It's that #WriteMentor time of year again, and I'm back for another year of writing fun and frolics. If you're considering applying to me for chapter book or lower middle grade mentoring, read on to find out about my mentoring style and what I'm looking for.
How I mentor
It's called #WriteMentor not #WriteEditor. I’m not going to tell you exactly how to edit your book then crack the whip until you do it. I’m here to be a fresh and frank pair of eyes, to get you thinking about your writing in new ways and to help you write the book you want to write. Our mentoring relationship will be a continual conversation about what is working, what can be improved, and how to improve in a way that fits with your vision of the book.
The typical structure of my mentoring looks like this:
First I will read your entire manuscript to get an idea of what I think needs more work. We will start by tackling, large, overarching issues, like the shape of the plot, and move to more and more granular edits (pacing, character, individual chapters) until we get to line edits and proofreading.
My preferred way of working is to meet for a conversation (usually on zoom) about once every two weeks to discuss what you’ve been working on and what to work on next. Once we get going, you will send me an edited section of manuscript to read in between each chat. I will also provide some written notes/email summaries, but I think it is easiest to both explain my perspective and find out how it fits with your goals if we’re having a face-to-face chat.
What I mentor
I'm looking to mentor a book:
with a core audience somewhere in the 5-11 range
no longer than 50,000 words
There are a few reasons for the word limit:
Under 50k is a good, sellable length for a young MG;
I, like a child, read slowly and have a short attention span; I like short, punchy books that get to the point.
To be clear 5-11 is a huge age range. I’d expect a book to be aimed at a smaller range within that, for example 5-7 or 9-11.
What will make me fall for a story?
Really that’s it
But as a bonus: mystery!
I want a character I can root for. Usually, they will be flawed but sympathetic and there will be something they really really want and/or need (not always the same thing). I also want the secondary characters to be as interesting, vivid, and three-dimensional as the protagonist.
I wrote a whole thread about this, but essentially a strong ‘voice’ is one that I trust to tell me an interesting, clear and compelling story.
I think it’s much easier to fix plot in the edits than fix a flabby character or a dodgy voice, which is why I’m not too bothered if your plot needs work. Character and voice are enough to make an otherwise flimsy plot seem like the most thrilling rollercoaster ride (see: Jorts)
But a really good mystery…
…can do wonders for a plot. It also makes a story easy to sell. Also I love a cracking mystery.
Things I like
Look, none of these is going to be your ticket to mentorship, but they always make me prick my ears up:
My book Emmy Levels Up is a young middle grade book about a girl who beats her bullies with the power of videogames. It was listed in BookTrust's 100 best books of 2021 and has recently been longlisted for the Branford Boase award. I have also written shorter books for 7-11s for educational publishers Twinkl and Ransom.
I have been mentoring with #WriteMentor since 2019 and teaching creative writing since 2008.
I want you to be passionate about working to make your story the best it can be.
I expect you to be open-minded and willing to edit based on my feedback. However, that doesn't mean I'm expecting you to do everything I suggest. You are the author, and this is your story - I'm just trying to help you find the best version of it.
I'm expecting you to find time to commit to working on your story, but I'm also expecting you to communicate with me (and I will do the same with you) if you need more time. We are all humans with complex lives.
I really looking forward to reading your stories!