The most helpful aspects … having a mentor who saw the full manuscript twice, as well as the looking at the beginning more often, the workshops led by Marion, meeting an agent and the support of other apprentices. It was also helpful having deadlines. The scheme was definitely good value for money.
… I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for everything you've done for me over the last year. As I think I told you, it has been one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences of my 'working' life...due in no small part to your guidance and inspiration. You are a gifted mentor.
The chance to work with a professional knowledgeable novelist who knows what is required for the job has been invaluable. The combination of workshop and one to one works very well. I was always stimulated and enthused by them. I was on a steep learning curve and think I benefited enormously from the straightforward no nonsense approach. I’d recommend this apprenticeship over MA courses: it’s more practical, constructive and cheaper.
Perhaps the most valuable thing as far as I was concerned was your finding Tom for me – a guy who ‘got’ what I was doing, who had both authorial and editorial experience, with whom I both hit it off and respected. His close attention, his deep reading, knowledge of the business, generosity of spirit and real attention to detail was the key to my having learned as much as I did.
The programme provided the necessary impetus for my development as a writer and enabled me to see my work more objectively. At the start of the year, I felt as if I was merely telling a story. Now that I have reached the end, I am focused on my potential audience and working on what it really takes to get a book published.
The most important lesson that I have learned over the course of the past year is the importance of genre and how this colours every aspect of a novel. With the assistance of Laura Wilson, my mentor, I focused on pruning and strengthening the novel accordingly. I cannot pretend that the process was easy, but I am convinced that the finished product is greatly improved as a result.
Working my mentor, Catherine, was a revelation - her judgment was spot-on and she put a huge amount of thought into how to tackle problem areas in my book. And when you've rewritten your synopsis for the umpteenth time, it slowly dawns on you what agents are really after! AiF aims to prepare you for publication rather than simply explore your writing skills - great news for aspiring novelists.
For writers serious about establishing a career, this is an invaluable opportunity to work closely with a professional novelist. The individualized and flexible attention to story development, the careful reading and considered feedback, the honesty, professionalism and market awareness—these are what made my "Apprenticeships in Fiction" a rewarding and pivotal year. And it worked! Within weeks of finishing, each apprentice this year had an agent or editor interested in the manuscript developed during the programme.
There’s nothing more useful than having someone who knows what they’re talking about go through your book with a fine-toothed comb – twice! My mentor, Liz Williams is an author I admire and I trusted her completely. Compared with creative writing courses, which are a lot less focused and often more expensive, the scheme definitely represents value for money.
Having this quality of feedback on all areas of the novel, from the complete picture to the detailed level of style and mechanics was extremely valuable and is probably a rare experience for most novice writers, even within formal writing courses. This is an excellent scheme for aspiring writers. I would have no hesitation in recommending it to others who are keen to advance their writing for personal and professional purposes.
I learnt a great deal not only about the technicalities of writing, but also about the business of being a writer and getting published. I now have a much better understanding of both these areas, which will stand me in good stead.
Writing can be a very lonely pursuit, so the value of having a mentor and a group of other apprentices giving support over the course of a year cannot be underestimated. My novel has grown and developed beyond all recognition and this is certainly not something I could have achieved on my own. One-to-one mentoring is also far more valuable to a writer than simply attending a creative writing course: my mentor was able to identify my weak points and address them, while building upon my own particular strengths, with the insight of an experienced writer. I don’t think that there are any courses that can give such personalised attention.
Catherine Johnson could empathise with all my whims as a writer, but she taught me how to filter out my indulgent distracting habits - ultimately distilling my book into pure storytelling. She got me to step back from my own point of view and look at the story from different angles; to think about what young readers will want, what publishers will expect and where my book would fit into the current children's fiction market. It has made all the difference!
Brian Keaney was extremely professional throughout and gave very detailed and perceptive reports which enabled me to make what he later described as ‘a huge leap forward’ in my writing potential. The critical awareness I had of my work improved, and although the Apprenticeship scheme was a challenging and sometimes frustrating journey, it was one which I needed to take on the route to becoming a professional writer.
Working with Laura Wilson was an amazing opportunity, which has helped me develop as a writer immensely. She helped me to identify the central themes of my novel and to understand where I fit within the market. I have been very privileged to have this opportunity.
The experience has been breathtaking, bruising, exhilarating… My novel has evolved from being a much-loved but guilty pleasure to being the absolute centre of my working life. I am determined to succeed, and that mindshift has come about because of the feedback and insights I’ve received from my mentor and from industry professionals at workshops. I now feel I could approach an agent with a degree of confidence in my skills and my future that I didn’t possess a year ago.
The Apprenticeship In Fiction has, for me, been a great experience. The generous advice I have received from my author-mentor over the last year has been invaluable in helping me to develop my writing. In the course of the programme I have gained insights from writers and other industry professionals that I could not have learned elsewhere. As a result I feel I can now approach a career as a writer armed with confidence and a much more professional attitude towards the craft than when I entered the programme a year ago.
The last year has been intensive, but I can now look back knowing that I am much closer to my goal of a career as a professional writer, thanks to everyone at AIF.
I really enjoyed having the opportunity to work with a professional writer with a good reputation. It was great to be taken seriously as a writer with something to offer and to meet other writers in a similar position. I am still in touch on a regular basis with the other apprentices and we have a very supportive network, passing on hints, tips, news and contacts.
One of the reasons I applied for this scheme, in particular, was that it appears to be the only mentoring programme that offers one-to-one mentoring with an established writer in the genre I'm writing in. For me, above all else, this has been invaluable. I feel that Martyn Waites really understood what I was trying to achieve - he 'got' it. I'm not sure I would have got the same response from a non-crime writer.
There is absolutely no way I would have made as much progress as I have this year if it wasn't for his input.
Working with Catherine Johnson was the most helpful thing. She was able to see things I couldn’t and taught me a tremendous amount about how to get it right for my market. When I finally ‘got it’ it was like a light bulb coming on and I know I shall never look back. Also, I know this wasn’t especially part of her remit, but she did look at things more than once and that was the MOST helpful thing for me, because you don’t always get something the first time and to have her feedback was invaluable. She made herself available at pretty much all times and I appreciated that very much.
What a privilege to meet such talented writers, so devoted to their craft and serious about becoming published.
Andrew Nurnberg Literary Agency