by Shelley Williams
(Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

First of all I would like to say thank you for taking the time to read this email. I am writing a novel and I would like to bounce ideas off someone or have someone else's input on the storyline. Right now I have the skin and bones of a 23-page story, which will eventually become a novel.

I find it hard to be objective with the storyline and characters, and I need a fresh set of eyes. Unfortunately, my friends and family are not quite adept in the literary field to help me out on this.

Is there a place or a specific person I can seek out to get help with this? Would an agent or a mentor do this? I find the writing red tape so confusing. I am an avid writer who has been writing since the age of 9. I self-published 3 poetry books last year (finally) after much research. If you have any information I would appreciate it.


Hello Shelley. That’s understandable that you want some “fresh eyes” on your work and some feedback about what you have accomplished so far. An agent does not want to hear from you until you have a fully completed, polished, publishable novel. To contact an agent prematurely is unwise, as they then remember you as the person with a novel that is of no interest to them. Most will then be unlikely to want to look at the manuscript a second time.

However, a writing mentor can certainly help you. A good mentor will be someone experienced, who has been professionally published, who knows what it takes to work with an agent and an editor.

A good writing mentor will assess your work and your skill level and will make recommendations based on the writing you submit. If you have not studied creative writing, the mentor may work with you as a teacher, and teach the necessary creative writing principles.

If it is clear that you already understand those principles, then the mentor is more likely to work with you as a substantive editor, and he or she will point to strengths and weaknesses in your draft and will make suggestions about structure, pacing, characterization, scene structure, diction, etc.

The recommendations of a mentor should encourage and inspire. They will allow you to see what you could not or did not see on your own. This is not to say that you will never feel frustrated. Writing can be difficult work..

Mentors are paid, rarely free, and their rates vary depending on their experience and availability.

If you think I can be of help, I will be happy to speak to you about it.

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