Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Reality of a Mentor

The Reality of a Mentor
Let's talk about mentoring for a moment. Take a look at the word, mentor. Such a simple little word. Just six letters long and two syllables. It's like a three-pound bag stuffed with six pounds of gold. The word carries more meaning than its strict definition can hold.

For us dreamers who have always watched the horizon hoping our mentor would appear, the word is more than just letters on paper. It's a visceral reaction. It's the lump in the throat, ready to scream. It's the heart banging on the walls of the chest. You think I'm good enough? You want to be my mentor?

Or, it's a punch in the stomach. Oh, you don't want to be my mentor?
The sad truth; most of us will never obtain a real mentor. Even though the concept is a great one, it can be difficult to pull off. Consider all of the requirements.

Finding a Mentor
First of all, simply finding a mentor isn't going to be easy. How many people do you know who are published authors of novels? Most people probably can't name one published author among their acquaintances.

Time Problem
But, let's just suppose you do know three people who have published novels.
Would any of them have the time to mentor someone? It's very possible that since they are writing their own books, they do not have any extra time to mentor.

Prove Your Talent
However, let us also assume that one of them is very generous and decides she would like to mentor you, if you prove to have some literary talent. How would you go about proving that you have the literary talent she is expecting?

Summary, Chapter, Outline
You could show her your novel summary, chapter outline and one sample chapter.
You do have a novel summary, chapter outline and a sample chapter don't you?
Well, again, let's suppose you do. You have to provide her with some kind of sample so she can get an idea where you are with your writing ability.

Does Genre Matter
However, what if she is a mystery writer and you are a mainstream writer? Could her advice even be worthwhile?

You decide to take a chance and submit your work to her. With all of her other responsibilities, it takes her two weeks to read your sample and analyze it.

She comes back to you with a copy that has so many red marks and notes on it that the original text is barely visible.

She sits down and drinks a cup of coffee as you read her comments.

Your Mentor's Comments
You read comments like:
Slow Beginning, cut shorter. Switched POV. Write scene with one viewpoint character. Poor characterization. Show, don't tell. Too much narrative. Dialogue doesn't move story forward. Secondary characters take up too much space. Description slows pace too much. Scene ends abruptly and distorts pace. No conflict at the end of the scene. Why should readers continue reading?

Your grip tightens on the manuscript and you can feel your pulse in your fingers. Your face is hot and your jaw is clenched.

You turn toward your mentor, she smiles and says, “You are not an entirely ignorant writer, but you've got a lot to work on.”

It takes all of your will power not to jump across the room and throw her coffee into her face.

Instead you smile politely and say, “Uh, well, I'll consider your remarks and all. I've actually got a bunch of laundry to catch up on and I've got to get supper started. We'll try to get together real soon.”

“Oh,” she says and stands and then stares at you.

“Here's your coat,” you say. “See you again, some time.”

As you slam the door behind her, your mind fills. “What kind of idiot mystery writer is she anyway? She knows nothing of the pacing and the proper writing that a mainstream writer has to do. Obviously she is published by some hack company. Who needs her. Good riddance.” You turn to your paper shredder and force the all of the pages in at once.

Is Finding a Mentor Just a Dream?
These are the many reasons why you may romanticize about having a mentor, but making it a reality may be near impossible.

This is why you must learn to mentor yourself. But, how do you do that? Is it possible to mentor yourself?

That's where The WIM comes in.
See you next time.

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