Denise M Taylor

Writing Consultant I Editor I Proofreader I Teacher

I admire successful authors who write organically. These writers depend on waking up most mornings with a new idea to progress their writing project. However, in my experience as a writing mentor and editor, many ‘organic’ writers end up frustrated if ideas dry up overnight or if the huge amount of research/content threatens to overwhelm and destabilise their book project. Some admit that the steam has gone out of the project, especially if there is no publishing contract to keep them on track and motivated. Many admit that they need to stop and work out a structure, and an action plan to set goals, but with an awareness that flexibility is important. It’s a balancing act!

A writing mentor is a trusted resource for continued support, encouragement and creative growth. If the text and the author end up in a tug of war, the mentor’s objective overview and constructive feedback of work-in-progress, maybe even tough love, can help calm the waters and hopefully encourage a reset to complete the project.

There are many reasons why writers seek my mentoring service, all incredibly interesting. I guess that is why I continue to offer my services as a mentor: each writer is unique and committed to their passion of writing about a specific subject matter, whether it’s for commercial, professional or personal reasons. I am equally committed to encourage her or him to keep motivated, set workable deadlines, and produce the best writing possible through to the final full-stop. I am delighted when I receive emails such as the following after the book is written and my mentoring has come to an end:

Denise was thorough, honest and constructive in everything she did, from assessing my manuscript, to editing it, to reviewing it for submission. She really made me think about every word I’d written and helped me see the story through fresh eyes. Denise kept me motivated all the way along with her support, encouragement and infectious enthusiasm. She brought out the best in me in every way.

(Jocelyn Eastway)

It has been a pleasure working with you on books one and two. I was gratified by your many helpful suggestions, keen eye for detail, responsiveness to queries, and genuine interest in the story’s development.

(Brendan Frain, 2021, ‘Monuments of Grass’, currently in publication phase)

Those authors who are commissioned to write non-fiction books know from the beginning that they cannot work organically—they have a book structure based on a book proposal that has been accepted by the publisher and need a timeline that sets out how they are going to achieve the publisher’s deadline. They rely on a mentor to keep them on track, but with frequent reviews to reconfigure their plan if necessary.

Setting goals boosts motivation and productivity, and a mentor holds his or her writer accountable because it’s sometimes too easy to push out deadlines! However, flexibility is an important backstop, especially when the mentor can reassure the (often stressed) writer and help redesign a timeline that can be stretched or compressed as time goes on, or if life takes a turn in a different direction.

I often mentor (I’ve been called a coach on many occasions!) university academics who have constant work pressures and deadlines, and who need to know that they have a timeline that keeps them moving forward with their book project, but is flexible enough to deal with unexpected hiccups along the way. At times I feel like I’m imposing on their inbox when I check in on a regular basis; but my email is always appreciated, even if I get a brief reply, such as ‘Thanks Denise, I’m on track to meet our deadline for the next delivery’. Sometimes it’s a chance to adjust the timeline.

If a writer engages me for an assessment of her or his manuscript (fiction or non-fiction), I often end up mentoring the writer throughout the rewrites until the manuscript is ready to edit and proofread. I then review submission material to be sent to publishers.

When I’m asked to review work-in-progress, whether the work is fiction or non-fiction, I’m on the lookout for many things, the main one being seamless, coherent writing: a series of clear sentences that relate closely with the context and point of view, and that are contained within paragraphs that get to the nitty gritty of one idea/subject/theme. Although this is a review and not an edit, I look for connections between paragraphs and make sure connections are not broken. Misuse of grammar, excess flab, a swamped or inconsistent voice/tone, overuse of particular words, repetition and an incoherent structure are common culprits.

Good writing may look easy, but for most writers it looks that way because he or she has mastered the art. As English poet Alexander Pope penned in his ‘An Essay on Criticism’, 1711:

“True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,

As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance.”

Although Pope is referring to poets here, we can conclude that his general meaning is that wordsmiths are made, not born. The best writing is the product of many hours of writing and rewriting. The support and guidance of a suitable mentor is immeasurable, especially when a writer is ‘stuck’, or realises that she or he is losing objectivity, or even motivation.

 

Writing Mentor

I mentor three writers at a time, so if you would like to send me a few details of your project, and check my availability, why not contact me and we can set up a time to chat?

If I have availability and we seem compatible then I will send you a mentoring proposal. If you agree to appoint me as your mentor then we can come to an arrangement that usually involves regular face-to-face meetings or phone/Skype/Zoom chats following a constructive critique of your work-in-progress. My role is to keep my writers motivated and writing! A fee will be negotiated, usually in pre-pay blocks of 8-10 hours.

If I am unable to offer a mentorship, I may be able to help by providing a manuscript assessment.

 

Featured image: Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

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