I don’t think I’ve had a real up close mentor, mostly because I’ve been too over-awed by the ones I admire and too shy to ask for help. But I’ve watched a lot of writers from a distance and learned from them.
Also I live in an out-of-the-way village about 70 miles north of the Los Angeles sprawl. Perhaps the isolation from the big city writer’s scene is why you see me so often on Facebook. I know it’s a fictive community but it keeps me in touch.
I meet writers locally who inspire me. I admire my friend Judith Cassis. She authored as a ghostwriter a book that made the New York Times best seller list. When she talks I listen.
I read a lot of books too. I write police procedurals and John Sanford is my current ideal. I heard an interview with him once, and maybe it hit me at exactly the right time, because as I write this now it doesn’t seem nearly as profound.
Sanford recommended a close study of the first couple of chapters of a book you wish you’d written. You English majors know what a close reading is. I took it to heart. Although it seemed savage I took actual paperback and hardbound books that I liked and turned down corners and underlined and cut out whole passages with scissors and hung them up on a clipboard at my desk. And I read them over and over, trying to deconstruct what I liked about them.
I watched how characters walked onto the stage, how the inciting event was set up, and tried really hard to learn what it was that sparked my continued interest.
Do I write like these mentors now? Snort! I only wish.
I’ve distilled all this study into a series of EBooks on Writing Your First Mystery The techniques that propel a mystery forward are transferrable to any genre of fiction. There are six of these titles now and I am working on a seventh.
Please check them out and recommend them to any writers you know who are new in the writing world.