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Adventures in Fiction Interview

Posted on 31 January 2008. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

WriteWords talks to Marion Urch, director of Adventures in Fiction about Apprenticeships in Fiction 2008.

Tell us all about the scheme.

Apprenticeships in Fiction is a complete one-year development
programme designed to prepare aspiring novelists for publication. Every
year we pair up five talented aspiring writers with a mid-career novelist
working in a similar genre. As the title of the scheme suggests, this is
very much an apprenticeship with an emphasis on the practical aspects,
both of constructing a successful narrative and developing an
understanding of the context in which a professional novelist works.

How did you come up with the idea?

The scheme emerged out of the work we were doing with Adventures In
Fiction. We set up in 2003 in response to a demand for a more hands-on
writer-oriented approach. Unlike other organisations which tend to offer
either manuscript appraisals or mentoring, we offer a combination of

When I started out as a writer I was lucky enough to be taken on by an
agent who believed in me and supported me through the process of
writing my first novel. This, combined with my own experience of
developing as a writer formed the basis of our unique six-stage
programme. With the input of a growing pool of mentors with expertise
in different genres, we continue to build on the effectiveness of the

What has been the response?

We are about to launch the third year, which speaks for itself! The
scheme was a success from the outset, thanks largely to the
overwhelming support of literature development agencies and course
leaders on MA creative writing programmes who recommended it to
their students. Though there are now a number of schemes offering
mentoring, we remain the market leader with a comprehensive structured
programme covering every aspect of the writing process.

How do you find/choose writers?

We select from open submission. Every year our panel of published
novelists is joined by an industry professional; this year itís up and
coming literary agent Rupert Heath. The selection process is important
because it offers selected applicants some much needed reassurance that
they do have publishing potential. Aspiring writers have often been
working in isolation for some time, so they generally need all the
encouragement they can get! Being picked from over a hundred or so
applicants provides an instant confidence boost.

We try to support writers at every level. Shortlisted writers who show
potential but arenít quite ready for the demands of the programme are
offered an invaluable next step in the form of specially discounted
appraisals, workshops and one-to-ones. After the competition we offer
key tips for all applicants on the website.

Tell us about the mentors?

We have had a lot of interest from published writers who are keen to
support emerging talent. We try to match mentor to apprentice
so that both find the process rewarding. We now have a pool of fifteen
mentors covering most genres, notably Brian Keaney for fiction for
children and young people, Martyn Waites for crime and Liz Williams
covering for sci-fi and fantasy.

What excites you about a piece of writing-

We look for a strong core idea that is potentially sustainable over the course of a novel. This can be a voice, a character or a premise that has resonance. It neednít take much, but something needs to jump off the page, something that hooks the reader and makes them want to know what happens next. A diamond in the rough can be polished, but a writer needs to display some storytelling aptitude. A good ear for language always helps. Many of the tools of constructing a novel can be learned but there does need to be evidence of a basic driving force Ė a passion to communicate a particular set of ideas.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

susieangela at 13:04 on 01 February 2008  Report this post
I've seen this before and wondered about it... Has anyone on the site applied for it or know anyone who has? Would be interested to know.

sheilab at 11:26 on 05 April 2008  Report this post
Hi Susie
I've applied for this year's one - on a whim more than anything else. I've no idea what the competition will be like. I was sceptical at first but Mslexia (writing mag for women) gives it the thumbs up and I haven't read anything but good things about it.
I'm sure I won't hear anything but if I do I'll let you know!

sheilab at 18:32 on 28 April 2008  Report this post
Hi Susie

Amazingly, I have just heard that I've been accepted onto this year's programme! Am very excited. Do let me know if you want to hear how I get on


susieangela at 18:42 on 28 April 2008  Report this post
Wow, Sheila, congratulations! That's absolutely brilliant. What an opportunity.
I would DEFINITELY like to hear all about it. When do you start? Do you know which mentor you will have? Have you already started the novel you're going to work on? Oooh, so many questions. Really pleased for you.

sheilab at 19:50 on 28 April 2008  Report this post

Well, at the moment I'm a bit stunned, to be honest. I applied on a whim and didn't really expect to hear anything more (and I know EVERYONE says that but in my case it's the truth.....).

I'm somewhere between euphoria and amazement at the moment. I got the letter last week but didn't say a word until the names were announced on the website today - I kept expecting a follow-up letter saying there'd been a terrible mistake.

So, to answer your questions - not sure when we start but I think within the next 4 - 6 weeks. Mentor - I think it will be crime writer Martyn Waites (at least, I'm assuming that as crime is what I submitted).

The novel - I'm working on a third and (I hope) final redraft. My plan was to try to finish it by end of this year, early next year which fits in with the timescales of the scheme.

And that's it. I'm wildly excited and can't wait to start!

I haven't quite worked out yet how this website works but would be so happy to let you know how I get on.

And thanks so very much for your enthusiasm on my behalf!!

Sheila xx

susieangela at 20:01 on 28 April 2008  Report this post
It sounds brilliant that you're at the last stage of your novel - it means the mentor will have plenty to work with. In fact, you might even find that you get finished earlier than expected and he can then help you with planning/writing the next one! Which would give you two books to pitch for publication.
Would love to hear how it goes. Just WW me - to do that, click on my name and there will be a box called 'WW Mail' - click on that and you can send private mail.
All the best with it, and enjoy this success!

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