Writing Mentors

The problem with critique partners is that they seem to be everywhere, but it’s hard to find a good one. Because ideally (and what I’ve come to realise) is that you want someone whose writing is better than yours. Who can help you improve your craft. I always find it really odd when I get edits back from someone and then I read their work and it’s like… huh.

Which, I guess, is where the notion of a ‘writing mentor’ comes from. Where you have someone in your corner who has been published, whose work you respect, and is further along the path.

Does anyone here have a writing mentor? I think that might be my next goal – to find an excellent writing mentor. Someone I can look up to, can trust, and can help me along my journey.

What do you think of writing mentors?

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
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112 Responses to Writing Mentors

  1. SarahClare says:

    I’m not sure you need someone who’s writing is necessarily ‘better’, I think that’s hard to qualify anyhow, who’s to judge? But I think the important thing when looking for a mentor or critique partner is that they are eager, and have a different writing style- I think if someone is too similar to your own way of writing it can be harder to see things that might be pretty, but not really working, you know?

    My lecturers at university have been indispensable! But I’ve also found that books can act as mentors too, in a way. Read, read, read and you can quickly learn the kinds of styles and techniques that work for you, and the ones that you want to avoid like the plague.

    🙂

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  2. krystal jane says:

    I absolutely feel this way! It’s been on my mind a lot lately. It’s so nice to see someone else say it. My writing always improves a lot faster when I have someone amazing giving me feedback. 🙂

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  3. simonfalk28 says:

    I don’t have any particular one. I think it is a marvellous idea. Hope you find one, or more, for yourself.

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  4. The problem can also mean that to mentor takes time and many people think that they can just ask people to mentor for free.

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  5. jobrien1977 says:

    Jodie,
    A mentor would be great, but who can you trust? Ideally someone who has published in your field. But why would an established author give up their time for free unless they’re a friend/family? I’m beginning to think that it in order to get a serious critique you need a professional editor who has a stake in your success. Mentors will encourage but an editor will cut to the bone. That allows for progress. Mentors set you on the path, but an editor will test your skills.
    Jonathan

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  6. j1m says:

    i used to be part of an online group where there were 4-5 of us who i thought were at a similar level of ability, as difficult as that can be to gauge. but those were heady days.

    not sure re a mentor. i’ve never felt strongly compelled to try and find one. i think i preferred those similar-level contemporaries to encourage and challenge me. of course, if you or they should improve/move ahead then you’re stuck requiring more/”better” contemporaries, and so on, whereas your mentor will no doubt always be “better”, so more consistent.

    interesting.

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  7. Yes it’s so important to get critiqued by someone whose writing is as good as yours (or better!). I’d love to have a writing mentor, but I have no idea how to go about it. The established, authors just seem too unattainable!

    I’m with you though, I love getting lots of critiques, it’s the only way to learn!

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  8. bkpyett says:

    Sounds ideal! I found an editor, but it s expensive and I can’t afford to see her, as much as I’d like to. Goodluck,

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  9. Do people who respectfully point out that the two “who’s” should be “whose” count as mentors? Sorry, couldn’t resist. 😉

    I consider every book I read my “writing mentor”, but don’t have a specific person – I could certainly use someone to bounce ideas off of (hmm, that phrase needs editing!) or get some good feedback, currently I only have a few people I know personally. I agree with your point about ideally having someone whose writing is better and/or who’s more experienced, but there is also something to be said for two people with approximately the same level of writing/editing skills. Even if their writing is slightly below yours, they can approach your writing with a fresh set of eyes and see things the way a first-time reader would – an experience the writer can sadly never have.

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    • jodiellewellyn says:

      Depends if you can tell me which ones and why? hehe.

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      • You wrote “…someone who’s writing is better than yours” and “who’s work you respect”. “Who’s” is a contraction of “who is” (or “who has”), while “whose” is the possessive case of “who”. Similar to “he’s” and “his”, if that helps you to remember it. 🙂

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      • jodiellewellyn says:

        I suppose I should change it… lol. Thanks for pointing it out! Love learning on a day to day basis. It’s the best thing about this blog.

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  10. INteresting post and comments. I agree with many here that having a mentor sounds great, but in practice it’s probably hard to find the right person, someone who has the right qualities and is motiviated and committed to you for the long haul. In reality, for many of us there will be more than one mentor through our writing careers, people that help us most in certain areas or at particular times. Writing groups / communities are of course very popular. Personally I still haven’t taken the plung in joining a group, but I’ve found some excellent advice and encouragment on forums like this and others. In terms of detailed editing / critques, I’ve paid for m/s assessment services a few times, and that has given me valuable feedback but it can get expensive especially considering it’s hard to make money out of the writing.

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  11. Harliqueen says:

    I’d love a writing mentor! I think it’s a great idea, now got to find one 😀

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  12. Laili says:

    I completely agree! It is hard to find people who can be mentors, of any kind, that will help you improve. You’re looking for a leader, not necessarily a mentor. A leader is someone who can do that–at least that is what a leader should do. I too keep trying to get myself to write and write. I try to write a little every day, if I can, since I know it does improve your skills in the long run. It’s just sometimes I am unsure of what I want to write. I’m currently working on a story about a girl who’s ability I’ve realized is not exactly being told the way I want it to be. I also haven’t quite figured out what I want her to achieve yet. I know there is a purpose but I haven’t figured it out yet–like it is lingering in the back of my mind waiting for the right moment to surprise me. I would love to help you sometime, if you’d like, though I am American and our understanding and wording of the English language may differ somewhat regarding grammar and punctuation.

