Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

How to Find a Writing Mentor to Help You Hone Your Craft

I didn’t discover the value of mentors until later in life, and I wish I would have sooner. It can get harder to find a mentor for adults, perhaps because we’re afraid to ask for help, or perhaps because those mentors are more willing to help younger mentees. No matter your age, mentors can help you avoid mistakes in your career (and life) because they’ve already made them and learned from them. They can give you honest advice and support if you’re down. They can help you make connections and find jobs. I never knew how to find a mentor for my career and was lucky enough to have mine find me.

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A mentor a simply a person who has experience and can act as a trusted advisor in your life. It’s usually an informal relationship, although there are more formal services that offer mentorship as well.

If you’re in the market for a writing mentor, there are some easy ways to find someone willing to guide you, according to New York Times Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry. He told us he was fortunate enough to have Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson (um, wow) mentor him as a kid.

“Approaching writers for feedback and mentorship is a good thing,” Maberry told us during an interview. “The easiest way is to go to a convention. There’s always an opportunity to have a conversation, get a question answered, get some advice, and do a little networking.”

To go deeper with someone, and ask them to become a regular mentor, many writers’ groups offer mentorship programs.

“So, look up the group that’s associated with your genre, and see if they have a mentoring program and then apply to it,” he said. “They’ll position you with someone who is not only capable and experienced enough but also is willing to do it because not all writers have that amount of time. So, if someone is volunteering to be a mentor, they have the time to be able to dedicate the right kind of attention to your work and to help guide you through it.”

Jeanne V. Bowerman, Editor-in-Chief at Pipeline Artists, has a great list of dos and don’ts for finding a writing mentor. And the International Screenwriters’ Association has a resource page for mentorship, too. Below, NPR offers up some advice for how to find the right mentor, how to make the ask, and how to be a good mentee.

How to Find a Mentor

To find the right mentor:

  • Know your goals

  • Look for someone you look up to

  • Research those you admire ahead of time

  • Look at your existing network for opportunities

To make the ask:

  • Have a one-minute pitch ready, including your goals and why you chose this person

  • Consider an informal meeting with the person ahead of time to gauge interest

  • Genuinely complement the person, and tell them what you get out of your relationship

  • Be clear about how often you want to meet and for how long so they understand the time commitment

  • Offer up an agenda for each meeting, so it stays focused, on task, and time efficient

To be a good mentee:

  • Have specific, achievable goals

  • Meet consistently and have an agenda

  • Take all feedback, including positive, negative, and constructive

  • Take notes and follow up via email

  • Make sure there’s an end-date for your goals and your meetings

  • Maintain boundaries between professional and personal life, unless this person is also a personal mentor

  • Consider having more than one mentor

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