Monthly Mentoring Series
This post is one in a series to publish monthly during the Minnesota State Arts Board grant year of 2021. I received the grant to work with a Minnesota fantasy genre author, Lyda Morehouse, on the first draft of my dark fantasy novel, Unwinding AnneLeah. I want to share our mentor/mentee process to prepare you for a workshop experience to be offered later in the year.
How will you publish?
We touched on this briefly in our getting-to-know-you first meeting. How you intend to publish can impact the form of your writing. What do I mean by form?
Do you write long, complex sentences without punctuation? Are your chapters inconsistent in length and voice? What about style? Is one chapter packed with visuals and another swashbuckling adventure? However it is that you put your story together – well, that’s up to you – if you self-publish.
There are exceptions, of course, for established authors. Minnesota writer, Sheila O’Connor, recently published her unconventional form novel, Evidence of V, A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions with her traditional publishing house, Rose Metal Press. Check out Book Riot’s 2018 article, 7 books with Unusual and Unconventional Formats. You don’t have to know the form your book will take in the first draft but be aware that form may well affect your options for future publishing.
The first draft.
Lyda Morehouse: I was jarred by the introduction of a dramatized scene with the mole/rodent and how, because there was dialogue and concrete imagery there, my mind hyper-focused on that scene… and that meant I wasn’t entirely sure what that scene was supposed to leave me with. I suggested reframing that scene so that it’s clear that the important bit is that AnneLeah is being led, by a new question, to revisit her life on “earth.”
It turns out, you can’t just drop an individual (entity, diety, yet to be determined) into a scene from an ethereal state, onto a planet (yet to be determined) to interact with a talking mammal without providing defining details of again – who, what, where, when, and why. Because I know my own story, it’s easy for me to forget to write the details that anchor the reader in the world I’ve created. Now I have to revisit every paragraph – possibly every sentence – to be certain that my readers have everything they need to stay in the story to the glorious (yet to be determined) end.
Working with an award-winning, fantasy genre mentor.
The purpose of this exercise, working with a mentor on my first fantasy novel, is two-fold. I don’t know anything about writing a fantasy novel, so this process will be of enormous benefit to me as a writer. I’ve already experienced a shift in orientation toward the story, because I’m working with someone who knows the genre, questions every detail, and is clearly interested in guiding and teaching.
Not every writer is open to critique of their work. And that takes me to the second aspect of the purpose in this exercise. As I share my process, not only of writing this novel, but working with a mentor, I hope to encourage others who may be shy about sharing their work, to see the benefits of learning from others.
It has been my experience that many writers hide their work or don’t even start the writing they want to do because they’re afraid of what other people will say about their words once written down. My encouragement is this: we learn better together.
I write because I love to write. I’m a professional copywriter and I enjoy writing for my clients —telling the stories they want to tell their customers. However, I am a student of creative writing. I write short stories and novels and I love doing it, but I need practice. And along with practice I need insightful guidance from more experienced, knowledgeable authors.
I hope as this series unfolds, you will find the courage to begin working with other writers to learn the craft and evolve into someone who can help others coming along behind you.
I do not teach writing. We’ve established that I am not qualified (yet) to teach writing. But, I’ve learned from others, a number of ways to help writers who are stalled in their projects or simply can’t get started, how to get the writing done. Please visit my Writing Coach website page for more information to help you get started and keep going!