The Arvon experience – Part 3 – fears & dreams

Overcoming fears and making dreams come true.

Overcoming fears

A large part of the success of the Arvon format is simply that, for one week, it brings together a group of writers. At first this can seem a little daunting. After all, aren’t ‘other’ people so much more ‘sorted’ that oneself; more confident,  more experienced, more talented? What becomes clear, during the week, is almost everyone else is thinking exactly the same thing. It was great to spend time with a group of people experiencing the same challenges; difficulty finding time to write, difficulty in sharing the process with one’s nearest and dearest, feeling guilty for writing when there are ‘more important’ things to be done and so on… (if you’re a writer you’ll be able to add to the list!)

Testament to the power of Arvon in bringing writers together and facilitating the forging of relationships that go beyond the week itself, six of the attendees  had met on a previous course. This group set up, and encouraged others to join, student led co-mentoring sessions. I didn’t join myself, mainly because my aim on the course was to pull my sprawling novel together, rather than focus on specific passages. However,  those who did go found the feedback on their writing useful.

Every night three or four students read a five to ten minute passage from their work in progress. Each night I enjoyed the variety of styles and the sheer talent displayed – I also experienced a growing sense of panic about reading my own work. I considered simply not doing it, but I would have been the only one who didn’t. So, I put my name down for the last night and probably wasted a little too much time agonising over which passage to read. (If anyone is interested I might post the passage here; seeing as its escaped my clutches and wandered into the ears of real people already?)

Part of my initial reticence was that no-one else was writing fantasy (or sci-fi), although there were a few writing something with a fantastical element. Maybe Arvon should consider a fantasy writing course? That would bring the weirdos out of the closet – I include myself here!

When I finally did my reading the reaction was good. I was relieved to have got through the ordeal, for me that was an achievement in itself. The group gave me great feedback.

Making dreams come true.

Thursday seemed to be a turning point for a lot of us on the course. I spent a lot of time on my own, getting over the grief of my massive 80,000 word cull and going through a heap of self-doubt. I later discovered quite a few people were having a similar experience that day. Perhaps it was something in the air, or perhaps it was the fact the end of the week was in sight and we were all desperate to make some momentous breakthrough. The realisation began to hit home that however much input a tutor gives you, at the end of the day its down to you to make your dream manifest.

I had one dream of the outcome I wanted from the course. I didn’t mention it to anyone, because I felt it very unlikely to come to pass. To my quiet delight, on the last day of the course, in my last tutorial, that dream was realised.

I spoke again with Alan about my novel. He said some very positive things about my the depth of my character development and the story overall. He then told me that he felt my work might be of great interest to the publishing industry/readers if I could get it out in the next couple of years. He advised me to re-write over the next year and then send it to him. He offered to read the whole novel and then, depending on it’s state, pass it on to a contact of his; a prolific fantasy and sci-fi writer also involved in the publishing business. He felt this contact may well be interested in it or at the very least be able to put us onto someone who might be.  And there it was, my pre-course dream: that someone in the business would read my work and tell me they knew someone who might be interested.

Now the hard work really begins!

10 thoughts on “The Arvon experience – Part 3 – fears & dreams

  1. Enjoyed reading your account of the course, glad you had a productive time, and well done on getting an important contact for future use! In all walks of life that’s all it takes sometimes, knowing the right people.

    • plantageneta says:

      Thanks for your comment Phil. Historically I’ve never been good at making ‘contacts’ but am hoping that a combination of writing integrity and one or two decent contacts and maybe just maybe I could get somewhere.

  2. Yes, dreams fulfilled. That exquisite moment when someone you respect (and, more importantly, someone with clout in the writing world) says, ‘This is good! And I might be able to open some doors.’

    Now, I’m going to throw cold water on your dream – but for your own good. I spent years doing what you are doing now; trying to reach perfection. I had my own moments along the way, moments to take the breath away. But they have a habit of slipping through your fingers like sand. You need the luck.

    So I’d say to you – be hard-headed. You’re writing a book which may or may not get published. Whichever way it goes it will be largely down to good fortune and not to how long you have laboured. There’s no justice in this business. Excellent work gets overlooked, rubbish gets published and even sells in millions. Work as hard as you can to get your book ready; then push it as hard as you can because, in the end, nobody is going to take you by the hand and draw you centre stage. They’re all too concerned with getting there themselves.

    Best of luck!

    • plantageneta says:

      Hi Anne, thanks for your comments. I’m quite a realist, I know there’s a good chance I may never get anything published (unless I decide to self publish) with or without contacts.
      I’m also not a massive perfectionist – but at the moment my novel has such gaping holes there’s no point in pushing it. It has taken me a long time to get this far – i.e. to build my writing skill to a reasonable level, to start getting out and talking to other writers, experiment with twitter/blogging and to get my novel to a certain stage. I’m desperate to get the thing done, be sure my first 3 chapters are good enough to show & the central core of the story hangs together – so once I start pushing I can be coherent about what I’m saying.
      I’m certainly not planning on putting my eggs in one basket – when the time is right, if I have any connections I’ll try and use them, but I’ll approach others too. I know its all down to me. As a person who has never tried to ‘network’ before I figure its can never hurt and I may well learn something in the process.

  3. jakiedwards says:

    Congrats on your achievement. That is an amazing opportunity. I don’t consider it lucky – I think that detracts from the quality of your writing, the endurance you’ve put in by keeping at it, and your own investment (after all you paid to go the course to get the feedback and make those all important contacts). And now you have a contact with contacts who sees something very viable in your work. Good for you.

    • plantageneta says:

      Thanks Jakie. Really nice comment. I just have to make sure that I make the most of the opportunity and get this re-write done!

      • jakiedwards says:

        Indeed, when I set about doing that I made a list of the things that absolutely had to be achieved by the end of the book (bearing in mind that you intend to write more). I found that with the knowledge of other books to follow it cut down (dramatically) the amount that was essential. That process was equally useful for roughing out two and three. IE I had to have an understanding of the power but I didn’t need to finalise the romance aspect or make further connections/enemies with other races.
        Sorry that was more thinking aloud than useful advice really…

        • plantageneta says:

          It does sound very similar to the dialogue going on in my own head!

          I tell you what I’m struggling with – how the ‘magic’ element of my book really works – what the parameters are. It’s really a pseudo historical thing with magic to spice it up, but I waver with my parameters (and that’s painful if you’ve tried it 😉 )

          • jakiedwards says:

            Very familiar with the parameters of magic and it’s one of my favourite things actually. You need strong boundaries else your character(s) get set to become all powerful bullies/angels either or. Oh unless you mean the parameters of history at which I know less than nothing – hence I stick with urban fantasy.

  4. plantageneta says:

    Oh, no I mean the parameters of magic. fantasy history is a moveable feast within reason, pure historical fiction now that’s a different ball game. I’m guessing I need to brainstorm my magic or something???? Any words of wisdom? 🙂

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