My interest lies with publishing and book retail. I did projects on various companies, from Bloomsbury Children’s Publishing to Barnes & Noble to my own idea for an independent bookstore.
One particular piece of advice that I’ve taken from my studies has been concerning leadership and learning. If you want to improve your skill, you should know three different types of people. And I thought, “Hey! This can apply to writing as well.” So I’ve put the following categories into writer’s terms.
The Student: A Writer with Less Skill
When it comes to learning, one of the best teachers is experience. Another is teaching. I’ve heard it said that if you can’t explain a concept in simple terms, then you don’t really understand it.
Not only do students help me refresh my memory on a concept I’ve heard about a million times (e.g. what is POV?), but they also teach me things I may have forgotten or may have missed (e.g. new words!). When it comes to classes where I’ve taught writing, I like to review the material myself and do extra research so I really know what I’m talking about. The same goes for editing or beta reading. Just because I may have been writing for years doesn’t give me an excuse not to pick up my Chicago Style Handbook, Writing the Breakout Novel, or even the dictionary.
Yes, talking to a less-skilled writer may make you feel smart, but it’s also a great way to pass on knowledge.
The Ally: A Writer with the Same Skill Level
The allies are perhaps the most fun to hang out with. No offense to the mentors or the students, but it’s easiest to make references and jokes when you better understand where the person is coming from.
Writers with a similar skill level also make great critique partners. That’s not saying you shouldn’t have somebody with more skill look over your writing. You probably should. Writers whom you can easily relate with are pretty good at catching mistakes you may have missed and critiques are easier to receive when they come from your peers.
That and when you’re done talking about your stories—Haha! That’ll never happen—you can talk about the latest books you’re reading.
The Mentor: A Writer with More Skill
I like to think of myself as a humble writer, but if I’m going to be completely honest, sometimes I can be particularly arrogant. I’ve been writing since I was twelve; I earned an M.A. in English Literature; and I’ve self-published a novelette series. (See, I even know what novelette means!)
Recently, I was put in charge of the writing group at my local library, and I was super excited to kick off our get together for the fall. Two people aside from myself showed up, one of whom is a published author (with an agent and everything!). When we got around to talking about querying agents, the author switched into teacher-mode and went into some of the details I feel like I’d heard or read countless times before. I wanted to say I already knew what she was talking about, but I kept my mouth shut for the benefit of the other writer who hadn’t heard it.
I had to remind myself that sometimes it’s okay to listen to advice instead of show off what I already know. Even though the meeting didn’t go quite as I expected, I still walked away with some valuable advice on showing emotion in writing, something I’ve struggled with for a while.
Mentors help keep writers humble. At least they do for me. While they can also make me feel uncomfortable sometimes, what with my lack of skill or review of concepts I already know, they can still help me learn.
If you haven’t already, find a writing mentor. You don’t have to go and stalk the writer closest to you (actually, please don’t), but ask for advice. This mentor can be a teacher, an indie author, a traditionally published author—so long as they have more experience than you. You may just learn something.
Let’s chat! How many of the writer types do you know? When’s the last time you talked with a writing mentor? What are they like?