Mentoring writers is a two-way relationship. Don’t think that you—the person being mentored—receive all the reward.
Let me assure you that most mentors greatly enjoy this experience. Personally, it is exciting for me to meet new writers at a conference or via the telephone or Internet, encourage them in their writing, and then later open a magazine and see an article or short story written by them, or receive a copy of a published book with their name on the cover.
How do you find a mentor? There are three ways: 1) If you’re fortunate, another writer may recognize your potential and offer to mentor you; 2) a friend may recommend someone to you; or 3) you may “click” with a fellow author at a writers’ club or conference.
It may even be an editor or agent who sees potential in your work and is willing to take the time to help you in your climb up the writing ladder. Be courageous, take the plunge, and ask if he or she is available from time to time to answer questions and offer encouragement. If the answer is yes, then the following 10 hints will make this a rewarding experience for you both.
10 Tips for a successful mentoring experience:
1. Before contacting your mentor with a question, look for the answer on the Internet or at the library. You’ll remember it more if you dig for it. Do as much on your own as you can.
2. Make a list of your questions before you call or e-mail. This will ensure you get all the information you need, and you can jot down the answers on your sheet next to each question.
3. Be considerate in the timing if you’re phoning. Try not to call on Sundays, holidays, or the day after a conference. Also, remember the different time zones if you’re calling another state.
4. If you call, ask if this is a good time or if you should call at another time. They may have company, be preparing for a conference, or be facing a writing deadline.
5. If you write your mentor with a question, enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope, along with reimbursement for any expenses they may incur such as photocopies.
6. If you send a manuscript for them to look over, give them a little time. Don’t call three days later and ask what they thought of it. If you’re using regular mail, enclose a self- addressed stamped envelope for them to return your manuscript. You might also include a self-addressed postcard they can stick in the mailbox letting you know they received the material.
7. Whether sending your manuscript by e-mail or regular mail, to receive more complete feedback, call or write first. (A manuscript with a $400 check once lay in my mailbox over the weekend. I hadn’t heard from this author in 2 years, so he didn’t even know if I was still in the business, or if I lived at the same address. The mail carrier left it in a second delivery which we didn’t know about.) Let them know how many pages it will be and if you have a deadline to meet. Allow enough time before this deadline to insert any changes your mentor suggests. Rush jobs should be avoided.
8. If your mentor’s services include editing, type the manuscript double-spaced, with at least a one-inch margin on all sides. Number the pages consecutively, not chapter by chapter.
9. When you get your manuscript back, go through it and make a note of any weaknesses your mentor points out. Correct these weaknesses in future manuscripts you send.
10. Sometimes mentors need encouragement too. A “Thinking of You” card or an occasional token of appreciation may arrive on a day when their spirits need a lift.
Why would a person be willing to give up valuable time to help a new writer?
For me, the answer is that early in my life, many people gave of their time and knowledge to help me. One way of thanking them is to pass on to others what I have learned through the years.
Recently, a friend gave me a copy of her first published book. Inside she had written, “Here’s the product of your encouragement. Thanks for your help and love during this project.” This letter, and others like it in my file, is why I mentor.
Perhaps after you’ve been writing for a while, someone will come up to you and ask, “Will you be my mentor?” And, of course, if you believe in “paying it forward,” you’ll say “yes.”
This guest post is provided by Donna Clark Goodrich.
Donna Clark Goodrich is a freelance writer and proofreader residing in Mesa, Arizona.
She is the author of over twenty books and more than 700 published manuscripts.
To learn more, visit her site at www.thewritersfriend.net
Thoughts? Do you have a mentoring relationship with anyone? Do you think they are beneficial for today's writer?
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