Home of Ane Ryan Walker, Teller of Tall Tales, Writer of Short Stories

Tag: mentors

Apologies & Introducing a New Book

For the past several weeks I’ve been offline. Yeah, computer problems. Everyone has them and most of us suffer in silence, or just moan and whine a little but press on when the problems are resolved.

I won’t do that. I have decided this is an opportunity to strike off in a new direction and share a new start with all of you.

First things first. I will take you through how a novel is structured, how the idea seeds are planted and how the book is brought to full growth. A lot goes into planning and executing a novel and I will tell you exactly how to get started.

Week by week I will share how to structure the story, how to build a solid foundation and how to deal with the twists and turns that present themselves along the way. You will choose how your story will start and end, and also decide how much to write.

I hope that these step by step suggestions and guidelines will answer some of the many questions I receive about where ideas come from and how to recognize the fertility in the good ones.

So please don’t abandon me, because I certainly didn’t abandon you, and I will be sharing information you might find useful.

Thanks for reading.

Trust

We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone – but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.”

― Walter Anderson

This post speaks to the issue of sharing your work with others. I know, I know. You write for the satisfaction of having created something from the sheer fabric of imagination. You want to see what materializes from the vapor of pure imagination, and if the story burning in your heart and mind can be told, understood, and shared.

Unless you take the leap of faith and share your story with others you will never know. Remember, it is a leap of faith. As creators of fiction we are timid in sharing our story for fear of our “baby” being deemed ugly. And keep in mind, not every one will love your story. Some may even dislike it. But the stories we write are not for others, but rather for ourselves and those who can identify with the story we need to tell.

Sometimes the most difficult people to trust with a story is our family and friends, who may feel compelled to tell us  our  stories are wonderful.   The people we love, and who love us, often feel compelled not to criticize, even in a constructive way. They don’t want to hurt our feelings when we truly desire to hear their thoughts in hope of finding our way onto the path of success. So who do we turn to?

Sometimes we need to approach and engage strangers to help us judge the merits of our work. We need to be selective in the approach, seeking out readers who will and can give constructive feedback.  This method will more likely ensure assistance in a forward motion rather than annihilate our hopes and dreams.

Beyond that we need to listen. Often, authors who are overly sensitive complain of being unfairly criticized. “They just didn’t get me.” “No one understands what I’m trying to say.”  Do we stop to consider that we, as writers, aren’t making our intentions clear? That editing, and possibly re-writes are in order?

Not every writer is fortunate enough to have a mentor. Not every writer can approach a critic–and every potential reader is a critic–and find the help her/she requires. We have to trust sometimes that the criticism we hear, especially commonly repeated criticisms, are true. When these criticisms are repeated, we need to assume they may be true. Trust your judgement.

 

Opinion vs. Reality

   “Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.”

― Les Brown

 

Do you sometimes put too much stock in what others say? Spend too much time worrying what other think? These are the two foremost traits of the dreaded internal editor. They are deadly to the pursuit of a writing career.

I’ll be the first one to say we all need a little help from our friends. Critique partners, mentors, like minded aspiring writers, Beta readers, and of course the professional editor whom we hire to help us make our work …better. That is the end goal, a story that is just better. and that’s a good thing, right?

But there sometimes is just too much of a good thing. So we have to know when to say no.

You know you can do it.  Say it with me now. I appreciate your input, I honestly value the time and thought you gave to this, but I just don’t agree. But make sure you know the reason why you don’t agree and that the reason is justified.

Anyone can correct my grammar. Almost everyone does, because sometimes it’s necessary. I have a thought, and not being the best typist, it goes down hard and fast. Mostly hard, and often incorrect. In spite of that, I sometimes don’t take well-meant advice if I feel it interferes with “voice”.

You are always allowed to say no, even though many times you shouldn’t.  There are those writers who come seeking advice and encouragement who want you to approve their choices. And that is not always possible. When the writer refuses to listen to the reason for changes, they don’t approach– and are certainly not receptive to– improving their writing.

The opinion most authors have of aspiring writers who fail to follow advice is often quite low. If you don’t understand the reason for the suggested changes, ask. Listen carefully, sometimes it is simply a matter of structure or placement, not big changes in the grand scheme of things.

