Jennifer Brozek | SFWA Mentoring Lessons

SFWA Mentoring Lessons

by Jennifer Brozek 19. February 2019 12:47

As “Declutter Monday” is currently “Project Monday” and I don’t think “crocheted 1/3 of a baby blanket today” is all that interesting, I thought I’d talk about something I’ve noticed recently.

I’m part of the SFWA mentoring program. This is a program where SFWA pairs a mentor with a mentee based on a questionnaire from both sides. The official mentoring relationship lasts for six months. You “meet” and have contact every other week. From my point of view, the program matched me up with a very good mentee.

Through my work with them, I’ve discovered something: sometimes I need to hear exactly what I’m telling my mentee. I have to admit, this can be annoying. I’m not the one being mentored. I’m not the one who needs to learn the lessons I’m teaching. I’m the experienced knowledgeable one in this conversation. Right?

Well, yes and no. Some lessons are easy and I just need to be reminded of them. Some lessons are hard and I need to have them beaten into me again and again.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
IE: steady and consistent writing, editing, PR, etc… will go a long way. Of course, I did have a very bad Nov 2018. I wrote a total of 762 words of fiction that month. I had a hard time putting words down. I was burnt out. Over all, I wasn’t worried. I got my work done, but it took longer than I wanted. The reminder helped.

“Take this time to just enjoy the convention. Give yourself permission to be a real person. Don’t go into it with an agenda.”
This lesson is harder to learn. Or re-learn as the case may be. This was something I told my mentee. Three days later, I was talking with the Husband about possibly cancelling a convention if I didn’t get in as a dealer. He asked me why and pointed out that he’d like to go to a convention with me where he wasn’t stuck behind a dealer’s table. For me, conventions are business. I’m working. When I told him I didn’t know how to do conventions without a dealer’s table anymore, he told me that I knew how to once and I should remember. Suddenly, I was on the other end of the lesson for a very different reason.

“You are allowed to consider quitting. You are allowed to quit. You are allowed to start again. No one is going to take away your writing card if you take a break.”
I once told my mentee that every writer considers giving it up. If they say they haven’t, either they’re lying or they’re too new to know better. I don’t know if it is true 100% of the time, but every author I’ve ever talked to about this has admitted they’ve thought about giving up the publishing game. Not necessarily giving up writing, just the professional publishing part of it.

Writers are an interesting lot. By the nature of the work, we’re used to rejection, of not writing the story the editor is looking for, of not being talented/experienced enough to write a certain story. It’s good to remember that writing is one of those skills that gets better as you use it, experiment with it, and absorb it through reading.

Back in December—while I was writing a contracted novella and waiting on publisher edits for the first novel of a contracted trilogy—I received a rejection from a publishing house I really, really want to get into. For a full day, I moped: “I suck. I’m a hack. No one likes my writing. I should give it up and just stick to editing. I’m good at that.”

The next day, after I finished my writing for the day, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, looked at the emails and the novel feedback again, and decided everything would be all right in a bit. This particular novel didn’t move the acquisitions editor, but I did get a clue as to what kind of novels did. Fortunately, one of my series-in-waiting is exactly that sort of series. So, when I get around to writing that (after the contracted stuff), I know who to send it to.

Writing is not an easy job. Sometimes you need a break. If you take it, nothing says you can’t start up again. That’s the beauty of the industry. Especially in this day and age.

Relearning these lessons is why I applied to be a mentor in the first place.
I knew this would happen. You learn while you teach. You learn what you don’t know. You learn what your mentee knows. Your shared experience builds on your foundations. Every acceptance, rejection, edit, and revision request builds, and rebuilds, the writing toolbox. You expand and grow. Every publishing conversation—professional or casual—imparts knowledge to all sides of the conversation.

I like to share my knowledge and experiences to make things easier for the ones who come after me. That way, they can make their own new mistakes…then pass that experience on to those they mentor as the cycle continues.

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Jennifer Brozek: Writerholic

Jennifer Brozek is a multi-talented, award-winning author, editor, and tie-in writer. She is the author of the Never Let Me Sleep, and The Last Days of Salton Academy, both of which were nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. Her BattleTech tie-in novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, won a Scribe Award. Her editing work has netted her a Hugo Award nomination as well as an Australian Shadows Award for Grants Pass. Jennifer’s short form work has appeared in Apex Publications, and in anthologies set in the worlds of Valdemar, Shadowrun, V-Wars, and Predator. Jennifer is also the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions, and was the managing editor of Evil Girlfriend Media and assistant editor for Apex Book Company.

Jennifer has been a freelance author, editor, tie-in writer for over ten years after leaving her high paying tech job, and she’s never been happier. She keeps a tight schedule on her writing and editing projects and somehow manages to find time to volunteer for several professional writing organizations such as SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. She shares her husband, Jeff, with several cats and often uses him as a sounding board for her story ideas. Visit Jennifer’s worlds at jenniferbrozek.com.

"I see story ideas. All the time. They're everywhere. Just walking around like normal ideas. They don't know they're stories."