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January 13 is “Make Your Dreams Come True Day,” and one of the smartest ways to achieve your dream of becoming a successful author is to find a writing mentor.
Writing is, by its nature, a solitary pursuit. Alone without inspiration or guidance, you can easily find yourself in a rut, staring at a blank piece of paper (or computer screen)—or worse, glaring at the pile of rejections you’ve received. How do you get yourself motivated to move toward your goals?
A writing mentor can offer you the benefit of his or her experience by giving you advice and pointing you in the right direction. It may even be possible for your mentor to open doors for you with new opportunities through professional contacts. And, of course, you’ll have the chance to improve your writing skills using the feedback and critique you’re given.
What traits should you look for in a writing mentor? A good mentor will be someone willing to give you advice and counsel and who’s prepared to direct and support your work. But just as important, once you know what you’re doing, a good mentor will let you move forward on your own.
When choosing which author to ask for guidance, opt for one who writes in the same genre as you. Make sure you are familiar with his or her work, and pick someone whom you admire and whose career you would like to emulate.
What’s the best way to ask a writer to mentor you?
Gather your courage, don’t be nervous, and ask! Remember, your request will actually be quite flattering for the author. However, keep in mind that mentors have lives and need to spend time writing their own work. Immediately establish the limits of what you expect from the relationship, so that your potential mentor doesn’t assume it will be more work than he or she can take on.
Be respectful and ask for only ten minutes, and make it a casual meeting over coffee or such. If the author agrees, arrive prepared with five specific questions. And mentoring doesn’t necessarily have to involve providing support in person: You can easily correspond via email.
Another way to approach a potential mentor is by asking how you could help him or her. Can you help with maintaining a Facebook page? Assist with administrative tasks? Your assistance might be appreciated, and the author may be more inclined to reciprocate with mentoring advice or prospects.
Afterward, be sure to follow up with a “thank you” and your writing. Then prepare yourself for feedback—positive and negative. It would be great if your mentor thought your writing was perfect, but expecting only glowing praise would be unrealistic. And don’t give up on the mentoring relationship simply because you find the criticism stings. Learning what weaknesses you need to work on is vital to your growth as a writer.
Where can you find a writing mentor?
Here are a few ideas to get you started…
- Writing groups, workshops, and conferences. Ask an attendee or moderator whose work you respect. (Check out Writer’s Relief’s listings to find the best ones for you!)
- Professors or editors you are familiar with, and who have given you encouragement.
- Internet searches for authors in your genre. Read their blogs; then send an email to potential mentors.
- Professional organizations and writers associations. Some have mentoring programs, including:
- NaNoWriMo—There are forums for newbies looking for mentors and mentors looking for newbies.
- Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers—Offers critique groups and one-on-one mentoring.
- Horror Writers Association
- Rose City Romance Writers
- Mystery Writers of America—Mentor program in the Northeast states; there is a nominal fee.
- Oregon Christian Writers
In addition, there are also mentoring services and writing coaches that will charge you a fee. Be sure to research these carefully before you spend your hard-earned cash.
Unless you’re lucky enough to have a genie in a bottle, making your dreams come true is going to require lots of effort and commitment on your part. Having a writing mentor may help you reach your goals faster. And, hopefully, what starts out as a valued mentoring relationship may one day become a valued friendship.
Today is a great day to get started—every day has the potential to be “Make Your Dreams Come True Day.” And once your skills and writing acceptances grow, you might find an eager, new writer asking you to be a mentor!