Hi, writer friends! We’re in the season of writing mentorships, so I thought I’d take some time to talk about the benefits of applying, whether or not you end up getting chosen.
First, what are some writing mentorships, and how do they work? A few of the main ones are Author Mentor Match, Revise & Resub, Write Mentor, and Pitch Wars. They’re all a little different, but in short, mentee hopefuls will submit to anywhere from 2-4 mentors who have their own wishlists/guidelines, and mentors will then choose one mentee to help them polish their manuscript, query letter, and sometimes more. Some of these mentorships also include a showcase at the end, inviting literary agents to review the manuscript’s premise and usually the book’s first page. Check out the links for more details on each specific mentorship!
I’ve applied for all except Write Mentor, and have gotten full manuscripts requests a few times. But even though I haven’t gotten in, I’ve had so many positives from my experiences. The main ones:
- I made writing friends! Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and I am SO grateful I’ve made friends in the community. I’d either tweet publicly about submitting, or jump into other twitter convos with mentee hopefuls, or poke a few friends to see if they were submitting, too. I met new writers and became closer with friends I already had, and it has been one of the most worthwhile parts of my journey. Especially because these friendships went far beyond the submission itself, but to revisions and the ups and downs of the query road. It’s so helpful having friends who get what this process is like and all the emotions that can come with it.
- I found new critique partners and beta readers. This has been a massive upside. Some of my best CPs and beta readers came because I submitted to these mentorships. Sometimes, mentors will try to place some of their mentee hopefuls together based on genre/writing age (middle grade, young adult and adult), which is incredible. My work is so much better because of my CPs, and I wouldn’t have met several of them without applying (and yes, they make the above bullet point as well!).
- I got feedback from mentors even when I didn’t get in. Another huge help! For those who requested my full book, they ended up sharing feedback when I didn’t get in. One was a full edit letter, which was unbelievably helpful, and another dove into why my first pages weren’t working (these were two different manuscripts), in a way I could finally understand. That mentor also shared a few resources for me to dig further, and I credit her with why I was finally able to find my character’s voice. Neither mentor needed to do this for me, but I am beyond thankful they did, and many mentors will provide some feedback if they request your full (and sometimes even if they didn’t).
- It encouraged me to have an external deadline to work toward. The blessing and curse of being an unagented writer is that all deadlines are of your own making. No time to write this week? No problem! But sometimes that can drag, and a week can become a month, and the goal posts keep moving. I’ve found mentorships have given me a concrete deadline to work toward and help keep me on track.
- I’ve found more craft resources. Many mentors provide craft advice on their Twitter accounts, and they’ve taught me so much. For me, one of the big ones was learning how important it is to know your character’s emotional wounds, and the mentors provided book recommendations to help writers seeking more advice. I snatched those up quickly! But I’ve also learned just by reading their posts, and by asking them questions on Twitter for those who encouraged that interaction. These mentors really do want writers to succeed, and are often looking to help.
- Rejection has become a bit easier. Rejection is hard. I can’t sugarcoat that. But I will say, the first time I was rejected was MUCH harder on me than the last time. A lot of this writing road to publishing can be paved with rejections; they are inevitable in some form or another. And I’ll admit that it’s hard not to take it personally, or to see the future as more rejection. But every rejection I’ve gotten has made me a little bit tougher, and more than that, I’ve learned not to take it as personally. I talk about this a lot in previous posts, but there are so many reasons we might not get the W we’re hoping for, and often it has nothing to do with our actual writing. It can be the market, personal taste, or anything in between. I no longer read rejections as “my book is garbage and I’ll never be published.” I let it sting for a little bit, then I move on. It takes time and practice, but it’s gotten easier.
I greatly encourage anyone who applies to mentorships to keep perspective, as difficult as that might be. Most if not all mentorships are done on a volunteer basis, including the people behind-the-scenes making them actually run and the mentors themselves. Most mentors receive more than a hundred submissions, so math is, well, not on anyone’s side. Sometimes mentors will reject you if you’re too query-ready! Most often, they’ll choose a story they feel they can help the most, one they have the clearest vision for. Maybe they love your work, but they’re not sure how they specifically, with their personal background and skill, can best help you. We all want a mentor who understands the core of our work and knows how to help it, and they want to be the right person, too.
While there are many positives to applying, I also encourage everyone to take care of their mental health. It can be stressful putting yourself out there, so be sure to give yourself a round of applause for applying at all. Mentors often post teasers once submissions come in, and that can be anxiety-inducing for some people (sometimes myself included). Mute that hashtag if you need to! Take care of yourself. Work on something new, or indulge in your hobbies. Read or watch movies or go on walks or bake, or do anything that makes you happy. And remember that rejection doesn’t mean you’re a terrible writer.
As for me, I’ll keep trying, because the positives have all outweighed those pesky rejections.