Mentorship is key in any industry, job or even hobbies. A mentor is someone that is more than an expert in their craft. They are people who not only have your best interests at heart but also works tirelessly to assist you in fulfilling your untapped potential and realise your wildest dreams.
A mentor is no less important when it comes to improving your writing, editing and proof reading skills. They play a key role in your journey to publishing, whether it is through your manuscript being picked up by traditional heavy-weight publishers or the indie publishing route. Just like an eagle-eyed editor or a thorough proof reader, a mentor who’s been there and done that, who knows how to help you play to your strengths and minimise your weaknesses, can make or break your writing career.
At the beginning of my writing career, I was fortunate to find a writing mentor that not only wanted to see me succeed but she knew what she had to do, both theoretically and mentally, to not only give me the confidence in my own writing but to improve nearly every aspect of my writing and reading skills. Her teachings and advice are indirectly responsible for me taking the step to publish two novellas, as well as working on my own full length debut novel.
Below are the reasons why having a writing mentor is important and the qualities you should be looking for in such a mentor:
Improving Your Writing Abilities
Probably the most obvious reason to get a writing mentor in the first place — to help improve your own writing skills. Even if you have grandoise dreams of being the next J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin, untold fame, riches and ultimate recognition of your written work will not happen overnight. The only way that you are going to get there in the first place is to work hard, and that starts with having the right mentor to teach and improve your neophyte writing skills.
My writing mentor was a well-versed English teacher, who worked for a local college, and I visited her house for private tuition in order to improve my own English reading, writing and editing skills. Besides teaching me the right grammar, or the most compelling sentence structure, she was also brutally honest with me about what needed to improve and that she believed I had the ability to improve naturally. Her honesty, confidence and belief that I could be a better writer through her guidance, has helped me to become the writer that I am today.
Tips and Tricks of the Trade
Having the skill to write is one thing, having the inside knowledge about the writing industry in particular is quite another. No matter how good a writer you are, it always gives you an advantage to understand the industry that you’re working in which, in this case, is the ‘Wild West’ known as publishing (cue evil Bond villain music).
A good mentor is one that doesn’t just teach you the technical aspects of your writing trade but also informs you of the comings and goings of the industry, the tips and tricks to getting your manuscript accepted by publishing houses, as well as knowing one or two important and influential people within the industry that won’t hurt your chances getting your manuscript picked up.
My mentor was a guiding light, in some respects. She had previously published a novel with the help of professionals and had offered to introduce me to them, in case I decided to publish my own novel in the future. Although I ultimately did not take her up on her offer, it was telling how the ride from first draft to bookstore shelf through her own publishing journey, which took a little more than a year.
An Authority Figure to Lean On when Times are Tough
Finally, more than the knowledge they can impart or the tricks they can reveal. the most important quality that a writing mentor can have is to be the one shoulder you lean on when you find your writing times tough. Life’s tough as it is by yourself, you might as well find someone that can tough it out with you.
The best mentors are the ones that will know what to say to you when you need to hear it, whether it’s a word of encouragement to help you break through a writer’s block, a word of solidarity when you find your manuscript being rejected by every publisher around your block (and then some), or a word of comfort when you feel like breaking down and giving up.
Judging from the times I’ve had to go to my mentor for every writing-related grievance I had, my mentor definitely had a strong shoulder! For me, it was a pressure of my shoulders when I could turn to someone, especially a person who I looked up to and who had vastly more experience than me in the publishing world, with all of the issues of the day, whether it be having trouble finding inspiration for my manuscript, dealing with increasingly demanding deadlines from publishing companies or even just an unkind review that caught me on the wrong day, emotionally. She had a word for each situation, which was something that really helped me as I struggled to produce anything resembling a decent sentence, during my nascent writing days.
Although we are now separated by geography (her being in Malaysia and I in Australia), due to the wonders of the Internet, we still keep in touch on the regular and her words continue to inspire and motivate me as I work towards the release of my debut novel later this year.
Take it from me, a good mentor is someone that you want in your corner for the rest of your writing career, who will only be a benefit to your finished manuscript and makes a huge impact in the future success of your novel.