I had my very first manuscript on my desk several years ago and was all ready and fired to go to press when the report from my publishing consultant came back in the post. Needless to say I felt worse than a deflated hot air ballon as I glossed over one page after another page stained with her purple marker.
I had been so certain that was the best piece of work anyone would want to read. A Nigerian proverb rightly says, “You are positive your father’s farm is the largest in the world until you travel wide and understand that what your father has is just a garden.”
My major concern after reviewing the comments of the nice lady was that she was able to highlight most of the things I did wrong but was unable to articulate how to make it right.
I trashed that manuscript.
Writers do put such copious personal investment into birthing their manuscripts. Who wants to contend that it’s not natural to feel that the final product is just excellent? Pregnant mothers would understand better what this is all about, because 9 months is all it takes to stare into the face of the most beautiful baby ever to be born on the face of the earth.
Mothers can be excused if they feel that way but writers cannot because Mother’s get to keep their babies, while writers have to hand over their finished product and hope against all hope that someone wants to take it.
So I was objective enough to see that the consultant was right and decided to start afresh by laying a better foundation for a different project.
Before taking another step however, I urgently needed a third eye … A WRITING MENTOR. That special person who already understands what it means to develop a craft. The person needed to have some measure of success so I would be sure I wasn’t just repeating his or her mistakes. Our close association would help me see a clear standard along which to benchmark my goals.
The challenge however at that stage of my writing career, was, where was I going to find a bestselling author who would be willing to devote the time and attention required to support me, an unknown admirer. Probably nowhere!
But there is always a way out; so I settled for the next best thing.
It’s called Indirect Mentorship.
With my old manuscript in the bin and with a fresh vibrant vision to start on something bigger and better, I carefully chose my writing mentor.
I selected some of her books which I had enjoyed reading and bought a couple more. I studied each one. Line by line I went, trying to understand how she was able to deliver a story so easily. Between the paragraphs and the chapters, I explored the intricacies of English grammer for fiction. I studied her website. I took interest in how she communicates with her readers and fans. I analysed her book covers and reviewed the elements that made them stand out. Over a period of time, I was there just watching every single thing she did. What an opportunity and thank God also for the internet that made it possible. That process made such an impact on my early writings and so even though we haven’t met face to face. I’m thankful for her mentorship.
Since then I have also adopted a couple of other mentors in the other areas of the book publishing process especially marketing, software programmes they find useful, and time management. All free of any charge. Maybe sometime in the future I would get to meet some of these great individuals but for now, their indirect mentorship has been exceedingly and thankfully helpful.
You can do the same.