Giving Back

True generosity is an offering; given freely and out of pure love. No strings attached. No expectations. Time and love are the most valuable possession you can share.

― Suze Orman

Today I want to bring attention to a particular group of writers who impress me with their willingness and ability to give back to the group that nurtures them. I have been a member of RWA for more than nine years. “Romance Writers of America is dedicated to advancing the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy.”  The statement taken directly from the home page as their mission statement. This hasn’t always been true with individual chapters. Sometimes, once they become successful, the published authors lose patience with aspiring authors and do not like to share space, much less expertise.

Every chapter is different, and I’m the first one to celebrate differences. Gone are the days when I have to worry about who will be offended when the “experts” don’t want to be bothered with the “newbies”.

The women who lead and nurture my group of local aspiring authors are the most generous and hardworking women I have ever met. Don’t get me wrong, I have had several mentors who helped me along the way and I’ve mentioned them here, singing their praises and touting their generosity of spirit.

I was blessed the day I found Sunshine State Romance Authors.

This is the first time I have ever encountered a group so totally dedicated to helping others, both individually and as a group, on such a consistent basis. Every time they are asked to help, they step forward to offer advice, expertise and assistance; whatever is in their power to help is there for the taking.

How refreshing to find no disdain for the “unpublished” author.

How inspiring to know you will be assisted rather than ridiculed for what you don’t know.

How comforting to know that no question is considered foolish.

How empowering to know the help you need is there for the asking.

How successful these men and women are because they pay it back and pay it forward on an ongoing basis. They do embody the mission of RWA. Sadly, not every chapter can make this claim. Now I’m sure there are other chapters who believe they do this, but are you really sure? Examine your next chapter meeting and make sure you welcome new friends, assist the aspiring author when you can and share the knowledge you’ve acquired over your career.

Real writers spend a lifetime working on their craft, and know there is always something new to learn.

Truly successful people have the generosity of spirit to share with others and nurture those who seek their assistance, without judgement.

 

http://sunshinestateromanceauthors.com/

 

Perspective

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.

― Abraham Lincoln

Keeping your perspective is crucial for the aspiring writer.  We come into the community of writers and aspiring writers with little or no knowledge of the craft and so much to learn.  Some of us are not shy, but many more are shy, and in spite of shyness, learn to ask for help.

Blessed is the aspiring writer who acquires an experienced author willing to mentor them early on in their career. Most aspiring writers are not so fortunate and many languish for years in a sea of uncertainty, until they acquire the help they need to achieve success. But if you are blessed, make sure you take full advantage of the opportunity without taking advantage of the person who chooses to mentor you.  Because mentoring is not a choice lightly made. It is a decision that some authors make once and never repeat due to negative experiences.

Negative experiences include abuse of a mentors good intentions.  Such actions which might constitute abuse are the expectations of the aspiring writer, who having acquired the attention of kindly published author, uses them as a personal editing coach or beta reader without thought to the mentors needs.

The true purpose of a mentor is to provide guidance through difficult or unknown aspects of the aspiring writers chosen path. He/She is meant to assist in the development of a skill, in this instance writing.

Mentoring, common in business and academic settings, is invaluable and is never done for personal gain.  The benefits of being a mentor are two-fold: taking the mentor down memory lane and renewing the excitement of early writing, and a close look at bad habits creeping into our daily practice.  It is strictly an altruistic pursuit, an offering to “pay it forward” as most mentors have been mentored themselves prior before publication.  These mentors offer generalized advice and support for the start of a career, and invaluable advice in terms of explaining routines and rituals with which the aspiring writers are not familiar.

Whether we agree or not, the mentor brings experience to the relationship which cuts through many hours of learning by failure. For the aspiring writer sometimes the criticism –which is likely spot on–will seem harsh. Mentors feel a responsibility to be completely honest, and are not required by custom or circumstance to soften the blow of criticism.  Be grateful for the guiding hand and ignore the thorns on those roses.  The do not detract from the beauty of the flower, and the criticism does not devalue your effort in writing.

Mentors

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.

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