View Full Version : I need a mentor

05-10-2012, 04:49 PM

I don't post all that often now <slaps self>, but I used to be a regular AWer during college. Now with the work and stuff, it just gets difficult to make any useful participation here.

But I find myself coming back here every once in a while for advice. And today I've landed here with another quest -- that of finding myself a writing mentor.

I've always wanted to have a mentor. Don't they say all those great guns had a mentor? And at this point in time, even though I'm okay otherwise, I'm struggling to make any headway in my fiction career. Sometime this saddens me a lot. It's like having to watch your house crumble down in a fire while not being able to do anything about it. Okay, I'm getting a little literary here. But really, I need a mentor. I understand this is not something very many people would like to do -- it's time consuming and not financially rewarding. I don't mind paying. I can't pay a lot right now, but if it comes to that, well, I can pay.

I am not sure what I'm really looking for, but it would be good to be able to have someone to share my writing woes with and get meaningful advice. I'm also beginning to write a work of fiction, so critiques would be appreciated too.

Is that asking for a lot?

05-10-2012, 05:44 PM
I would guess that any writer successful enough to serve as your mentor would not have the time or inclination to do so.

But why not look for a writing group? It's a great way to get a lot of opinions and help on your work, and, as they say, reading other people's work will help you grow as much as getting feeback.

Good luck!

05-10-2012, 07:01 PM
I don't mean to be rude, but every time I hear somebody say "I want a mentor," all I hear is "I want a writing coach and I want it for free." This might not be what you intended to say, but ajoker is right. Successful writers are very busy people. If they do mentor somebody at some point, it's going to be somebody they click with, not a random person on the internet.

So yes, I do believe it's asking for a lot. Why not join a critique group? Or post things for critique here? Or find a beta reader? If you have the ability to pay, consider a workshop or some one-on-one coaching.

05-10-2012, 07:07 PM
A mentor/protege relationship can bring value to both sides. But it is a serious commitment.

This might be looked at from a different point of view, in order to get the answer you desire.

"What does someone who would be a mentor look for in a protegee?"

Answer that, and then be that person. Do that work, set that example.

There are, perhaps, members here who have served as mentors, who might be willing to provide insight to that answer -- with the understanding that they are just answering the question, not volunteering.

Good luck.

05-11-2012, 06:52 PM

You got kinda raked over teh coals a bit there.....somehow I'm the nice guy here.

Yes, you're asking for a lot. That's not the end of the world, many writers are willing to GIVE a lot....selectively. But you have a couple problems..let's look at how words matter, because this fascinates me as a writer, and I firmly believe words matter:

1. You say you "used to be here a lot but now don't have the time". I'm thinking to me that comes off as a bit of a red flag--anyone who doesn't "have time" isn't a great candidate for mentoring. I'm not saying you will be an unwilling student, I'm sharing my opinion that even posting is a great place to think about yoru word usage....because this, at a minimum, leaves me wanting to know a bit more and clarify where your head is at. Ideally, you don't want to "go there".

2. You used to have a presence here and now do not (from your words)....mentoring is pretty intimate. Not "I'm nekked" intimate, usually, but not random either--you may want to build up some presence here, participate in some conversations, start to see who you click with and who you may particularly admire.....not just to get them to like you, but also so you can decide who you really WANT to study under. some excellent writers here I find borderline insufferable....some (many more, to be fair) are wonderful. And you may not even find the same folks in the same camps--a lot depends on what you want and need, and how you can click. I chafe at useless flattery, some people need it to help them continue....we'd both need very different mentors then, or mine would crush the other guy and his would leave me walking away in disgust, feeling my brutal critiques were being omitted in the name of fluffing my ego.

the bottom line is you probably need to reevaluate for yourself exactly what you want (a mentor, for real, or a beta....because you don't really get mentoring around the margins, when you have time) and then start making yourself a known commodity around here, so someone might know enough to decide you have promise, and they would LIKE to mentor you. And, figuring out who YOU want....because you should have at least some say in this process, it isn't a "whoever the hell will actually have me" endeavor.

you finished by asking if you were asking for a lot, and yes, you are--not too much for folks to give, but enough they will probably be pretty judicious in who they give it to. So make a time investment, and your odds of getting a mentor will probably go up considerably. And, as mentioned, there are other avenues to consider, although really, the same rule would apply--you won't get a mentor the first day of joining a writer's circle in your hometown, either. Find folks you click with, by putting some time in. Then ask, and target your inquiry.

good luck, and welcome back,

05-12-2012, 12:18 AM
Is that asking for a lot?
It depends.

Would you give it to a newbie writer, someone who was several levels of skill below you and was looking for someone to help them with the very basics? Have you done so in the past? If so, what characteristics would this newbie writer have to display in order to interest you?

I'm not a pro, but I'm above-newbie, so I've mentored newbies before as a way of paying it forward. What I've looked for in a person is:

Someone who writes in a genre I like to read and have enough experience to comment on.

Someone who I get along with personally, so we won't have constant misunderstandings and dramas.

Someone who I think shows promise and committment, and will benefit from the time I put into it.

Someone who has demonstrated a sense of community so that I know they will, in time, pay it forward -- or have already done so (if not by mentoring other writers, perhaps by proofreading for people, or helping them with cover art, or whatever their current skills are).

Everyone's different, and everyone looks for something different, but as Willibee said, perhaps ask yourself what you would look for, and then be what you wish to seem.

05-16-2012, 10:53 PM
I've been friends with lots of professional writers higher up the food chain than I, never asked one to mentor me, and none offered. (unless you count invitations to parties and gossip.) Come to think of it, they never mentored anyone that I could see. Rarely--and I mean rarely--they gave a real up and coming star the name of an agent and said "you can mention my name" and yes, that did make a major difference for that person. But in these cases, anyone with half a brain could see the bright future for the helped writer--they were really quite amazing talents who would soon be peers with those who helped them, so why not get on their good side early, I suspect, was part of the thought.

As a teacher of CW, I offered exactly once to send a cover letter for a particular story to a particular competitive magazine where I'd published before, but the writer didn't take me up on it, which was fine, too; I wasn't offended in the least. But mostly what I experienced was that rather inept (thus far) writers asked, "would you take a look at my Tolkien trilogy rip-off of 1200 pages?" and I would be casting about for any excuse at all not to.

I think it's most likely that such a relationship will develop within in the context of a formal teacher-student relationship, perhaps at a summer-long workshop or non-residential MFA program. If a teacher really and truly likes your work, the relationship might grow into something closer to mentoring.

I'm with those who say find a peer group IRL. Or use this site better, giving critiques (which will teach you more than getting them if you do it thoughtfully), reading and hunting for like-minded people, pm-ing someone whose critiques you admire but only when you have something finished and polished to show them.

And no, I don't think most good writers had a mentor. This a profession for self-starters and people who can tolerate solitude and years and years of work without reward. Whether you are such a person only you can know or discover. Best of luck.