It’s pretty sobering when something as massive as an invasion happens. It can only throw things into perspective, underlining how fortunate I am in my own circumstances, but also how fragile we all are. All one can do it seems is to carry on living one’s life as best one can and hope that situations beyond our control resolve themselves as well as possible. Hard to do with SO many things going pear-shaped, though.

I’ve spent my time writing (hence the silence). This is the longest time it’s taken me to write a novel, something around 18-months, I think. Having made the most of the Curtis Brown 3-month Novel Course, I went on to employ the use of a Professional Mentor through their grad scheme, which opens more doors as a result of this first course. It provided me with what I needed, an outside, practiced set of eyes that could see through to what was required of me in order to complete.

This of course doesn’t mean an automatic pick-up – repped by a top agent and a tasty publishing deal, but I do know whatever happens, I have a far better novel now than I did going in to the arrangement in October. That in itself is worth the price of admission, let me tell you. What happens next though is still in the lap of the Gods. However, to give CBC their due, they do shop your MS around to agents at CB, C&W as well as further afield, to agents interested in writers who have completed the CBC mentorship scheme.

The way it works is, having graduated from one of the many novel-writing courses, you can put yourself into the pool for Mentoring. Armed with a one-page synopsis and 3K words from said novel, with CBC help, you approach Mentors one at a time and hope that they see something in your work that they not only chime with, but feel they can help with. You have a small Mentor bio to go on and make a choice from maybe 20-odd. I hit with my second try, Anthony Trevelyan choosing to pick up my gauntlet and run with it.

From my side at least, it has been a match made in heaven. He has been attentive, intuitive and totally respectful both of what I had and where I was trying to get to, careful from the start to ascertain exactly what that might be. Over the ensuing emails and Zooms, of which there are three in total, spread over a 6-9month period, you then pursue your end-goal, ably assisted by this Mentor. This I found far more instructive, tailored (specific) and supportive than being one of 15 or so in the preceding course.

I will say though, it never made sense to me to pay the money and then not accept his version of what I needed to do… throw all my toys out of the pram and get all ‘artistic’… It took a little prodding for him to trust I would indeed be receptive to notes, to ALL changes, to reappraising what I had and accepting the failings or limitations, whatever they might be.

But I went in determined not to be precious in that way, so long as I trusted the person providing the notes, or what would be the point? It became clear very early on though, that he understood and was sympathetic to the material and his suggestions moreover went on to make absolute sense, resonating with my own feelings of what was wrong, even though I’d no confidence in my own summation, or any idea how to fix it. however hard they were to hear, however much work and mental upheaval it then meant to effect the suggested changes, they nevertheless made perfect sense to me, and that reignited my imagination, as much as my determination.

To my mind, as an engineer, I can equate it to fixing a car. A full manuscript, running anything from 80-100K words, is a big and bulky thing to manhandle, to hold in the air and attend to alterations whilst still keeping an eye on the repercussions any changes would doubtless create. In order to change say, a clutch plate, it might seem an insignificant item when looking at it on its own. However, with some cars, this would entail lifting the car off the floor, getting underneath, first taking out the engine to gain access the clutch, then draining and dismantling the clutch in order to finally get to the offending item and replacing it.

It also made sense, whilst the car was up on the platform, to attend to everything else that needed addressing, like suspension, exhaust system, brakes, tyres and any underfloor spots of rust. Changing the clutch plate makes a car run properly, engage seamlessly with all the gears, where it might not have been before: A ride transformation. You begin to see what I mean.

Many of the suggestions were little more than cosmetic, but one of them in particular involved a new clutch plate. Then there were the changes, tweaks, additions and fixes that had occurred to me in the interim. It became a job for the garage, in full overalls, using a comprehensive toolkit and the sure knowledge it wouldn’t be fixed in a day.

Draft complete, I’m around the corner from my next and final Zoom sesh. I have to say, despite the stress, I’ve really enjoyed the process. Before I committed, shelling out a chunk of change felt like a real gamble, with no surety at the end and no clear idea what I was actually spending the money on, other than a bad feeling the *car* wasn’t healthy and no one would be buying. But once I’d embarked on the process, it was a no-brainer. I really want to thank Anthony Trevelyan for that. The man’s a diamond.