Why You Should Work With a Writing Mentor

Mentor written on a blackboard
Category: Writing

As a brand-new writer, someone who only starting writing properly a year or so ago, applying for a mentorship was the best thing I could have done.

There are a couple of ways to bag a mentor. Scottish Books Trust’s mentoring scheme is open now, and if you’re a published writer do it, do it now! If you’re not published (yet…!) there are some other great options. I applied for the Womentoring scheme - which offers free mentoring by professional literary women to up-and-coming female writers - and was accepted by the wonderful Kirsty Logan who provided support, direction, and a wealth of experience.

There are also opportunities from publishing companies like Random House, organisations like The Playwrights’ Studio and do keep an eye on Twitter for individual call-outs from writers.

Need some more motivation for applying? Here are a few ways a mentor can help:



On a very basic level, a mentor will provide you with focus, possibly a deadline to get that story written. I work better to deadlines and if someone is there at the end of an email, or in your diary for a coffee and feedback session, it really makes you write. It gives you motivation which, for me, can be the difference between writing something and not writing at all.



Your mentor should listen to you and hopefully understand where you’re coming from

The right mentor can also guide you in the direction you want to go – not push you down the wrong path. If someone doesn’t quite ‘get’ what you’re trying to do with a story, they might suggest changes that you’re not comfortable with. For instance, you might be aiming to write literary fiction, but you might receive advice which isn’t helpful, such as ‘That’s not your style, try writing something else’. If you don’t want to do this, then don’t. Your mentor should listen to you and hopefully understand where you’re coming from. You need to write what you are passionate about. Just be prepared to take advice.



A good mentor will act in an emotional role too. Kirsty gave me encouragement at every session. She acknowledged the work I was putting in and provided real constructive advice on how to go forward. She never started a feedback session or an email negatively. A mentor should become a genuinely supportive voice to counteract those evil doubts inside your head that we all battle with!



Your mentor is someone who has been through this process before. They were starting out at some point too, feeling unsure about their own writing and their ability. They have worked with editors in the past and, more often than not, can offer really good suggestions on how to edit your own work. 

After each editing session, I couldn’t wait to get started on the re-write

I hung off every word and every track mark that Kirsty wrote in the columns of my stories. I felt incredibly lucky that someone had gone through every line of my work and either praised me on it or suggested a tweak here and there to improve it. After each editing session, I couldn’t wait to get started on the re-write.



A mentor can offer genuine insight into the publishing world. They might already have an agent or a book out. They might even answer questions you have about the shadowy world of publication. And while each writer's journey is different, it can provide you with a solid insight into that world. It will also prepare you for the fact that writing takes time. Time and patience, my friend, and, as always, perseverance.

A very quick note on how to apply – when I said I was a new writer, I really was new! I had nothing published in magazines or anywhere before I applied to the Womentoring scheme. Kirsty said she chose me as she could tell from my personal statement that I was committed and passionate. And I was. I was as keen as mustard and wanted help more than anything and that must have come across. So, don’t worry if you are very new to writing, you might still be the chosen one. Good luck! 


If you're a published writer who's looking for help moving to a new genre or area, check out SBT's mentoring programme for 2018 and apply by 13 September 2017.

Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay 


Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith, a booklover and creative professional who's making a start in fiction, Tweets at @beckorio, works at BBC Radio Drama and creates podcasts for the fabulous For Books' Sake. You can find some of her fiction anfd features on her website.