HOW AND WHEN TO APPROACH OTHER WRITERS FOR GUIDANCE AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Many new and aspiring writers are eager to get started on their “Writer’s Journey” and don’t know where to start. Some think that obtaining an MBA is the way to go (and it is for some), while others plow ahead full throttle. Those brave souls who dive in head first, cast caution to the wind and put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard and never look back…well, most of the time perhaps.
This post is written to give the new and aspiring writer an idea of how to approach a more seasoned and established writer for advice, counsel and/or mentoring. Let me first say that there is nothing wrong about having an agenda in regards to networking and establishing contacts with other writers. In fact, most writers I know expect and encourage it. That said, there is a way in which to go about this and these helpful hints might come in handy to consider when engaging other writers.
1) Don’t be a fanboy/girl.
While most writers love and respect the fans of their work, they mostly don’t want to have a gang of groupies stalking them and following them around like rats to the Pied Piper’s tune. At conventions, book signings and other events, they engage and speak with fans on their work, the craft of writing or whatever the panel is called that day. By the way, conventions and book signings are perfect places to approach an author and network with them! For the most part, they enjoy talking about their work and what it means to them and what it means to their readers. However, what they don’t want is for crazed, demented people to stalk them until they become their bosom buddy. BE COOL! Even though you may approach an author because they wrote a book you liked, they write in your favorite genre or they’ve attained some notoriety, they are people just like you. Authors want to maintain their semblance of normalcy and unfortunately, they can’t be bosom buddies/bff’s with everyone (even if they wanted to).
2) Keep your topic of discussion focused.
I know that it’s hard not to get caught up in the fact that you’re actually in the presence of and speaking to someone you admire or at least whose work you admire. But take into consideration that authors simply don’t have time to shoot the breeze on any and everything ad nauseam. They don’t even have time to do that with each other, let alone with anyone else. Writers spend most of their time writing the books/stories that drew you to them in the first place. That said, you want to make sure to focus on some specific topic(s) to approach them with. Once you’ve established that connection and if the author is open to you contacting them outside of the convention either through email or social media, use your connection wisely! By the way, social media is a great way to connect and network with authors! Don’t bombard an author with a gazillion questions and gush over them like their biggest fan. Although they like to know when people dig their work, it becomes an uncomfortable situation when they have limited time to chat, correspond or conduct business and someone is calling on them everyday (sometimes more than once a day) to answer questions or give advice. Contact them ONLY when necessary and do so sparingly! Writers are usually too busy to field every question and engage every reader, but they do their best.
3) Don’t ask an author to be your mentor…at least not right after meeting them.
I know that sometimes being direct is a way to cut to the chase however, in this instance it’s a sure-fire way to get an author to avoid you like the plague! Developing a mentor relationship with an author should be something VERY ORGANIC! When it’s forced, it’s as though you’re throwing yourself at them like an obsessed stalker. That’s not to say that once you’ve established a relationship with another writer that you can’t ask for help, guidance/support and even mentoring. Most authors are at least somewhat honored when another writer names them as an influence/inspiration and/or mentor. The key here is not to be overzealous and presumptuous. Feel out the author and the relationship that you’ve developed carefully before approaching them in this regard.
The above statements are meant to be guidelines for how and when to approach an author in order to develop a relationship and to seek advice/guidance/mentoring. Every author and every relationship is different, some develop quickly and others take a longer time. The bottom line is that you take your time and don’t rush things. Be yourself and let your dedication and talent speak for itself.
© 2013 John F. Allen