Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

― Mark Twain

Everyone who aspires to be published as an author should seek out and acquire a mentor.

As soon as you stop rolling around on the floor laughing, I will explain.

For all the aspiring writers I know, and even for those I don’t, it’s difficult to get any help learning the craft.  I know this because I have been where you are, and have climbed up from the pit, and acquired a mentor here and there along the way.  But you should be very careful when you ask the writing gods to send you a mentor.  This is truly a case of “be careful what you ask for” but a mentor is so valuable in terms of shortening your learning curve, that I believe you will want to work with the correct mentor.

Some rules for the writer seeking the mentor.

  1.  Don’t overwhelm the person who offers to help you.
  2. Have respect for their boundaries.
  3. Listen carefully to  the advice they impart.
  4. Have respect for their boundaries.
  5. Make notes on all the suggestions they offer, for future reference.
  6. Have respect for their boundaries.
  7. Work diligently to use, and master the craft techniques they teach you.
  8. Be sure to thank them appropriately for the time they invest in helping you.

Just in case I haven’t stressed this strongly enough, have respect for their boundaries.

We are often so grateful and excited when some “insider” finally offers to impart the secret code words, or the magic incantation, or the key  to writing success, that we often fail to realize the mentor is not a personal guide on the path to publishing.  These mentors are often overwhelmed with the amount of work any author has with writing, editing, submitting, polishing, publishing and promoting each novel they write.

Luckily, I have been blessed with author friends who are happy to share the secrets and fine-tuning tricks tat will help any aspiring author.  Of course, most of them expect–not unreasonably–that you will help the next person in their quest.

Remember, you don’t always find the right person on the first try. You must be willing to show who you are to the person you want to help you.  So don’t waste their time.  If they tell you something and you don’t “get it”, tell them immediately. They can’t help you if you’re not honest with them. This doesn’t mean they will work with you senselessly on trivialities.  For example, if they tell you need to work on POV, and you don’t know what it is, say so. Most mentors will go through a short explanation and provide some ideas on specific reading that may help you.  But they will not, and you should not expect a full-blown class on POV from your mentor.

Take care when a mentor arrives to help you, treat them well, be appreciative, and remember the most valuable thing you can do is pay it forward.

Most mentors are remembered for paying it forward.

This post is with profound thanks to my dear friends, Christie Craig and Lynn Lorenz.