Mentoring a writer takes particular skill, and a good writer is not necessarily a good mentor. The situation is further complicated if you are mentoring a young writer. You need to avoid being too aggressive because that could scare them into quitting, but being too lax might result in them not learning anything. If you want to be an effective guide, you need to understand exactly what young writers need from a mentor, such as:
Expert, Specific Advice
You’ll be doing your understudy a huge disservice if you constantly dole out vague, ambiguous advice and lessons. What they need is specific feedback; focus on major issues about the story, the structure, and point out mistakes – but don’t leave it at that. Explain why they are considered poor form and provide suggestions on how to fix things. You need a more active role in guiding them because if they knew how to get answers on their own every single time, you wouldn’t be needed.
Lessons Based on Experience
Theory is great, but young writers can research and find them on their own. What a mentor can bring to the table is first hand experience on writing. Mentors who don’t have much in the way of experience should seriously rethink their position.
As a mentor, you should help in learning or developing under their chosen style and genre, instead of trying to mold the young writers and their works into what you personally prefer. This is particularly dangerous because young writers are still unmolded and might not have discovered their own voice – if you try to mould them in your own image, they could end up turning into hacks instead of being able to develop their own style and tone.
A writing mentor will only suggest and point out mistakes, it should still be up to the young writers to accept or reject. This helps them learn how to accept, assess, and verify feedback instead of blind acceptance or wanton disregard.
Help With Goal Setting
When you’re a new writer, one of the hardest things to do is discover what you’re supposed to do. Goals can be vague and it’s hard to find a clear direction. Mentors should help with this one, as their experience should allow them to see the path ahead more clearly.
Guide on How to Build Good Habits
A good writing mentor will encourage young writers to develop good writing habits; particularly ones that will help them get closer to their goal. This is particularly important because novice writers are at the stage where they’re still developing habits that will be hard to break later on, so there is a need to make sure that they’re developing good ones.
Lastly, a good writing mentor can point a writer in the right direction, whether it’s by providing references, increasing the novice’s network, or suggesting opportunities to try out new things. This is one of the most powerful things that a mentor can provide to a young writer: just imagine how many successful authors were in their current position because a mentor pointed them towards the right path.
Image credit: DFID – UK Department for International Development on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/hv1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Hiten Vyas is the Founder and Managing Editor of eBooks India. He is also a prolific eBook writer with over 25 titles to his name.[/author_info] [/author]