Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finding a mentor

Sam writes: How do you go about finding a mentor and asking someone to help you through multiple drafts/multiple projects?

Ask any successful writers how they got to where they are, and the answer usually involves someone who took the time to offer guidance and support. It could be a producer, director, executive, or another writer - but mentors are constantly helping new writers improve their work and navigate the industry. I've been lucky enough to find a mentor who has taken an interest in my writing in this way.

Lots of people will help you on your path to becoming a professional writer, whether it's forwarding your resume on for a job or giving you notes on your script. But the thing is, not everyone wants to be a mentor. Some people really enjoy helping young writers develop their talent - and some don't. You can't force it to happen. Also, professional writers can be really busy. Don't take it as a personal slight if someone isn't able to help you.

In my experience, a mentor/mentee relationship is most likely develop if the A) the person really does want to be a mentor, B) s/he thinks you are a talented writer with a lot of potential, C) you both share the same taste, and D) you've bonded on a personal level. You might meet the friendliest writer in the world, but if she writes romantic comedies, she's probably not the right person to guide you through four drafts of a horror movie. In a recent draft of my script, my mentor wrote down a joke pitch before flipping the page and seeing that I had written the exact same joke already. We obviously have similar brains.

I'm not sure it's really possible to actively seek out a mentor - and I think it would be awkward to ask a writer to be one. You just have to keep meeting people and see if anything clicks (in my case, it happened organically). Also, Sam's question about multiple drafts and projects might be a lofty idea. I would aim for finding someone to offer to read just one draft of one script - and then see what develops. Maybe you'll get some great notes. Maybe you'll get passed onto an agent or manager. Maybe you'll get a mentor. Any of those things would be helpful.

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Colene Murphy said...

So true. Great great post. I have found, writers are some of the most helpful, kind, and supportive people toward other writers. So it is never too hard to find help! Lovely.

Sam said...

Thanks for answering my question! I think you make some really good points. I agree that I don't think you should ask someone to read multiple drafts off the bat, but I think waiting for someone to say "I'd like to take a look at your next draft" may be waiting for something that might never happen. Thanks again for taking the time to craft your well-worded answer!!

Pete said...

I think some writers will become mentors because it's another way to avoid actually writing their own stuff!

Dan Williams said...

You make some good points in this well-reasoned post! Speaking as a person who is old enough to be a mentor, I think a writer learns the craft and then gets to a point where he or she can see where younger writers are getting stuck or going off on unproductive tangents. At that point, the mentoring process just sort of happens naturally. So if an older person strikes up a conversation that seems to be instructional, it's not a bad thing, it's just micro-mentoring.

Negative Negro said...

Read it from top to bottom and even went back to read some more. Thanks.