What it’s Like Being in a Writing Mentorship Program

Hello! My last post was all about the benefits of applying to writing mentorships, and I’m thrilled to say that since sharing that post, I was selected to be part of WriteMentor! Third time’s a charm — or more like seventh time’s a charm, but who’s counting? (Me, I counted. It was 7 total over a few years across various mentorship programs).

I’m not gonna lie, it was an INCREDIBLE feeling to finally be chosen for this mentorship. I still pinch myself. While I had a general sense of what happens when you’re picked for a mentorship, I didn’t know much beyond a few details. So I thought I’d give an early insider’s look to anyone who might be applying to any upcoming mentorships (I believe Pitch Wars is next on the calendar, for the fall) or is simply curious about the process.

It’s important to note that this is my personal experience, and every mentor/mentee relationship will be a bit different. There’s no singular way to work together, especially as every writer will have specific strengths and weaknesses, areas that need more help, personal life to work around…you get the picture! And each mentorship is a bit different from the next — some have agent showcases at the end (like WriteMentor), some are for manuscripts that are nearer to being query-ready than others, and so on.

Alright, back to it!

Announcement day can be described in one word: BASKING! Trust me, I’ve experienced a ton of announcement days where I thought I’d be chosen and it wasn’t me, and I know that heartache and disappointment. So to finally be chosen for WriteMentor, I made the most of celebrating that “yes.” And my friends helped me celebrate from afar, which made it all the sweeter. The organizers of WriteMentor welcomed the new mentee class and introduced us to one another. It feels a bit like being part of a writing club or class, where we’re all in it together.

Then the work came! My lovely mentor sent a welcome email, and a couple days later, we had our first video chat. My manuscript particularly needed some work in the opening chapters, so we focused on that first and foremost. My mentor offered suggestions on what she thought would make it better while also making it clear she wasn’t going to push me to make choices I might disagree with. She wisely told me to take some time simply to think through the changes and see how I felt about them before diving into edits.

My immediate knee-jerk reaction to one big change was “no,” but after thinking about it, I understood how her recommendations for adjusting the opening were SO much better. I was so set in what I thought would be best that I was closed off to other avenues, and it wasn’t until I paused and looked at it critically that I could understand other paths. I actually had the realization at 4am on a Sunday morning where it clicked into place. (I LOVE sleep, but I’ll take random epiphanies whenever they show up.)

I took about a week to revamp my opening chapters based on her in-depth notes and overarching points before sending it back to my mentor for her thoughts. My first 5 chapters condensed down to 3, and I focused on cutting out unnecessary bits while building out the areas that desperately needed it. Funny enough, the word count ended up being the same before and after, but the content itself was much stronger.

After that, I went into break mode for a little bit while my mentor dove back into revisions and created a development report. The timing worked out nicely because my career became very busy right as I turned in my opening edits. Now, mercifully as my work returns to normal levels, I’ve received my overall developmental report and in-line edits.

What’s a developmental report? It’s essentially a higher level breakdown of the book’s current strengths and weaknesses, accompanied with ideas and recommendations to help get the revision ball rolling. It doesn’t necessarily say, “Here’s the problem, and here’s exactly  how to fix it,” but it helps give the writer ideas on what might fix it. I’m taking a few days to think through everything before making any decisions, and I’m setting up a call with my mentor in a few days to go over my game plan and bring up anything I don’t feel quite confident with yet. 

Ultimately, I’ve found it’s really important to have open and honest communications with your mentor. Your mentor has your back and is focused on helping you make your story and writing craft stronger, but they’re not there to change every single thing about your story. It’s a collaboration, and keeping an open mind doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every suggested change. Nor does it mean immediately shutting down suggestions because it doesn’t seem to fit our initial vision. Often we get so close to our work that we can’t see other scenarios, but being open to changes is a huge part of becoming a published author. It’s a balance.

I’ve talked to other mentees who didn’t agree with certain changes and were nervous about bothering their mentor, but the reality is that our mentors are trying to help and will understand when we don’t say yes to everything. Coming back to a mentor with, “I have a different idea from the one you proposed, what do you think about this idea instead?” could be beneficial. Or even saying, “I’m not sure that’s where I want to take it; can we brainstorm more possible ideas together?” is another great way to handle it.

Next up: I’m diving back into deep revisions! It can be a bit daunting to get a multi-page developmental report in addition to hundreds of in-line comments, but like most things, I’m taking it one step at a time. In this case, one page at a time. I already feel more confident and energized because I know my mentor understands my vision for this story and has an excellent eye for where it needs more work. After this big round of edits, my mentor will be re-reading it for any additional feedback, and we’ll be working on my query and synopsis as well.

In the case of WriteMentor, there’s an agent showcase at the beginning of September, so my summer is STACKED with revisions! I’ve made a basic calendar to stay on track with revisions, while building in some wiggle room in case I need it or life happens. Half the battle with making a revisions plan is making it realistic yet ambitious enough to stick to while not burning out.

If you have any specific questions about what it’s like to have a mentor, let me know!

Happy revisions,
Valerie


Note: picture above taken by me

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