A note from Constantine:
First and foremost, I’m not special. I wasn’t “born to do this” and I don’t have any special training. I’ve spent most of my life as a high school teacher, and I don’t have an MFA. Everything I’ve learned I’ve learned from trial and error, from watching those who are better than me, from reading the work of others critically, and from making mistake after mistake but also from taking the time after each mistake to figure out where I went wrong.
I wrote my first manuscript when I was 37 -- an adult literary fiction -- and it was terrible (though I didn’t think so at the time). It was roundly rejected by agents of all stripes. After that experience, I took some time to review what I’d done and I asked questions of those who had read it and I learned. Then I wrote another one which was differently terrible and I repeated the process.
Then I wrote a third which was objectively good, but not marketable, and a fourth which was even better but was rejected due to market saturation in the genre. My fifth manuscript was my first YA story. It was the manuscript that eventually became my debut novel, STRANGE DAYS. I queried it, and was offered representation by an agent at a reputable small New York agency who then worked with me to make some significant changes to the manuscript in order to make it saleable.
Again, I learned from trial and error. I learned by listening and reading. But mostly I learned by writing, and this mentorship is developed from those experiences so that you won’t necessarily have to write four manuscripts before you write one that’s saleable.
When my agent took me on, he told me that, while my manuscript needed a lot of work, it held the key elements that make for a saleable manuscript:
It had a strong central idea that was well developed, thoughtful, and which made the story being told feel meaningful.
It had characters who were real, relatable, and fully developed, including a main character who he couldn’t help but root for despite the character’s clear flaws.
It was told with a strong, unique, and compelling voice.
“Plot,” he told me, “Can be fixed. Idea, Character, and Voice are much harder to repair.”
Together, we fixed the plot, and he sold it to Putnam, fulfilling a lifelong dream of seeing my book on the shelves at bookstores and libraries.
So since Idea, Character, and Voice are the things which carry a story -- and essentially they’re the things that will dictate your plot anyway -- we’ll start there together by creating your Story Bible and from that platform, I’ll guide you as you develop the rest of your manuscript.
Oftentimes, those who write aren’t necessarily able to share their processes in a manner accessible to those who don’t share their innate talents or who’ve not benefited from their specific education. As a writer and a teacher with 20+ years of experience, I am uniquely situated to take what I know about the art of writing, break it down, and share it with folks in ways that are easy to understand.
I’m looking forward to helping you, and I can’t wait to see what you create!
The Mentorship Program:
Constantine was not a “trained writer.” He does not have an MFA and has not spent a lifetime cultivating his writing resume. As a “DIY” writer, Constantine made his way from absolute novice to “Big Five” publication with Putnam/Penguin Teen, and along the way he developed a teachable method for story creation -- a “story bible” -- which became the basis for his successful online class, “How To Get Your YA Novel Off The Ground.”
Now he’s expanded that course and tailored it to become the ground floor of a 6-month mentorship designed to help writers -- new or experienced -- get their YA novel idea all the way from concept to completion.
The course begins by solidifying your story’s foundation through the “story bible” process that Constantine developed. Whether you’re just starting out with an idea, you’re 20,000 words in and don’t know what to do, or you’ve got an outline and don’t know how to proceed, Constantine will meet you where you are and help you get where you want to go by teaching you the basic process for developing a story and then guiding you through your drafting experience.
Who Should Apply:
This course is for people who are serious about wanting to complete a novel manuscript and who are disciplined enough to work independently even when things are difficult. Having previous writing experience is not a prerequisite, but a general fluency with the written word is vital. Whether you’re stuck 50 pages in, simply have an idea, or are somewhere in between, this program will meet you there and usher you through the completion of your manuscript.
How It Works:
Upon being accepted into the program, you’ll schedule a pre-conference where, together, you and Constantine can assess your current position and develop a plan of action that is tailored to your specific needs. Together, you’ll create norms for your work together, including methods for communication, a tentative schedule, and a general work-flow plan designed to ensure your completion within the six-month time-frame.
Communication can happen through text, email, zoom, or telephone -- or all of the above -- depending on your needs.
Your work together will begin with a thorough analysis of your manuscript with an eye towards theme, structure, and character and an intensive period of foundation development through developing a “story bible” for your manuscript. As your foundation solidifies, Constantine will help you begin the page-by-page telling of your story through a regular process of concurrent writing and revising.
During the drafting process, check-ins will be scheduled at regular intervals in the manner which best suits your needs. Assignments will be structured in response to the needs and goals outlined in each section with an eye towards manuscript completion at the end of the mentorship.
During the course of the mentorship, if an issue arises with your writing between consults, Constantine will be available by email at any time and guarantees a prompt response.
This Six-Month Mentorship Consists of the Following:
One-on-one initial consult via phone, email, or Zoom
Intensive early work on story structure and character through the preparation of your “story bible”
One-on-one weekly meetings via phone or Zoom
Personalized calendar for achieving your project goals
Accountability through regular reminders and set assignment dates.
Access to mentor via email for six months
Weekly critiques, including line edits and global thoughts.
A final exit interview during which next steps for your completed manuscript can be discussed.
Help with the development of your query letter and guidance on your agent search.
Continued access to the portal after the end of the term, potentially to include future students who complete the next mentorship.
A template for a Story Bible and intensive assistance in completing it.
Regular In-line comments and notes on your manuscript
Weekly one-on-one sessions to discuss progress, solve problems, and generate ideas.
Reading suggestions for research, story help, and general edification.
Regular and prompt email responses for questions that can’t wait until the weekly meetings.
Mentee’s Monthly Responsibilities:
Keep deadlines and complete assignments.
Be open to constructive critiques and suggestions.
Be willing to read, discuss, and learn.
Be a responsive partner with your mentor