Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mentoring

How many of you have mentored a fellow writer? Editors, in many ways, could be considered mentors. They correct problems and work to make your story more "active" or to make the flow of the book smoother or faster. If you study the edits they make instead of just accepting all the edits, you learn how to not make the same mistakes. 'Course, they, in most cases, get paid.

In this case, I’m talking about volunteering to mentor a new writer -- helping him or her with their manuscript. It can be anything from correcting spelling to plot development. It could even involve helping them write their query letter or synopsis, or searching for an agent.

If this appeals to you, consider looking at the writing groups you belong to, such as Sisters in Crime (or a group that covers the genre you write) or your critique group. Is there someone there who has mentioned needing help in some areas? Someone who's struggling? Could you offer to read some pages for them and give your advice? Maybe meet in person to talk? If you're the one who needs help, have you asked?

The local group of Sisters in Crime (the Heart of Texas chapter) does a May event where writers can sign up to be hooked up with a mentor. Mentees can also sign up to get a mentor. We only had two writers ask for mentoring.

This year I've been matched with a writer from San Antonio. She sent me her opening chapter and I've looked at it, made a few edits and sent it back. If we lived in the same town, we could get together to talk. As it is, we'll probably not meet up until the May meeting. At the meeting, there will be time for the two of us to sit and talk about her book or querying agents or whatever she wants to discuss.

There aren't rules that say the relationship has to go beyond the one meeting, but I suspect it will. That's left up to the mentor and mentee. I’m looking forward to meeting my writer.

What about you? Have you ever had a mentor or mentee relationship? How did it come about? What were the results?


Helen Ginger
is an author, blogger, and the Coordinator of Story Circle Network's Editorial Services and writing coach. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its fourteenth year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn. Helen is the author of 3 books in TSTC Publishing’s TechCareers series, the contemporary fiction, Angel Sometimes. Two of her short stories can be found in the anthology, The Corner Cafe. Her next book, Dismembering the Past, is due out in 2013.

10 comments :

  1. I just began helping a beginner writer this week. Very timely post for me. I don't really feel qualified to mentor, since I am still learning myself, but I realized that I could at least help this writer get to the place I am at this time. I'm also learning from my mentee. Just the process of helping someone else has let me see my work in a new way.

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  2. My editor, Carol, was my mentor ... and task master (she wouldn't let me slide any gaps in logic through ... no matter how hard I tried) ... and cheerleader (without her encouragement, an unfinished manuscript would still be sitting in my drawer). Sadly, she has passed on, so now I'm a lone wolf ... and my latest MS is suffering for it.

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  3. I consider my critique group mentors. I've thought of mentoring other writers, but it is a delicate thing. One man's trash is another man's treasure, so I wouldn't be the right fit for certain genres or premises. I would love to find a way to "pay it forward."

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  4. I think mentoring falls under the category of paying it forward. You don't have to be an expert or best-selling author. You just need to be open to helping in whatever way you can.

    Christopher, so sorry to hear about Carol.

    Diana, an opportunity to pay it forward will probably come about. Perhaps one of your critique group members will look for one-on-one help or advice.

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  5. This is such a cool post, Helen. I've always mentored as part of my editing process, explaining to writers why a scene needs to be embellished, reworked, deleted, etc.; how a character has stepped out of character; why the dialogue doesn't ring true; and so forth. When the writer finally has that "aha" moment and begins to apply the lesson(s) I've tried to teach, I feel like I have, indeed, paid it forward. It's a great feeling.

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  6. As a university teacher, I mentored a number of post-graduate students doing degrees in Creative Writing. When I made the lateral move into editing, I naturally carried on in same vein. One of the fringe benefits of mentoring another writer is that you get sharper at crafting your own work. I highly recommend it!

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  7. I agree with Diana that a critique group is a form of mutual mentoring - if there is such a thing. (smile) But members of a critique group do give of themselves to help the others.

    Early in my career, I did have a mentor, Laura Castoro, who would offer writing advice as well as encouragement. As we are stumbling along in the beginning, I think it helps to have someone, or a few someones, let you know that the work is not awful, just not polished. I am grateful for Laura, and others along the way, who supported me.

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  8. Oh, and I do love to mentor new writers. I've done that a few times and the friendships that developed have lasted.

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  9. I have to tell you - I've never been comfortable with a mentor situation. I haven't really had one (although I've had many good teachers over the years), nor do I make a good mentor. The relationship seems too long-term with this particular scenario and sometimes has almost a Svengali energy. Short-term teaching situations, now that's another story. Perhaps we have a different understanding or experience of the mentor relationship. But this is my 2 farthings about the idea. ;)

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  10. Our RWA chapter had a mentoring program, and I volunteered to give feedback. The program was designed to be 'broad-based' rather than do edits for the mentees. As for myself, I'm still ever grateful for the author who I hooked up with through fan fiction and who mentored me through my first feeble attempts to write a story. POV? what's that?

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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