Do you need a writing mentor?
When I first started taking journalism classes and writing for the college paper, I found myself improving as a journalist faster than I was improving as a novelist. It didn’t make sense, at first, because I only got into journalism because it was related to writing, and I wanted to learn everything I could about the industry, media and otherwise.
During one of our news conferences in which we attended talks, participated in contests, and listened to speakers, I figured it out. One of the talks I went to was with a novelist who discussed how to get an idea on paper without confusing ourselves with the jumble of the whole thing. Basically, she taught us how to outline a story without creating an elaborate mess of the idea.
I had already written a novel and knew it wasn’t good. I’d written two, actually, but I was still learning and didn’t yet feel comfortable with my voice. I signed up for her e-mail list and when she sent a thank you e-mail, I responded and we talked for months.
I learned a lot more from her than I had in the months since I learned that I wanted to be a writer. What was weird was that she was so eager to help me, but then, I’d started a Facebook writing group by then, Authors’ Tale, and I was eagerly sharing everything I knew already, too.
What is a writing mentor
That author was Marjorie Brody, the author of Twisted. I didn’t hunt her down or demand she help me; she was eager to. I’d call her a writing mentor despite the short span of time we spent talking. A mentor doesn’t always have to be as long term as people assume, though that’s usually how it works.[bctt tweet=”A mentor isn’t just a teacher; they’re friends whose teachings you’ll forever be able to depend on. #writerslife #ATwriter” username=”CayceBerryman”]
A writing mentor will be someone who helps you improve as a writer through their experience, knowledge, and influence. You might discover your voice with their help or you might find a publisher through their connections. A writing mentor doesn’t have a particular role in your writing career other than to help you, but it’s not a job. It’s an impact they have a result of your relationship and their past.
Who needs a writing mentor
If you have questions about writing, editing, revising, outlining, publishing, the industry, publishers, or anything else that has anything to do with writing, a mentor is a great go-to resource.
You’ll have a lot of “mentors” throughout your writing career, but to have a trustworthy source to default to is like Christians referring to the Bible. Anyone can say something is from the Bible, but Christians have the book to look back on and read the surrounding context to better understand whether the source correctly interpreted it.
What I mean to say is that you can be in a writing group, you can read a blog post, and you can even read a book on writing that doesn’t offer accurate information. Someone who is in the business can help you filter the right from the wrong. There are too many false resources out there so having one credible one, at least, will allow you to better discern the good from the bad.
They’re a good partner to have when things go wrong
While they’re good for finding the good/bad, they’re also great for you when you are in a bad place. Writers’ block, bad review, rejection responses, heavy critique, lack of readers, etc. They’re all painful, and your mentor will have hopefully suffered through all of them at some point.
Ask them about it. Treat them as your friend because that’s what they are, now. They can help you through the process, and they will.
How to find a writing mentor
In your community
Not everyone who wants a particular source of help and information will find one just by looking. If you’ve been thinking about that, though, the first place to look is within your own community. If you know any authors and would ideally like to sit down and pick their brain for a few hours, start there. Introduce yourself and become a fan. Read their stuff. Local authors are typically proud of their community, so what better way to share their knowledge than with someone who shares a geographical location with them?
When you introduce yourself, it’s a little off-putting to start with, “I know you’re a writer; I am, too, so I was hoping we could meet.” That would be like me going up to a famous journalist and saying that I’d written some news articles, and I thought we should meet. You’re not the only writer in the city/town. I promise. Make a connection with them. Seriously, read a book they wrote. What better way to start a conversation than to mention what you liked about their book? Wouldn’t that catch your attention, too? It might even teach you a few things.
If you’re in a Facebook group, a LinkedIn community, or something similar, you’ll find a lot of published authors who are itching to tell someone what they know. Many (not all) authors get a little proud once they publish their stuff, so be careful here. This can happen in any situation, but it’s harder to identify excessive pride online.
Overly proud authors tend to degrade new authors whether it’s intentional or not.
The best way to find a good mentor here is to talk to authors who stick out. People who post/comment on things often are usually the first you look at, but they’re not the only published authors. You can dive into this by posting in your group, “Published authors, what are _______?” Taper the question to fit your needs, but aim it at published authors in hopes that they’ll be the ones answering. You can ask to message them privately then go from there.
Remember, though. Be respectful, be understanding, and don’t bombard them with questions as if you only have a day. Read their stuff, too. Take time to make friends. Your mentor will always be a good friend, so let them be that to you, and please try to be that to them.
Can I be a writing mentor
If you’re asking, I almost want to say the answer is not yet. If you’re asking, you might not feel up to the task and that’s not the best thing. Being ready to mentor someone isn’t about humility as much as it’s about knowing your stuff. If you have been self-published and you’re not successful, you have unanswered questions, too. If you’re published traditionally and you’re not successful, the same goes for you.
If you and a fellow writer share a few experiences but both have questions, you can help each other. When I first started writing, I met a writer who was working on their first novel just like me. We became each other’s alpha readers, and that helped us to finish our first books together. We also learned a lot along the way and shared that with each other, which made the learning experience that much more rich.
Having a writing partner and being a writing partner is something all writers can do. Go for it!
How do I become a writing mentor
Experience. Whether you’re self-published or traditionally published, you need to know how you fixed the problems you came across. What someone would call a mentor isn’t someone who has experienced it all and can answer every question about the writing universe, but you’ll know how to help a fellow writer who is going through something you’ve already experienced and come out of alive.
Be humble. It doesn’t matter how successful you are in your career. You didn’t get there because you were born with a pencil in your hand. You had help, you learned things from dozens if not hundreds of people, and because of those people and your gift, you’re where you are. Remember that, and remember that you have the opportunity to have a role in someone else’s journey. That doesn’t make you any better than anyone else, but it is a heavy responsibility you must take as a heavy task with an incredible return. It will give you someone to be proud of because, like you, they used their gift after developing it through others’ experiences and knowledge.
You’re going to make mistakes throughout your writing career, and you’ll be able to share the solutions you found or learned with fellow writers. Do it and know that they’ll come out of it differently than you did. Keep in mind the differences you share, and taper your knowledge to fit their circumstance if you can. But, remember most of all that you, too, are still learning.
You’re just sharing the snippet of things you’ve already experienced.