Ravena Guron was born in London, went to school in London, went to university in London and now works in London. She has a degree in Biochemistry but soon realised life in a lab was not for her, and is now a trainee lawyer turned author.
She writes Middle Grade and Young Adult, and loves creating big worlds and adventures with lots of twists and bags of fun. In her spare time, she loves reading (of course), and falling asleep to her thousandth re-watch of Friends.
Ravena was a 2019 WriteMentor mentee, mentored by author Lindsay Galvin. Although it was a different novel that secured her agent representation, Ravena’s experience with WriteMentor helped her find that all-important writer’s voice.
WriteMentor chats to Ravena to find out more about her experience of the programme and her own writing journey.
What made you apply for the WriteMentor programme?
I heard about WriteMentor as a passing comment made by someone on Twitter. I knew that something wasn’t quite working with my story – though I couldn’t put my finger on what. Working with an experienced mentor who would provide me with guidance really appealed to me.
What was your experience like?
Life-changing and eye-opening! I did the summer WriteMentor programme in 2019, and for some reason I was determined that my story was a Young Adult fantasy. I had done my absolute best to meet all the conventions for a story for that age-group. And yet the first thing my mentor, Lindsay Galvin, said to me was “have you considered ageing this story down? The voice is more Middle Grade.” It was like something clicked for me – I cut 30k, many, many characters, and embraced all the whimsy I’d been holding at bay. Lindsay taught me loads about how to make sure each chapter was really pulling its weight, and helped me find my voice.
Tell us about your writing journey from start until now.
The book I worked on with WriteMentor in 2019 was my first book (that I count – I wrote a 120k monstrosity when I was 14 which has thankfully since gotten lost, and a 60k MG science-fiction fantasy hybrid thing when I was 17 that I’ve blocked from my memory. I actually “queried” 5 agents with that manuscript, despite not really knowing what a query was).
I learned so much from my WriteMentor experience, and that book garnered interest from agents, but ultimately it had a few too many problems. I shelved it, and started working on another MG fantasy, using everything Lindsay had taught me. I entered it into basically everything I could – Penguin’s WriteNow, Faber’s Fab Prize, the RCW/ Knights Of Workshop and Avengers of Colour. It was shortlisted for WriteNow, Highly Commended for the Fab Prize, and got me into the Workshop and Avengers of Colour.
Each one of those was a massive confidence boost, but without doing WriteMentor in 2019 I never would have found my voice!
At the end of September, I participated in #PeerPitch, where people in the WriteMentor community gave each other feedback on their pitches. The whole vibe was so uplifting and I (quite nervously!) decided to enter WriteMentor’s #WMPitch the next day. A week later, after polishing up my opening pages, I sent off my queries to the agents who had liked my pitch – and a few days later I had my first offer.
Can you tell us a little more about the book you signed with?
StarDrinker is a Middle Grade fantasy featuring an anti-hero protagonist, magic, found families, sisterly bonds, plenty of twists, and bags of fun. I wanted to write something fun and high-concept, and I’ve always been drawn to morally grey characters rather than traditional heroes.
What is your best piece of writing advice that you learned on the programme?
Be open minded to changes, and never be afraid of an edit. The book I entered WriteMentor with was a 90k word YA fantasy – I left with a 60k MG (and it even had a different name!) It was for a different audience, and had lost a bunch of unnecessary side-plots – and was so much better for it.
Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?
Often writing can feel like walking around in the dark. You can get a feel for things on your own, but having a mentor beside you and shine a light on things you couldn’t see for yourself makes a massive difference. Even after the official mentorship ended, I knew I could still turn to my mentor for advice.