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Tips for choosing a writing teacher or mentor

In my last post, I wrote about what I learned on a raw food retreat with author and raw food guru David Wolfe. That post discussed that if you want to be an “expert” in a field (like writing your novel), you may want to practice the concept of total immersion.

The second principle I learned at that retreat has to do with who you choose as your mentors or guides. We were talking about food, of course, and David said if you’re considering purchasing a cookbook or diet book, look at the picture of the author. Are they glowing with health? Do they look fit? If they don’t—if they’re obviously unhealthy or unfit—then why would you want to buy their book?

This same concept is true for choosing a writing mentor or teacher. A gaggle of people teach writing, and if you search online, you’ll find hundreds selling their classes or products.

Choose your mentors with care.

First, decide what your goal is. Do you want to be a published poet? Do you want to become a successful author? Do you want to self-publish?

My current goal is to finish my novel and develop my reader base. I look for two things in choosing an online course or writing mentor: 1) has the person I’m considering been published or, 2) do they have students who’ve gone on to be successful authors?

Not all published authors are necessarily good teachers. And, not all good teachers have necessarily hit the New York Times Bestseller lists.

If you’re considering someone who is NOT a bestselling author, BUT they have numerous bestselling authors as former students, then I would consider that person a good prospect. Example: Margie Lawson is a former counselor and therapist and has a degree in the field. She also teaches online writing classes. She specializes in helping her students “up” the emotive power of their work. AND, she has many students who’ve gone on to become bestselling authors. For these writers, Margie’s classes were part of their arsenal to become a better writer.

What if you want to self-publish? Again, look for somebody who has done it successfully. Read their blog. Find out what books they’ve written.

With the boom in self-publishing, there are many so-called experts out there. Look for somebody with credibility. What are their opinions about the field? And, then, go look for somebody with the opposite opinion. Are they successful, too? Or, not? Take time to educate yourself and find a mentor or system that resonates with your own goals. I love reading NY Times bestselling author Bob Mayer’s blogs on publishing. He’s out there in the trenches honing his methods every day. He’s put together a successful self-publishing model.

No matter what your goals, do your research to find the best model or mentor for you. Think of it like learning to fly a plane. Literally, your writing life is in the hands of the person you choose as your co-pilot.

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