The Value of a Writing Coach by Melinda Pierce
There are tons upwards to a gazillion (yes, exaggeration at its finest) articles on how to push past writer’s block or hitting a writing slump. One of those valued methods is to hire a writing coach.
But what if you aren’t hitting a block or in a slump? Perhaps you have plenty of writing fuel, and it’s the getting your butt in the chair on a regular basis that is holding you back. Your life, kids, obligations, and all those things you can’t, and don’t want to put aside get in the way of finishing your manuscript.
This is the situation I recently found myself in, and I’ll share why hiring a writing coach is keeping me moving forward with getting my book to The End.
I don’t hold to the school of thought that hubby can do the laundry and the kids can feed themselves so I can write. It doesn’t make me feel good. One of my kids is six and the other under twelve months. My husband works forty-five minutes away, and most days we don’t see him for twelve hours. When my family is together, I want to spend time with them, and if you’ve seen some of my other blog articles this is why I call myself an author hobbyist. My love of writing is just as passionate as any full time author, I just don’t intend to pursue it as a full time job. Say what you want, but to each their own.
Now, with this in mind, I do have a book I need to finish. The characters are amazing to me, and the story is fun. I want this book finished more than I want to find a pair of skinny jeans that look great on the short and curvy, but I need help setting realistic goals for myself and staying on task.
This is where the coach comes in. My coach sets up bi-weekly calls, reads my chapters, gives me her overall thoughts, and sets small and long term goals for me to aspire to reach each week and month.
But can’t a critique partner do the same thing? I’m glad you asked that question. Short answer – no.
Long answer – a writing coach is experienced with mentoring individuals. They are a level or two above you. A critique partner is usually someone at your same level, and while I can’t live without my critique partner, she provides a different type of assistance for my writing.
If your brain is now spinning with the want, you may also need a little direction on the how. As in how do I find the right writing coach for me? The key word in the title of the post is value, and for each of us this may mean different qualities or qualifications we expect.
I’ll share what I expect, but remember each author needs to evaluate their own needs. I’ll shout this again – there is no magic pill, each author needs to evaluate their own needs.
1. Experienced teacher: My coach is also a teacher by trade. She’s worked with individuals from all backgrounds, and understands what motivates different personalities.
2. Published author: This goes along with the above comment about the coach being a level or two above you. I’ve been in the writing world about three years, and I have a contract. I want to work with someone who’s been in it for at least ten, and has several books published.
3. A mentor vs. a cheerleader: There is a huge difference. Don’t pat me on the head and tell me I’m doing a great job when I meet my word count. Kick me in my pants and make me work harder to be a better writer while meeting my word count.
4. Active in the writing community: This means the coach is staying caught up on all the latest news regarding the world of writing and publishing. The first thing my coach said to me is “you are not writing in the genre you think you are – let’s evaluate where you intend to go.” Brutally honest, but necessary.
5. Reasonable cost for time spent mentoring: I am cheap. Ask my mother, she’ll tell you. So, when I say that the cost has to be reasonable, it means that I can’t waste a dime on something that isn’t going to work for me.
6. Working together privately: I get distracted easy, and if I am working in a group setting I’ll worry too much about what’s going on with everyone else in the room. It’s my nature. I need one on one, and that’s what I get.
You’ll notice I didn’t say “will get me published.” That part is still on me. I write the story. I submit the story. I take the acceptance or the rejection with the knowledge in the end it’s all on me.
I’ll say it again, mostly to stop the hate mail later on – each author has to evaluate what works for them and their family, and I guess my main reason for sharing is that if this hits home for you, you won’t spend any more wasted time crying over that unfinished manuscript. Even experienced authors need a push, and if you find something is holding you back, try a coach for a month and see if your word count/plot/overall attitude improves.
If you have the want and the how under control, your next question might be the where. I’d be remiss as a guest if I didn’t point out that Ms. Barany is writing coach. You can also find those who are willing to mentor or coach at your local writing groups and communities, or communities online. Don’t forget to interview them thoroughly, and take a little time to do your research.
Thanks so much for stopping by, and let me know in the comments if you’ve worked with a coach, are a coach, or are wondering more about how this whole coach thing works. I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.
As always, Happy Writing!
Editor’s Note: Thanks for the kind mention, Melinda! We all need support. 🙂
Melinda B. Pierce is an author hobbyist, mother of two, and Membership Director for Savvy Authors. When she has time she writes in almost every sub-genre of romance and refuses to follow the path of most resistance. Connect with her on twitter @MelindaBPierce