Being a full-time writer means not only working every day on my novel, but also performing the multiplicity of tasks that go with the profession: book-keeping, research, editing, publicity and so on. As an established novelist, I also get asked to present workshops, participate in writers’ festivals, judge competitions and give talks in schools. The better known you become as a writer, the more such requests you receive. It’s rewarding not only financially (most of the above are paid gigs) but also on a personal level, providing an opportunity to give back to the writing community. Of all the ancillary jobs that come my way as an established author, mentoring is probably the most rewarding.
Here in Australia, mentoring programs are usually run through the universities, the state government-funded Writers’ Centres, or one of our professional associations for writers, such as the Australian Society of Authors. That allows adequate funding, a properly managed selection process, and good oversight and accountability for the program.
Generally a genre writer (I write historical fantasy) will be paired with a mentee who is working in a similar genre. Sometimes a mentee requests a particular mentor whom they think will be best able to advise them. I’ve usually chosen my mentee based on a CV, synopsis and sample chapters. Generally I’ll work with someone who has completed a first draft. Among the qualities I look for is a good work ethic, often characterised by a preparedness to revise, but also by being able to work quickly and to put in long hours.
I’ve mentored a number of writers over the last few years. Sometimes the mentorship goes brilliantly. Sometimes things don’t progress as well as expected. A mentor/mentee relationship is, of its nature, quite intense. It requires tact, patience and honesty from the mentor and, from the mentee, that sound work ethic plus a willingness to take advice on board. And sufficient self-confidence to know when not to take the advice, of course. A mentor’s role is not to tell a mentee how to write her book. She’s there to provide guidance, support and the benefit of experience.
Being a mentor has taught me to look at my own writing and my work practices afresh. Here are a few things I’ve learned: [Read more…]