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  13. Michael Roberts says:

    Most people would love a writing mentor…someone who is “further along” and can advise; it can only be beneficial. That is, if the chemistry of the relationship works. I think the problem is aspiring writers outnumber accomplished writers by 1000 to 1. Also, it takes a certain kind of generous spirit to input into anothers’ life…

    I’d also like to join an online writing group, or writing-group-by-correspondence – because my week feels so full already, I can’t make it out anymore weeknights.

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    • jguenther5 says:

      Right, Michael: the odds are not in your favor. Accomplished writers (per one study) are “three sigma” people, i.e., about 1.4 per 1,000 population, based on writing ability tests (GRE, SAT, etc.) The more writers you know, more likely you can find a suitable mentor. There is about 1 writer per 1000 people in the US. So your 1000:1 is too high; it’s more like 100 to 1.4. Better, but not great.

      A systems approach will help:

      1. You don’t need a top-selling writer to mentor you, just someone who knows the craft and is good at teaching it. That improves the odds a lot.

      2. Never ask a mentor to proof-read your stuff! Don’t even let him/her see the m/s. Instead, work at the most basic level FIRST. Give your mentor the following: Your genre (1 word), your theme statement (1 sentence), your story concept (1 page). Fix them. Then, SECOND, have him review your plot outline (~5 to 10 pages). Fix it. THIRD, go over your character studies with your mentor (interviews, Enneagrams, horoscopes, BEST analysis, trait lists). Fix them.

      3. By yourself, make another pass at the book’s foundation, as above, as required, working from the foundation, upward. Then ask your mentor to go over the finalized documents listed above. Don’t give him the full m/s at this stage.

      4. Hire an editor to work at the paragraph level for grammar and syntax.

      5. Hire a proofreader to work at the word level, spelling, punctuation, etc.

      6. Ask for beta readers from your workshop. Don’t ask friends or relatives. Did I mention not to ask friends or relatives? Well don’t.

      7. Address the comments on your beta manuscript.

      8. Now show the completed product to your mentor. The better the m/s, the more valuable the comments and the less work your mentor has to do.

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      • Michael Roberts says:

        You may be right about the ratio jguenther, I just made that number up. (It seems like every fourth person is an aspirational writer — though perhaps that observation is coloured by the blogs I visit :D)

        The rest of what you write seems good advice, if not difficult to achieve for the merely aspirational.

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      • jguenther5 says:

        Your ratio is not a bad guess, after taking into account that most established writers won’t mentor. But I’ve seen numbers as high as 80% for how many people want to write. Lucky for us, most of them can’t, don’t, won’t.

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  14. I don’t have one right now. I wish I did. I have a friend who would make a great writing mentor, or at least an editor, but she lives too far away and spends her time focused on her own writing career. (Although I suppose I could always ask, rather than shutting myself down in the gate.) If not one mentor, a group of writing friends can make worlds of difference. You’re very close to what you write and you don’t always know how other people are reading it. Plus, as broad as your own imagination is, other people will give you their ideas, and that — and their writing, too — will inspire the hell out of you!

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  15. leesha0304 says:

    I wish I had a writing mentor – someone to guide my and reassure me. But I don’t know anyone (outside of the blogosphere) who’s actually been published! 😦

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  16. The idea sounds so ideal, but let me know if you figure how to find one ;0) I’d like to know how to do so myself. Thanks for visiting my blog in the meantime ;0)

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  17. I think you have a great idea here but how do you go about finding a mentor? I think I’ll be googling and interwebing for the rest of the night to figure this out. I’ve only just begun my journey in writing and have no clue if I’m doing well or not and friends/family; well, I can’t help but feel they are biased. LOL

    Jamie

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  18. I don’t know if I have a writing mentor. But I do know that I have a writing friend that I know I can go to if I need help with anything. We critique each others work whenever we can, and I know I can depend on her.

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  19. nanilani05 says:

    I had a mentor but sadly he passed away a few years ago. Since then I sort of feel like a lost boat in an ocean – not a damn clue where I’m going or how to get where I want to be. But I’m starting to figure it out without him.

    Definitely get a mentor, if you can. They don’t have to be published (mine wasn’t though he worked in journalism for 40+ years) – they just have to firm, talented and someone you trust.

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  20. Myth says:

    Reblogged this on The Hermit and commented:
    I think that is a great idea. Have no idea how one goes about getting one but I think having one would be pretty excellent.

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  21. I tried to read all the comments, but Holy Cow! That was a lot of comments. Looks like everyone has opinions on this topic.

    I’ve found that friends and family are almost useless. They love me too much. 🙂 I’ve found beta readers who can be very helpful, and having several helps to find a variety of opinions. All my betas have had great, though differing advice. Right now I’m hoping I can form lasting critique partner relationships with a few of them. I think finding a mentor can be tricky, because it tends to be a more one way relationship. With writing partners, it’s give and take.

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  22. M T McGuire says:

    I lack a mentor but the purple box… that’s exactly what I did. Presumably that’s why everyone else thinks my books are weird. 😉 I have a fantastic copy editor who is kind of a writing mentor. I think a good editor does really help… I am also a member of a writers’ circle. There are three of us but we gel very well.

    Cheers

    MTM

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  23. chrispearsontx says:

    while I was in college, a professor who loved short prose and poetry mentored me for my stint of time. It was extremely beneficial. My writing improved vastly from where it was because of that gentleman. Thanks for the post!

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  24. scrawlingwriter says:

    Maybe a writing group would also be beneficial because you can write and critique– becoming better together.

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  25. rapgarcia says:

    Hi Jodie, thank you for liking my post about Wadjda. I also agree with what you post here… “write the book you’ve always wanted to read but can’t find on the shelf” good one. Cheers, Rap 🙂

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  26. Shari Risoff says:

    I just came across this article on Mentoring in the Leadership Freak blog and thought I’d share:
    http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/peter-druckers-9-functions-of-a-mentor/

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