Friday, 29 April 2016

Mentoring - And Why It's Important to Writers

By Gillian Hamer

Look up ‘mentoring’ in the dictionary and the definition reads: ‘the activity of supporting and advising someone with less experience to help them develop in their work.’

This seems a perfect description. As writers, the thing we lack more than anything in our early days is confidence. How do we know our writing is any good? How do we judge? Who can we compare it to? Who do we ask for feedback? How do we get advice about publication? Within self-publishing the need for support is probably even greater, without an in-house editor or agent to work with, who do we ask for advice?
Our A Time & A Place Boxset
Mentoring can be many different things to many different people, but in writing, the fundamental need of the lonely author is support.

From early on in our incarnation, it was decided that one of our key roles at Triskele Books is to do just that. To use what we have learned over the last decade in our own individual writing journeys (and when you start to list it or visit seminars you soon realise what a huge amount of knowledge you know without even realising!) and hopefully put our skills towards assisting others who are just starting over in their own journey or are have trouble with previous decisions.

Each of us have our own different stories of how mentoring works for us.

Jill Marsh: "My Triskele team-mates have been my mentors for far longer than five years. We first ‘met’ on a peer critique site. Three things stood out – these people were excellent writers, insightful critiquers and extremely supportive individuals.

Under their guidance, my writing has matured. I’ve identified my own bad habits, built my confidence and learned plotting precision. As for getting the work out there, I lean heavily on the various contributory skills of the Triskelites. Mentoring, for me, is a question of sharing our experiences to make unfamiliar territory less daunting and a demonstration of our commitment to helping other writers."

Each of us within Triskele play our parts individually. Jane Dixon-Smith is not only a historical fiction author, but also an award-winning cover designer, who has recently been interviewed on BBC Radio and released a book to assist newbie writers, and is also the editor of literary magazine, Words with Jam. Jill Marsh as part of Nuance Words runs writing events in her home country of Switzerland, and co-produces The Woolf magazine. Catriona Troth is a professional editor, plus our eyes and ears on the ground, assisting with London-based writing events and also works with the Alliance of Independent Authors. Liza Perrat takes part in a writing community in her native France. And I have recently given a talk on ‘cross genre’ novels to a writing group in Birmingham, discussing my route to publication and feel I know a great deal about publishing.

Collectively, we’re massively proud of 'A Pathway To Self-Publishing' – our how to guide to assist writers who may be looking at self-publishing as an option for them.

A Pathway to Self-Publishing
So, for us the next natural step was to launch our Big Five Competition for 2016 #Big5 putting into place the definition of mentoring which seemed perfect to encompass all our ideas. A year working along with five published authors, skilled in areas such as professional editing, professional cover design and formatting, as well as getting the support network and advice that has made Triskele Books so successful.

Is this an offer worth grabbing? Do Triskele have anything worthwhile to offer? Well, from what we have discussed here I believe so!

Certainly life is full of choices. Traditional publishing is still a route for many to pursue, and an option I would encourage for anyone who wants to write and leave everything else to someone else. It has it negatives – the loss of control and speed at which the industry moves, but also doubtless has its positives – assistance with marketing and network opportunities.

Not many of us would be where we are today without some kind of mentoring. For some that may be formal qualifications, for others it might be physical support groups, for others online writing communities.

Personally, my first unofficial mentor would be the first literary agent who saw some spark of ‘something’ in my writing, and helped me develop the rough jumble of ideas I had into the framework of a novel that eventually become ‘Closure.’ Later in my career, I turned to a fellow author, Amanda Hodgkinson, who seemed to connect to my writing and was always supportive but critical to just the right degree. Would I be writing my sixth novel without either of these women? Probably not in all honesty.

But don't just take my word for the importance of mentoring. The judge for our Big Five Competition is Irish crime writer, Sheila Bugler. Soon to publish her third novel with O’Brien Press, her first big break into writing was via a sponsored mentorship scheme, and this was one of the reasons Sheila was so keen to payback her good fortune and judge our competition.

Sheila Bugler
Sheila says: “Early in my writing career I was lucky to win a year’s mentoring with an established crime writer. It was such a great experience. I learned so much about the craft of writing, the genre in which I was writing and what exactly I needed to do to turn my messy first draft into a final version that was good enough for publication. More than anything, though, being mentored have me the confidence to believe in myself and think ‘I can really do this.’ Mentoring is a really great experience and I would recommend it to any aspiring author luck enough to be offered this opportunity.”

The Big Five Competition #Big5 is one hell of an opportunity for one lucky author. If you're an established writer, tell someone who is just starting out or struggling with their writing. If you've been with a small press but are looking at fresh options, see if this is something that fits your needs. And if you have a book in you and want to support to see if it deserves its place on the bookshelf, take the plunge and let us advise you.

It means a lot to us at Triskele Books that we have the knowledge, skills, networks and experience to be able to offer this prize - and we look forward to sharing all of that expertise with one lucky author.

Find out more #Big5 details here


  1. Will there be an obligation to publish with Triskele at the end of the 'mentoring' period, or could people take their polished manuscript to a trade publisher?

  2. Hi Sue. The mentorship is designed to assist an author who has chosen to self-publish through the editorial and self-publishing process with their book, not to publish with Triskele Books. Triskele Books is an author collective, not a publisher. One of the great benefits of being an indie author is that decisions at every stage of the publishing process remain with the author.