Our assigned topic this week is mentoring. I like this quote: “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby
In the old day job I definitely had mentors and owe a great deal to all of them. One thing I ran into, however, is expressed well by Steven Spielberg: “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” Because I was a woman in a spot where there had been few if any women at that time, some of my early mentors had definite ideas of who and what I should look like when I ‘made it’…and their vision didn’t always match mine. This led to a few problems down the road but I’m still grateful for the help I received.
I’m a firm believer in the adage of paying it forward and I worked hard to do that in the old day job, and to continue to do it as an author. I know the areas where I’m strongest and I’m happy to mentor on those things. Many topics I know nothing or very little about, or only have opinions, so if someone asks me for my input or advice on those, I make clear what they’re getting. I also try to pay my own debt forward by highlighting others when I can, usually either in a blog post or in social media, rather than mentoring outright.
I had two major mentors in the writing world – our own Jeffe, who I met at the RWA conference in Anaheim in 2012 when I was a brand new, probably very confused, just-published author. She was so generous in advice and moral support! Still is! The other was my own daughter, who was published years before I was and patiently showed me the ropes on many things too numerous to mention here. Between the two of them and several other very patient, lovely people, I didn’t have to learn everything the hard way but could benefit from their trail blazing. I found other mistakes to make, believe me!
My favorite way to mentor and pay it forward is to take time to judge unpublished author contests in various Romance Writers of America (RWA) chapters. Contests are always in need of experienced first round judges, especially in the fantasy, futuristic and paranormal categories, and authors who enter for the most part genuinely want the feedback. I enjoy reading the first twenty pages of a WIP, or the first 5000 words or whatever the entries may be, and offering constructive criticism and suggestions. I like finding the things that are done well – a unique plot, a cool turn of phrase, a character who really comes alive on the page – and I feel I’ve been helpful if I can also highlight a few things that may be more problematic – too much backstory, an overuse of certain words, etc. - or downright “don’t do this unless you want one star reviews, shrug, up to you” items.
I may not be able to advise you on how to get an agent or what to say in a pitch session, since I’m independently published and never had those experiences, but I can offer you my insights on the writing, especially in my genres. People may take the advice or not, or they may adapt parts of it, or do the exact opposite, but at least I’ve done what I can to pass along the help and support I received.
“I believe in luck and fate and I believe in karma, that the energy you put out in the world comes back to meet you.” Chris Pine
(All photos purchased from Deposit Photo stock images.)