached the work with fresh eyes, and immediately I started to cringe as I found weaknesses in the work. My mentor, Meredith, found all my choppy sentences, unnecessary words, lack of character development, dialogue inconsistencies, holes in the plot and punctuation problems.
And I thought I had a fairly polished manuscript. Think again, Laura!
Being shown my mistakes was like a stranger telling me my child had many shortcomings and they were all bad. It hurt! So, by the afternoon of the first day, I knew my manuscript wasn't perfect and I had better prepare myself for more constructive criticism. I took a deep breath, prayed for patience and a thick skin, then I set to work to fix my 'problem child'.
By the end of the week, my manuscript had improved immensely. My sentences were a mixture of short and complex; my dialogue was more natural; my characters behaved according to the people they were; and the holes in my plot were fixed. When I arrived home I revised again, and to my delight, I found the quality of writing had gone up a knotch.
The mentorship was a great success. My editor allowed me to fail, but she also gave me the opportunity to make the writing better, and brought my skills as a writer to the next level.
Have you been involved in a mentorship in your field of work and gained from the experience? I'd love to hear about your experience and how it changed the way you work?