Ah, the Olympics. A welcome distraction this time of year—athletes displaying their best efforts, coaches cheering them on.
Writers, too, have their coaches—fellow writers, literary agents, editors who acquire their manuscripts. In lieu of these – or more often, to supplement them – some hire coaches.
Why hire a writing coach? The most straightforward reason would be that within your literary circle, there are gaps. You may have great team that cheers you on, but you lack someone with mega-editing skills to point out problems at the developmental level. You may have diligent colleagues who hold you accountable, but you need someone to guide you through the publishing ropes. You may feel as if your writing colleagues are collectively spinning your wheels—better than spinning alone, but still, it’s spinning.
Clients often come to me for help with editing. But in almost every case, I end up coaching as well. And if you’ve ever coached, you know that part of what makes it rewarding is that there are so many ways you can help someone up their game.
A good coach can:
- Help you identify goals
- Devise strategies for helping you achieve your goals
- Evaluate your manuscripts
- Identify and build on your strengths
- Identify areas in which you can improve
- Offer instruction to help you improve
- Help you navigate the psychological aspects of writing
- Help you navigate issues related to publishing and marketing your work
- Explain. Cheer you on.
Whether you’re a team of one or many, make sure these coaching functions are addressed. If you’re thinking of hiring a coach, ask friends and colleagues for recommendations, bearing in mind that many editors-for-hire also function as coaches. Ask prospective coaches to explain the services they offer and the fees they charge. Check testimonials from their clients. Consider the breadth and depth of their own work and their publishing experience.
Typically, a writing coach will ask for a work sample as well as asking about your goals and timeline. That’s so she can assess, as you also should, whether the two of you can work as a team.
Much is made of the solitary writer. But in truth, success rarely comes in isolation. Know what help you need. Seek it out. Share the struggles—and the joys—of your writer’s journey.
Deb Vanasse is the author of seventeen books with six different publishers. Among the most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds; and the “deeply researched and richly imagined” biography Wealth Woman. After thirty-six years in Alaska, she now lives on the north coast of Oregon, where she continues to write while doing freelance editing, coaching, and writing instruction.