• Stuart White

#WriteMentor - Post #6 - mentee homework

As those who have applied to me know, I will be issuing immediate homework for whomever I am mentoring. This is general stuff, mostly reading, to help prepare them theoretically for the changes I'll be proposing them to make in actuality.

Why are you doing this? I thought the mentoring was about working on my manuscript?

Of course, the mentoring will focus on the manuscript, but I want whomever I mentor to take away much more from the programme than just an edited or improved manuscript. I want to help embed craft skills and knowledge which will guide and inform the mentee's writing for all subsequent manuscripts as well.

The one big thing I'v learned in my time writing is that every manuscript you write is a learning experience and so you improve with each one. Yes, you always think *this* manuscript is 'the one', but while it might be the one to get you an agent or a publishing deal, a career author is looking to continue to improve and develop.

This is what I want for whomever I mentor. Not just this book, but every book to be better.

There are no guarantees in publishing in general, but specifically in this programme. Being accepted onto it does not mean an agent will like your book. It might be that no agent wants to sign you for that book.

That's okay.

The career writer writes many books and if you've written one, you can write more. And the more you write, the better your chances are of eventually writing 'the one'. But even then, the journey does not stop. You immediately look to the next book.

Recently that's the phase I've been working through. And it's been tough. I knew Storm Rising was my best work. But it's not perfect. It's probably not even excellent. But now I'm looking forward and trying to apply all my knowledge, everything I've learned from the many mistakes I've made in manuscripts over the years to make this next novel even better than my last.

So my point, and I do have one, is that this programme, and writing in general, is not about one manuscript, one golden ticket, it's about development of craft and life-long learning. And I want the writer I work with to know this from day 1.

With that thought in mind, I want to give that person a chance to start early. And for all of you to do the same homework should you wish. After all, we're a very giving and sharing community and 'in the end, the love that you take, is equal to the love that you make.'




  • The elevator pitch - Choose 5 words which embody your story - make them specific, so much so that they could belong to no other story. Now put them into a one sentence pitch.

  • Filter words - go through your manuscript - use find/replace feature - and remove all the following types of filter words, if they are not needed (and they usually aren't). Saw/seen/hear/heard/look/touch/think/felt/feeling/that/seem/can/stand up/sit down and many, many more. Search filter words in google and it will through up tons more. You'll have your own ones you overuse, so go delete.

  • Outline a new book - yes, that's right, forget about this one for a few days and writing a couple of pages about 'that' idea that's been dying to get out, that 'Shiny New Thing', get it all out on the page. This will set you up nicely for when you're finished working on this idea. The blank page syndrome will already be overcome. And you can always add/delete to your outline as time passes.

  • Pick the most important scene in your novel. Now rewrite it, without looking at the original. Do not refer to it all until your finished. Re-read both. Which do you prefer? For me, it's often the second one. My first version is usually me telling myself the story, but when I already know the story, I tend to write the scene better 2nd time. Try it if you don't believe me. It might not work for everyone, but the only way to improve is to try new things.

Real life

This is the last and most important homework.

  • Spend time with family and friends (because the summer is going to be busy for you if you get in!)

  • Read for pleasure.

  • Write for pleasure.

  • Do whatever it is you do, apart from writing/reading, and be productive. Someone who is productive in one area is more likely to be productive in others. If you procrastinate, waiting for the announcement, you'll look back at the time as wasted (I did this soooooo many times!). Go do SOMETHING!

So that's it. Whether I work with you or not, feel free to do the homework. Do it now, or do it in a month. Do it with your next novel next year.

And maintain that growth mindset - you never stop learning, keep pushing every day to do something better, to sharpen your craft, to become a better write.

Focus on the processes and the outcome will take care of itself.