The Awful Truth About Being a Mentor

I never sleep well the night before Pitch Wars reveals.  Will my mentee be happy with me? Will the people I didn’t pick be devastated?

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I toss and turn because I can’t stop thinking of all the very kind people who trusted me with their words, who sent me their hopes along with their hearts, and who are going to feel the crushing blow of rejection because I can’t take everyone on. I don’t know how many times I can make the point that it’s like being asked to name a favorite color, but I have too many things to say for Twitter, so I’m going to bloviate blog-style.

Here are the random thoughts ping-ponging around my head at 2 a.m.

  • I read all of your queries and first pages multiple times, to make sure I wasn’t being affected by time of day or mood (which I am susceptible to). I approached them each as if they were my own — always looking at them with the highest optimism and overlooking things that could easily be fixed.
  • The reason you weren’t picked by me is — because you’re not the person I picked. Period. There wasn’t an entry I couldn’t have picked (except those subbed to a genre I explicitly didn’t want).  As I sorted through the entries, I never thought, “This really sucks.” Some of the entries were further along in some aspects of craft — but craft can be learned. Any problems I encountered are fixable — maybe not by me — but with the help of the right CP.
  • If I could have picked three entries, I would have. The decision making would still be a nightmare, but getting down to just one is agonizing and there are so many authors I’d love to work with.
  • There were MS in my top pile with high quality writing and great concepts that I didn’t request more pages from. Why not? *shrugs* No specific reason — it just wasn’t my thing. Some of these were picked up by other mentors, others weren’t. Not getting a request is not an indication of the quality of the writing.
  • The vast majority of entries that didn’t make it into my maybe pile were simply a matter of taste. Nobody could possibly know what appeals to me from a wish list alone.
  • With every entry I read, I always looked for what I personally could bring to the table. I knew I needed a passion for the story, for the characters, for the voice, for the writing. But I also needed to identify something that I could help with — something I had experience with and knew I wouldn’t muck up. My worst fear is taking a sparkly novel and ruining it. I read several fulls trying to find the one that I connected to in that way. It’s a very precarious balance between almost there, but not quite there in a very specific way that resonates only with me.

My worst fear.

  • If I end up sending feedback, it will be of two flavors.
    1. I simply didn’t connect with this the way I wanted. You can read that as: I can’t pinpoint anything you’re doing wrong. I just connected to another MS more.
    2. Or I will tell you something I think you could fix, but don’t read that as “why you weren’t picked” because believe it or not, whatever I tell you, you can bet that my mentee will hear it, too.
  • I want to stay friends with all the wonderful people I’ve met. I hope there will be no hard feelings. If anyone is feeling down after the results are revealed, please reach out to me or any other mentor you feel comfortable talking to. I’m happy to offer a shoulder and tell you all about the many times I didn’t make it into contests with even better odds.
  • You should all hold your chins up and feel good about submitting and making the most of this contest. Congratulations to all of you who sought out a CP, interacted with other potential mentees and mentors, who heeded writing advice, and who will walk away from this experience with an arsenal of tools.
  • And remember, a mentor is nothing but a glorified CP. Yes, we’re dedicated to YOU and we aren’t making you return the favor. And yes, there is an agent round at the end of this. But you have the power to find someone to help you with your work. You have the power to form the community you need to power you through. Pitch Wars is just a beginning.

Keep on writing. Keep on learning. And KEEP ON TRYING.

Love you guys!