Online Writing Mentors
Online writing mentors have appeared all over the internet with the advent of digital publishing, and continue to do so every writing day. With so many out there, how do you find the right ones to influence you at your particular point in your journey. This article is about incredible influencers who’ve made a difference on my journey and I’m sure will make a difference to yours.
Teachers will tell you that we learn and absorb life’s lessons in different ways. From an early age, I realised that I only absorbed information by reading, analysing, and then trying to perform an example.
I’ve never absorbed things when others tell me how to do things (sorry mum, teachers, etc.). It’s probably one of the reasons why I never did well at school or went to university. It’s why nowadays, I still don’t do training courses, attend workshops or writing groups. For me, it’s always read, analyse and apply.
So how do you learn through this method? Failure is one of the key feedback mechanisms which allows me to learn and grow. In truth, the learning process is closer to – read, analyse, apply, fail, reread, and repeat. I know this doesn’t always sit well with creatives, but try and fail are life’s truest teachers.
At school, I loved writing essays and short stories, and English went on to be the best mark I achieved when I left high school. Not that that means much because as I learnt the hard way when it comes to self-publishing, language is less important than the writing and editing process. See my Writing and editing process here.
When I first started on this writing journey, I researched a few (how-to) writing books and studied them from cover to cover. I made notes as I went along, absorbing as much info as I could. It gave me the confidence to get stuck into my first novel and stick with it to the end.
Books I read: Element of Style, 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, On Writing – Stephen King, to name a few.
In the early days of me wrestling with the Traditional vs Self-publishing decision, it was the blog posts by these online mentors that helped me ascertain my own pro’s and con’s list which was relevant to me alone. I urge you to seek out these generous folks or at least start with them because they will be an asset in your writing corner.
One of the books which I happened to stumble upon, was the fantastic, War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. It’s not a book about writing techniques but rather about the mental and emotional challenges associated with the writing journey. It’s also applicable to many other creative folks out there who wrestle with selling their hard work. People who battle with the fear and self-doubt which haunts everyone on their creative journey. I wanted to read more from this guru (he also wrote the wonderful “The Legend of Bagger Vance”), so I subscribed to his blog and now get one or two emails a week, full of little gems and thought-provoking musings. (Update: Also read his Turning Pro – Highly recommended for people wanting to have a full-time creative career). Website
At around the same time, I did some Google research about self-publishing in the digital era, and I found Joann Penn. Her book – How to Market a Book, played a big part of my research into whether I wanted to go down the traditional publishing route or do it myself as a self-published author.
Reading up on Joanna, I realised that I was on a similar pre-publishing track to one she’d followed. I also hailed from an IT consulting background that I long wanted to leave behind. She inspired me to start making the career leap. Her back catalogue consists of a series of books that you’d do well to read as they span both writing and publishing. Others include – The Successful Author Mindset, How to make a living with your writing and Career Change. Subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on social media because she hosts a lot of great writing and publishing podcasts too. Website.
Another writer who unselfishly shares all their experience (as all good mentors should do). I was lucky to find Jeff via one of Joanna’s tweets and followed him immediately. A prolific blogger, I get a few emails into my inbox every week and have also read many of his books. I read the Art of Work early on, but it was his Real Artists Don’t Starve, that had a profound impact on me. Well researched and written, it goes against the dogma that creatives have to be destitute to make art. He has other books too, so follow him on all the Social Media sites to get his back catalogue. Website.
A man on a mission to understand the inner workings of how the Amazon Algorithm affects authors. And, he’s probably come the closest to solving the mystery. Like Egyptologists who study the hieroglyphics in the pyramids, its best to let them get on with what they do. Simply read everything they produce to get a better understanding yourself. David’s work is like that. I have read all of his books and benefitted enormously from his efforts. Website
A person that everyone who wants to make it in the writing world (Trad or Self-Pub) should follow. I get two to three emails each week and devour them religiously. Jane does a lot of interviews and shares other non-fiction author’s work. It’s a hub for you to hear about similar influencers, as well as a source of writing tips that will help shape your journey. Website.
One of my main sources for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) news and social media knowledge. This area is one of the fastest growing areas you’ll have to gain an understanding of as a modern-day author. Every author nowadays, whether traditional or self-published, needs an online presence – your Author Platform. Jeff produces two to three emails a week packed with ways to help grow and maintain your social media following. Website.
Okay, so not a writing influencer per say. But, if you run your own author page, and you should be doing that, Yoast is a useful WordPress plugin that helps you with your structural SEO so that you can increase your reach in the Google world. I started with the free plugin, and used that for about year, before upgrading to the paid service (a good investment I found). Website.
Stand on the shoulders of giants
As the writing journey continues, I constantly find new blogs from people who I believe will influence me as a writer/publisher. I usually find them through others who I follow, so it’s a self-perpetuating referral system that keeps working.
There’s still this belief out there that true writers need to be reclusive and cloistered. Struggling away by themselves, with martyred souls and hand-wringing loneliness. What rubbish. To flourish you need help on your journey and the writing community thrives because of the type of people who will help you directly or indirectly. The writing karma of accepting help, then passing it on, is what makes it so much fun to be a part of.
I encourage you to follow the people listed above. Read their emails, buy a book that suits your writing or publishing needs at the time. They’ll naturally suggest more people to look at. Take their word and expand your influencing circle. Writing is a long apprenticeship, and you need to keep updating your reference material to keep learning. You’re responsible for your development (and career) so keep looking for people who can be an influence and help you along that journey.
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