By Lisa Jordan
When I became serious about writing and joined my first writing organization, I was paired with my first mentor. Even though I understood the basic fundamentals of writing, I needed help with advanced techniques to strengthen my craft. Also, I wanted someone who understood the publishing industry.
Having a mentor helped because she understood where I was in my career…she had been in the same position of starting out with only a dream to write. She had to learn the craft. She felt the sting of rejection. She experienced her own frustrations as she waited for the call.
My mentor wasn’t as emotionally invested in my work as I was, so she was able to give objective feedback to improve my manuscript without feeling the slice in my heart every time I deleted words (sometimes LOTS of words). In addition to helping me strengthen my craft, she was willing to brainstorm story ideas and help me to flesh out plots.
Once I found ACFW, I spent less and less time with the other organization, but my first mentor’s willingness to teach and refine my writing stayed with me. When I signed my first contract, she celebrated with me. Having her as a mentor helped me to realize that even on those days when writing felt solitary, she was only an email away.
In addition to improving craft and brainstorming, mentors can offer industry advice about which editors and agents may be a good fit for your story and your personality. They can help steer you toward the right conferences and organizations for your genre.
Establishing goals is important in being about to make your dream of becoming a published writer a reality. A mentor may be willing to help you set goals and hold you accountable to word counts and query submissions to keep you on track with meeting your personal deadlines.
A mentor may be willing to pray with you and offer spiritual encouragement as you face discouragement in your career.
Finding the right mentor can be tricky, as personalities need to mesh. Sometimes, you’re paired together. Other times, you’re drawn together through common interests or common genres. Most mentors are published authors who may be juggling a family and a job along with their deadlines, which limits the amount of extra time they have to devote to someone else.
If you’re at the stage in your career where you’re considering a mentor, think about your writing needs. What writing level would you consider yourself? What sort of mentoring are you looking for? Critiquing? Brainstorming? Strengthening your craft techniques?
When forging a relationship with a mentor, trust and boundaries are essential ingredients to make the partnership a success. I met one of my current mentors at my very first ACFW conference in 2005 and my second mentor at ACFW in 2006. I’ve been a fan of their books, and we struck up a friendship. As our relationships developed, trust formed. They took me under their wings, and my writing has flourished as I applied what they taught me. Without that friendship, though, our relationship wouldn’t have progressed organically and that trust may not have been built. When they give me advice, I know they have my best interests at heart. And since they’re both multi award-winning authors who really know their stuff, I tend to listen to their suggestions.
I wouldn’t be a published author today without the mentors who have invested their time and wisdom to help me grow as a writer. Thanks to their efforts, I’m able to take what I’ve learned and pay it forward to newer writers starting out.
What about you? Do you have a mentor? Or have you mentored other writers? What advice would you have for writers searching for mentors?
Lisa Jordan is an award-winning author for Love Inspired. Her fifth novel, Lakeside Romance, released in August 2016. Represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such, Lisa also serves on the My Book Therapy leadership team. In her free time, she enjoys family, kayaking, and snuggling with her dog while Netflix binging. Visit her at lisajordanbooks.com.