If you’ve ever had a really good relationship with a mentor, coach, or teacher—in your professional or personal life—you know what a powerful impact it can make in your approach, your performance, and your success. Whether you’re working through tough classes in school, understanding your career path, or learning how to shoot a basket, a coach can make all the difference.
But what about your writing life?
We think of writing as a solitary activity. Sure, there are writing groups and, once a book is finished, there are editors, but when you get down to brass tacks, the relationship is between the author and her word document. Sometimes it’s beautiful, and sometimes it’s a battle, but it’s always one-on-one.
Well, here’s a secret: it doesn’t have to be that way.
Sure, the responsibility for writing your book is ultimately on your shoulders, but what if you could have an ally guiding you through the process? Someone there every step of the way, acting as mentor, editor, and counselor?That’s what a writing coach is for, and the right one will not only help you write a better book—she’ll help you become a better, more confident writer, and she’ll be there to talk you through frustrations and celebrate breakthroughs.
Not sure if hiring a coach is right for you? Here are four things you can expect from a writing coach as you move your story forward:
First and foremost, a writing coach will provide you feedback on your work. Likely, you’ll send her a certain number of pages per month, and she’ll help you figure out what’s working, what needs more work, and where to go next. Of course, you can do some of this work yourself, but the beauty of a coach is that she’s got an outside perspective and a sharp eye for what great writing looks like. While you’ve been so deep in the weeds you may struggle to see your work clearly, she’ll be able to look at it with an objective, critical eye to help you improve not only your submitted pages, but your writing overall.
Some people are so perfectly disciplined that they don’t need any outside help to keep churning out pages. But for the rest of us mere mortals, deadlines are lifesavers. For writers who need a little extrinsic motivation to stay on task, a coach is the perfect incentive to keep writing. Like a writing group, she’ll provide you with deadlines to complete pages, scenes, and chapters, but the fact that you’re paying her for her services will likely provide an extra little kick to keep things moving.
A good writing coach won’t let you rest on your laurels. When you turn in a strong scene, she’ll show you how to make it stronger. She’ll challenge you to step outside of your writing comfort zone and do what it takes to make your book great. Maybe that means pushing you to overhaul scenes that aren’t working—even if you love them as they are. Or to kill off secondary characters that don’t add to the story. Or to go ahead and start weaving in that subplot that intrigues you but makes you nervous.
I can’t stress enough that a coach’s job is more than just making your book better; it’s making you better as a writer. And that means challenging you in a way that your friends won’t challenge you—and that you won’t challenge yourself.
Finally, a good writing coach will make you want to work hard, not throw in the towel. I’ve written before about my drastically different experiences with two college writing professors, but the long and short of it is that it is my firm belief that, as an editor and coach, it’s my job to inspire my clients. That doesn’t mean I dole out unearned praise or hollow words of encouragement. But it does mean that I offer constructive criticism and guidance in a way that leaves my authors with a clear path to the next level—and the confidence that they can get there. My hope—and what you should look for in a writing coach—is that after every conversation and every critique, you’re excited to sit down and keep writing.
Are you at work on a manuscript and on the fence about asking for help? Please reach out! I’d love to talk about whether hiring a writing coach is the right move for you!