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Writing

How to Find and Choose a Writing Mentor

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 8, 2020 • 4 min read

In any profession, having a more experienced professional show you the ropes is a strong way to start your career. A writing mentor can be an invaluable resource for an aspiring writer. A writing mentorship offers newer authors professional guidance as they embark on their careers. If you’re thinking about finding and working with a mentor, it’s important to know the qualities to look for and how to find the right one.

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What Is a Writing Mentor?

A writing mentor is an experienced writer who shares their wisdom with a new writer as they begin their career. The mentor provides support through regular meetings, either in person, on the phone, or online. A mentor will help a new author develop their voice and improve their writing skills by reviewing and critiquing their work. The mentor acts as a resource for ongoing support and creative growth.

6 Benefits of Having a Writing Mentor

Whether you’re writing your first book or blogging, a mentoring relationship can help support you as you pursue a writing career. While any writer can work with a mentor, it’s especially helpful for freelancers who often work on their own and could benefit from having someone to check in with. While not every writer needs or wants a mentor, good writers often seek one out to help them with their writing in the following ways:

  1. A mentor holds you accountable. Deadlines are a helpful way for writers to complete their own projects, but they’re easy to miss when you’re only accountable to yourself. Setting a time to give a piece of writing to a mentor is an external motivation for making those deadlines.
  2. A mentor inspires you. Mentors can offer inspiration to help you complete a work-in-progress and help usher you through writer's block. As an experienced writer, your mentor will have been exactly where you are and can offer advice to help get you through any creative rough patches.
  3. A mentor improves your writing skills. A writing mentor will read your work and give you honest feedback. This constructive critique can improve your writing process and teach you new ways to approach your stories.
  4. A mentor supports your career path. Mentorship is often a long-term relationship. A good mentor will offer guidance as you create a roadmap for your career.
  5. A mentor helps you develop your voice. After reading your work, a mentor can pick up the unique nuances of your style and help you hone in on your voice. They can help you find and develop your writing style.
  6. A mentor helps you make decisions about publishing. A writing mentor can also offer advice on getting published. They’ll most likely have experience and help you determine where your work should appear, guiding you through the decision-making process of choosing a traditional publisher vs. self-publishing.
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4 Things to Look for in a Writing Mentor

When looking for the right mentor, you should consider the following attributes:

  1. Experience: You’ll get the most out of a mentor who has much more experience than you do. Seek out published authors and industry veterans who have a breadth of experience to share with you.
  2. Commonality: Find a mentor whose work falls mostly under the same category as yours. If your work is primarily fiction writing and they are a creative non-fiction writer, they can still be a great mentor but there might be a better partner to help strengthen your writing in this specific area.
  3. Work: A mentor relationship should be with someone whose work you admire and who has had a career track that you wish to pursue.
  4. Availability: Finally, you need a mentor who has the time to invest in this professional relationship. Don’t get discouraged if a potential mentor turns down your request. A writing mentorship is a time investment and is usually a pro bono role for the mentor. Find a mentor who has the time to work with you.

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4 Tips for Finding a Writing Mentor

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Any writer can benefit from the wisdom of a mentor. While it’s best to have a mentor who is geographically close for in-person meetings, mentoring can also be done over Skype, phone, or email. Here are four ways to find a writing mentor:

  1. Find a writing community. Whether you’re a freelance writer, a blogger, or a writer of creative non-fiction, find a writing community that puts you in touch with potential mentors. See if your library has a writers group, or look for a local writing workshop online. Being in the presence of other writers increases your chances of meeting writing partners and possible mentors.
  2. Become a member of a writing organization. A professional writing organization is a good resource for finding a mentor. For example, NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—is an international organization that has a mentorship pairing program.
  3. Take classes in person. Whether you’re getting an MFA in creative writing or taking classes at the local community college, a writing professor or instructor can often make a good mentor.
  4. Find a mentor online. If you read other writers online, there might be a particular blogger you enjoy reading. See if they talk about mentoring other writers or send them a note to see if they’re receptive to the idea.

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