As a young writer or a new writer, you may have heard the buzz in the writing world about mentoring. From PitchWars to TeenPit, it seems the writing world has embraced the concept of more experienced writers mentoring those just beginning their writing journeys. But what is it like to work with a mentor? What should you expect in this unique partnership? How do you as a writer make the most of this incredible opportunity?
For teen writers, working with a writing mentor is a chance to have someone (besides a teacher, peer, or parent) read and evaluate your work. This means you have access to a person who understands what it means to be a professional writer. Not all teachers out there work in the writing field—and that’s okay. Your teachers are giving you the basis you need to take your writing to the next level. Without the basic mechanics of grammar, you’re not going to get far in this business. Learn those lessons now—they will serve you well. Working with your writing mentor is different. Yes, they will still correct your grammar if need be, but they will also help you see your writing in a different light, and help you to understand where work like yours might someday fit on the shelves of your local bookstore.
The mentee’s job?
Listen to them. Absorb their experience. Take notes. Lots of notes.
I worked with a mentor early in my career. The experience profoundly impacted the way in which I write. Not only did my mentor, the talented writer Amber Kizer, help me to edit my book, she taught me what it meant to write a book from concept to final page. I am forever grateful to her tutelage, and the lessons I learned during our mentoring experience carry over into the way I mentor new writers.
One of the most important things I have learned is this: the greatest gift a writing mentor can bestow is the ability to self-edit your own work. Separating yourself from your words is at times a Herculean task, but it is so very necessary to create clean, compelling prose that industry professionals will read. That is a writer’s job—to get read. As a teen, writing is often an emotional outlet, although I have met and worked with some serious, goal-oriented teen writers. Mentoring teaches you how to let go and see your writing through a new lens.
These are important lessons. Embrace them.
As a teen, it’s difficult although not impossible to write your way into one of the adult pitch contests. But TeenPit, and its talented stable of writing mentors, is a way to bridge the gap between being new and becoming recognized as a professional. I hope you will enter TeenPit on March 17th.