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What Every Author Must Do


OK. Maybe not every author,  but I wanted a clickbait-y title. I completed my latest manuscript during NaNoWriMo and have started editing it. I went through K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel (for a second time) to lay out the plot points. Something just wasn’t working. My introduction was too long and resembled a misshapen two-humped camel rather than a pretty rainbow arc. I had problems.

I took advantage of an offer by Katie Morford Phillips. She offered a $10 for 30-minute mentoring/coaching session. Part of the prep work was filling out an outline, which was very helpful but also made me even more aware of my plot and pacing issues.

I was thrilled with the session! SO WORTH THE MONEY. Then again, you can barely order dinner for $10, and it’s less than a minimum ATM withdrawal. After this experience, I’ve decided I’m going to budget at least one mentoring session per manuscript. Probably between the draft and editing stage but perhaps from the outline to draft stage. For me, the former seems like the better option because I’m still a bit of a pantser and like having a draft before deciding what works and what doesn’t.

Some tips and tricks for mentoring sessions. For my day job, I’m a consultant and while what I do is quite a bit different from writing, consulting is consulting. After over 18 years of experience, even as the client, I approached my session from my mentor’s POV because I knew that was the best way for me to get my money’s worth.

In general, when we have a client come to us we ask for three things: scope, schedule, and budget. All three are critical for project success.

  • Budget – How many hours can you afford to invest? (expect to pay around $50/hour with a range of $30-75/hour)
  • Schedule – Decide where in the writing process you want to meet with a mentor; if you’ve budgeted more than one session, plan accordingly although that might slide depending on how your writing process goes; set up a time and method (phone call, Skype [or other online video conferencing format], face-to-face)
  • Scope – This is the trickiest but also the most critical; you have a limited time and so does the mentor. Small talk might naturally happen but be respectful of each other’s time and have a game plan. In my case, I knew we had 30 minutes, and I knew what needed help. To help with this, I let Katie know where my concern was within my outline. I highly recommend doing this prep work because your mentor can focus where you want to focus. Character, plot, setting, theme, outlining, genre, etc.

My last piece of advice for hiring a coach/mentor is to be teachable. You’re hiring them for their expertise, and the purpose is for impartial feedback.

Where to find mentors? Quite a few free-lance editors offer mentoring services or by-the-hour consultations. The key is finding someone who has mentoring as their specialty. I had a great experience with Katie and highly recommend her.

Right here on NAF we have another excellent mentor, Avily Jerome. I’m going to admit that I got a “free” mentoring session from her. Well, free for the price of a coffee drink or two. We had a meet-up a couple of years ago and, of course, started talking stories. She helped me so much on the manuscript/series I was working on at the time. If I remember correctly, it was not long before she launched her business which specializes in mentoring beginning authors.

Have you hired a mentor/consultant? How was your experience? If it was a positive one, please let me know. I’d like an expanded list.

About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

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