In Mentoring Moments, episode 4 of the Writes4Women podcast, Kel asks Pam all about courses and resources moving into the next phase of writing her book – the researching and revision phase. When it comes to extending your craft and refining your material, the choice is pretty much limitless both on line and off, so how do you know what you need when and where is the best place to look?
Here is a list to help break it down for you. Basically the types of resources you are going to need and draw on as you move through your writing life are:
– Writing Groups
– Writing Books
There are so many courses out there now and most are online, offered both part and full time, short and longform, so not matter your situation there is a course out there that can fit your budget and time restrictions.
Many a great, award winning novel has stemmed from books being written as a part of a writing or meters degree. They are available online and off throughout Australia and can be undertaken full or part time. The online courses can even be modulated depending on your needs, so you can take as many or as few subjects as you like and take as long as you want.
University courses through Open Universities Australia give you the option apply to defer payment of course fees through FeeHelp, which is open and available to all eligible Australian citizens, which removes a major barrier to furthering education for many people. Please note that this option is NOT available under Open Colleges. Through Open Colleges or Open Learning, with these organisations you either pay up front or enter into a payment plan and people quite frequently get them confused.
Having been both student and teacher, Pam and Kel are huge fans of the courses provided by the various writers’ centres around Australia. They allow you to tailor your learning experience, providing highly specialised courses not only on the writing itself but everything else that goes along with publishing, marketing and trying to your your writing into a living. Many of these courses can be done online now and are taught by highly reputable experts and writers. Even if you don’t do a course it is always worth becoming a member of your local writers’ centre and sign up to their newsletter because they keep you in touch with what is happening in the writing world.
The key centres in each State/Territory are:
Quite often Authors will provide online courses and resources, like ebooks, via their own websites and jus as often those resources will be uniquely to the genre the author writes in. So it’s always a good idea to check out the websites of your fave writers to see what gems can be glistened. Natasha Lester, Allison Tait and of course, Pamela Cook, are perfect examples of this.
A good mentor is one of the best tools you can have in your arsenal as a writer, as emerging author, Rae Cairns, reiterates with great passion in episode 4 of the podcast. Describing the importance of her 2 mentors to getting where she is today. Kel attributes her recent accomplishments to the support and guidance of brilliant and inspiring mentors, the most important of which has been Pam and Pam is lucky enough to experience the mass benefits of mentoring from both sides of the fence – as a mentor and a mentoree.
There are no set rules about when to get a mentor, it is really up to you but as Pam said in the podcast, it is most valuable when you have something to work with and mould. The early stages of writing the first draft are more like a coaching and encouragement process than true mentoring and as mentors can get quite expensive to hire, it is best to engage them when they can be of most benefit and that is usually once that first draft has been done. Which does make coaching, writing bootcamps and things like Nanowrimo are good alternatives to splashing out on a mentor right out of the gate.
The top 5 things to consider when selecting a mentor are:
Do they and their area of specialisation fit with the genre you are writing in? It is important the mentor can relate to what you are trying to create because they themselves have successfully done so.
Do you click? Mentoring is a relationship and it involves a great deal of vulnerability and trust. If you don’t get each other, get on or feel comfortable around each other then it just isn’t going to work because you won’t be open to what they have to say. You want someone you respect, trust and feel comfortable with. You want to know they are passionate about you and your work.
Do they challenge and push you? A mentor is not a yes man. They are not engaged to tell you you are awesome and will become the next Kate Forsyth. They are not ego strokers. They are there to improve your writing and your story and make it publishable. You WANT them to be tough (not unnecessarily critical or mean that’s a whole other thing) but tough enough to push you beyond your limits and make you stretch yourself as a writer. If your mentor is not doing this then find one who will because thats what you are paying for.
What is their reputation in the industry? What are people saying about them? And what is their success rate with mentorees who get to publication? There are a LOT of mentors out there and unfortunately some of them are not legitimate. So do your research. Ask your groups and friends before you pick one, see what they say. Also check places like the Australian Writers Mentoring Program, The Association of Writers and Writing Programs and The Australian Society of Authors to verify the legitimacy and references of any mentor you are looking at engaging.
The other resources which are useful for all writers but especially newbies are writing groups and writing books. Pam and Kel will be chatting about both of these things in more detail in future episodes.
Most importantly, regardless of courses and mentors, the best thing any writer can do for themselves is to get a trusted writing buddy. Someone who can provide honest, constructive feedback and can act as a beta reader across your drafts.
For Pam one of these people is Rae, for me it’s Pam. Who is it for you?
Tell us in the comments.