#IWSG – Mentoring NaNo

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We are now in the middle of NaNo, a time honoured tradition of trying to write a story in 30 days. This year I am not participating, but NaNo is still a time for me to celebrate.

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First, there is the forums. It’s like Christmas comes early. This is just information upon information, upon information. So many people with thoughts, and ideas, and suggestions… it’s a time to collect it all and store it for when you might need someΒ  inspiration at a later time. I go to posts and print them out, with the intention of storing them into my private database server.

The second reason I am excited is Mentoring. I love teaching beginners how to be writers, and eventually being authors. I feel I have a lot to offer. For those who don’t know, the last two times I did NaNo, I finished both times in 14 days. That was a trip. More than that, I have 4 published books, and 1 anthology.

I’m always looking for people to help, and NaNo is a great place to start. NaNo is an import lesson for us writers. If we can do NaNo, then we have jumped a major hurdle that is getting our work published.

Now me, I am a bit unorthodox as a mentor. I prefer a more hands-on approach. I am their best friend and toughest critic. I am their teacher and sounding board. For me, the Mentor/protege relationship is a very deep one, deeper than friendship or even lovers. I see writing as a means of tapping into what makes us human and giving a reader a chance to look within themselves, and to do that, requires that I help you not only understand people, but to understand who you are.

Perhaps one thing I’ve learned this year, is that not everyone can be my student. Not because I reject them, but my methodology is incompatible with them. Some have viewed my way of doing things as invasive. I can understand that. I require my students to not only (eventually) open up to me, but to also share their work. Not everyone is ready to do that. Knowing that, I am very up front and honest with them, that is something I expect. It doesn’t have to be over night, but eventually it is something that will happen. This way, they know what they are getting into, and can decline my services right at the beginning.

I’m sure you’re reading this, and would suggest that if people are turned off by the way I mentor, then perhaps I need to change. The only thing is, I’ve seen it work. I’ve had one student thus far, who has grown by leaps and bounds. While her life has forced her to take a halt in her writing, I am confident that she will one day become an author, and she has told me that she has learned a lot from me.

But let’s turn the focus on you. How do you know when you’re ready to mentor? I can’t really answer that question. One would say, if you’re a successful writer, but I’m hardly successful, at least in that I don’t make a living off of my work. But I have published, and anyone who has published a book (whether it is good or bad) in my opinion has something worth teaching. That means you’ve finished a story, and that is one of the hardest things to do. Most people try to write and never finish. If you know how to finish a story, that is worth teaching. So, if you’ve finished a story and feel confident you can finish stories, that is a sure sign that you can be a mentor.

There’s also NaNo. Have you completed NaNo? Many people often fall short in doing NaNo. It is a true test of character. It’s not easy, and whatever you did to get across the finish line is of great need.

I offer my services for free, as it can take months to even years. The question then becomes, what do I get out of it? Basically, I become a better writer. If a person receives a fish, they can eat for a day. If a person is taught how to fish, they can eat for a lifetime. But if that same person teaches another how to fish, then they become a Master fishermen.

In teaching others how to write, it causes me to refine my own skills. I have to not only explain it to someone, but sometimes find ways to explain it to them in different ways, as they don’t think the way I do. In doing that, I can often find new understanding of the techniques I have. And more often than not, I end up learning from my student.

So what is the best way to mentor? That is really up to you, and what goes well with your personality. I’ve devised a list of different ways to mentor. This is by no means a complete list, but gives you of an idea of how you can be of great help to someone that match with who you naturally are.

Type of Mentors

  • Cheerleader – will support a writer with positive encouragement. Writing affects us emotionally and psychologically, it can be self-defeating. A cheerleader helps students get past their rut and continue writing.
  • Drill Sergeant – give the hard truth, without regard to personal feelings.
  • Counselor – Similar to cheerleader, helps identify the emotional state of the writer and tries to help push past those feelings. The Counselor tries to understand what causes those feelings and work around them.
  • Tutor – Similar to Drill Sergeant and Cheerleader, constantly critiques the work and points out areas that need improvement, but is more empathetic about it. Gives a lot of encouragement.
  • Professor – Teaches about various aspects of writing, often as a lecture.
  • Life Coach – Similar to Counselor and Professor, teaching about life and helps the student understand life, to help them become better writers. Shows the writer their own weaknesses and helps them understand it more.

Me personally, I feel like I’m all of these. Really depends on the situation. Sometimes someone needs to feel good about themselves to carry on, and other times, they need the hard truth. But for me, its more than giving them the encouragement they need, it is also teaching them about what it means to be a writer, teach them about making worlds and designing characters.

So long as your student is productive, there is no wrong way to mentor. If you give the student what they need so they continue to write, and you are being true to yourself, then that is the right way to mentor. It is something I recommend all writers do, but only when they are ready.

I do hope the few people I picked up will remain my students after NaNo. Teaching always makes me happy and helps give my life purpose when times get tough. There are a lot of writers out there who need help, and I’m sure many of you have something they would find invaluable. I in fact hope to find a mentor myself one day, to help me take my career to the next level.

You never stop learning, and even as a teacher, you are still a student.


  1. Stephanie Scott says:

    I also wrote about mentoring as a favorite part of being a writer. I always had an urge to do a mentoring type day job; career couneselor or workplace trainer; neither of which worked out entirely, but I do love advising people with knowledge I have, and that’s part of my daily work. Having progressed to that point as writer is a real milestone. Not too many years ago I was scouring blogs for any shred of writing advice.

    Here’s my IWSG post for November: YA Author Stephanie Scott

  2. You are offering such a great service! πŸ™‚
    With regards to NaNo, I did my first CampNaNo in July and won.
    I think it’s less stressful than the November NaNo which I haven’t attempted yet…maybe one of these years I will…
    Happy IWSG Day!

  3. emaginette says:

    I think I’m somewhere between cheerleader and counselor. God luck in NaNo. πŸ™‚

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  4. Diane Burton says:

    You are so right about the mentor learning along with the mentee. It’s great that you want to share what you know.

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