In the past couple of months, I’ve shared ideas about “rock star mentors,” and “midlist mentors,” but today, I’ll introduce “peer mentors.” You know, those writers we’ve met at local meetings, writers we found ourselves sitting next to at a conference, or writers we’ve connected with online. Jessica Conoley calls them Working Role Models
With today’s global community, my writer friends extend from Arizona to Florida to Canada to Switzerland and Australia! A couple of them are several rungs up the ladder on their way to midlisters and beyond. Many are a little ahead of me in their publishing success, even more of them write at my level, so close to publication. Several are beginners, and the teacher in me is eager to share what I’ve learned with them.
Who in these groups would make a good peer mentor for you?
Most likely, look for a person in the group just slightly ahead of you in their author’s journey. If you’re already successful beyond your wildest dreams, then I expect you’d seek out authors at the same level on up to rock star, the ultimate in iron sharpening iron. But most of us who read this blog are lower on the totem pole.
Do you have one or two books published? Connect with a person with four books under his belt.
Does everyone tell you that your writing is ready for publication? Find an author who just published her first book. What can she tell you about snagging an agent or editor? Ask for help with a query letter.
Are you new to learning about writing fiction and the publishing industry? Latch onto someone who’s been learning for a little while. It’s a steep curve, but he’ll have the experience to answer your basic questions, even if he’s not published.
You might be thinking, “Good advice, but—”
How do I make the jump from connecting with
a potential mentor to actually landing a peer mentor relationship?
1. Create a short list of possibilities. Writers you know and admire, both in their character and in their writing style. Who do you think best understands your author voice? Make that person your first choice.
2. Ask. Yes, it’s that simple. You’ve already connected with your chosen peer mentor, either personally or online, so, pop the question! The worst that can happen is a “no.” Writers get used to hearing that word. However, many authors are willing to lend a hand up the ladder of success.
I used to think writing books consisted of cutthroat competition, but I haven’t seen it yet in the years I’ve been writing. Reading tastes are so varied, and writing styles so unique, every author can find a niche—if they write well.
The person you ask may very well say no. Please don’t be discouraged. Authors have deadlines, other commitments, and your request may be too much of a time commitment. As Conoley says, “Our time is precious, and we cannot say yes to every request and/or opportunity that comes our way.
If your peer mentor candidate says yes, make sure you don’t hog their time. Or waste it.
When you plan a meeting, come prepared. Keep a list of questions in front of you. You don’t want to leave, and two hours later remember an important topic you wanted to discuss!
When you send her work for review, accompany the work with a set of questions as well. Are you concerned if something is missing in your character’s motives? Is the setting easily seen in the reader’s mind? Where do you think the writing is weak? Does the mentor agree?
I’ve had four unofficial mentors, relationships that naturally evolved into peer mentoring. All four are published. One is also an editor. Two self-publish.
This monumental task of climbing the mountain toward publication is not an afternoon’s stroll up a mild incline. There are days when I’m clinging to a rock wall, and one of my mentors must rappel down and assure me that I can reach the next foothold!
If you’re reading this post, chances are the Lord has called you to write. Any God-given ministry takes time to develop, but He equips us with what we need, including mentors, and the rewards of saying “yes” to Him bring more joy to our hearts than anything else we could accomplish.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.
A wife, mother of three, grandmother to seven, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!
Where Linda can be found on the web: