During your writing career you will have many questions, be confronted with many obstacles and let's face it sometimes you will be pulling your hair out and wondering why you wanted to be a writer in the first place. It happens to all of us, even those who have been writing for many years.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is a person who guides a less experienced person by offering constructive advice, building trust and encouraging the mentee by modeling positive behaviors. A mentor understands their role is to be trustworthy, engaged, genuine, and productive in the needs of the mentee.
The mentor/mentee relationship should be one based on trust and understanding with the ability to work one on one. A mentor will gently push you beyond your comfort zone encouraging you to hone your writing, your thinking and being able to see your work from different perspectives.
To some extent your mentor will be your superhero, watching your back and picking you up when you fall.
The partnership should be a celebration of a constructive writing relationship.
Many organisations such as writer's centres, the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) and private organisations can offer information on mentorships. There are also competitions by some of these organisations offering the services of a mentor as their first prize. The Australian Society of Authors runs their annual Emerging Writers and Illustrator Mentorship www.asauthors.org/emerging-writers-and-illustrators-mentorships. I have included links at the bottom of this article, but you might like to Google mentorship services within your area.
Many mentors are now happy to use Skype, email and phone, so having a mentor interstate should not be a problem.
Before making a final decision, it is ideal to ask questions, talk to others who have utilised the services of a mentor. Find out what they liked, didn't like and any advice they can give you.
Before you begin your search, first ask yourself the following questions:
Is now the right time in my writing career for a mentor?
What do I want to achieve utilising the services of a mentor?
- guide me in my writing development
- work with me from beginning to submission to publishers
- offer me advice and share what they have learned about the writing industry
- be a sounding board for my ideas
Am I ready for constructive criticism?
Am I open to learning new things about my writing and myself?
Can I afford the cost of a mentor or will I need funding to support a mentoring relationship?
How often will I be able to meet with my mentor?
Do I have the time to commit to regular sessions?
Am I prepared to start over if my chosen mentor is not a good match?
Once you have taken the time consider the above, it's time to begin your search.
It is extremely important to find a mentor that suits you, one who is experienced with the genre you write for. I am a strong believer in mentorships and the benefits to the mentee, if the partnership between the two is a good match. And a good match is extremely important.
If you are not happy with your first, second or even third choice, continue to look until you find a mentor you are comfortable with. After all, you are paying for a service and until you find someone who is going to encourage and guide you, you are just wasting your time and money.
Benefits of a writing mentor
Communicating with an author who has already achieved some of our goals can be very inspiring and motivational. It also reaffirms that hard work and dedication do pay off.
2. Confidence boost
When a writer who we respect and admire takes an interest in our work, it gives us a well-deserved confidence boost.
3. Opening doors
Getting published is tough and more often than not it is about who you know. Having a mentor who can introduce you to others within the writing industry is an added benefit to the relationship.
4. Achieve your goal
Working with someone who has already achieved their dream of publication can be invaluable. Every day we grow and take one step closer to our dream of publication, why not learn from someone else's experience too. Through working with a mentor, our eyes can be opened to possibilities not even dreamed of.
5. Constructive feedback
Working with a mentor should result in constructive not destructive feedback. The only way to grow as a writer is to learn from our mistakes. Having someone point out our weaker areas can allow us to improve, but comments should never be destructive as this can be harmful to our growth.
I have been working with a wonderful mentor who I met by chance through the 2014 Children's & YA Festival at the NSW Writers Centre.
In response to my initial introduction email, I received a questionnaire and request for a sample of my writing. This is an excellent way for a mentor to get to know the mentee. It gives them insight into your writing history, dedication and achievements.
I'm fortunate that my mentor fell in love with the story I submitted, and not only provided more feedback than I could have hoped for, but also has helped see my work in ways I had not thought of before. We have since gone on to work on other pieces of work, and I will continue to utilise her services as I believe we are a perfect mentor/mentee match.
My experience is just that, my experience. If you are at a cross-road as to whether to enter into a mentorship, I hope this article will help with your decision.
"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." Benjamin Franklin