• Stephen Howard

A Writing Coach? Do I Need One?

Guest blogger S. D. Howard, The Editing Bard



Whenever I tell someone, “I’m a developmental editor and story coach,” I usually get a blank stare in return. I don’t blame them since many of them don’t write, or they are brand new to writing. For authors, their main focus is keeping the coffee flowing, and the writing muscles moving while they work on their story; they’re not even thinking about editing, let alone a coach. However, they should, and here’s why:

Writing is HARD!

That’s right, I said it. Writing is hard, and because of that, very few make it to the point of publishing a book. It’s not that their stories are bad; that’s the farthest thing from the truth in my experience! The truth is they didn’t have someone in their corner helping and encouraging them that they have what it takes; to show them how to avoid the pitfalls and work past the writer’s block. To help them find editors and cover designers.

This is where a writing coach (also known as a story coach) can help.

What I Do as Your Writing Coach

The purpose of a writing coach is to guide the writer through the process of writing their book. It’s someone who has a little more experience that can help you take your story to the next level. How do they do that? Well, since I cannot answer for other coaches, I’ll go through how I have been helping my clients with their stories.

Use My Unique Worksheets

After working with teens who were struggling to finish their stories, I decided that they needed something that would help them get their ideas out of their head, so I created the Getting Your Story Started Worksheets. These worksheets cover these and more:

Brainstorming

Outlining

Character creation

The teens loved them! It helped them get their stories going again.

These worksheets were designed to be easy to follow, even if you don't have much time. It will help get your story ideas out of your head and on to paper where you can work on them. I have continued to use them in my coaching -- with clients who range from early 20s to late 40s -- with great success.

For some, a few coaching sessions have been all they needed to launch them into their stories, while others signed up for more one-on-one coaching.

Develop a Writing Process With You

One of the biggest things that I see in the clients I’ve coached is a lack of a writing process that works for them. They don’t have any writing goals, times blocked out to plot or write their story, or they try and edit as they go, thus stifling their creativity. That's why the first call I have with clients is all about getting a writing process in place for them. I cannot stress enough how important this is!

The first thing I ask my clients is how many words per hour can they write/type. I ask this because it will help them figure out how to structure their writing goals. If they can bust out 1500 words in an hour, and they have a first draft chapter goal of 3000 words, then they know that they’ll need at least two hours to write up a single chapter.

By doing it this way, you’re able to set up your chapters more effectively for the first draft, leaving your mind to create rather than worrying and overthinking. You have a goal, you write towards it, and your brain does the rest! How great is that?

Build Confidence

"Is My Story Good Enough?"

I get this question a lot from clients, especially the ones who are newer to writing, and it doesn’t matter how old you are, you want to know if you have what it takes. Is your story good enough? The answer is, probably.

Probably?

Yes, probably. It isn’t putting your story down; it’s acknowledging that a story in any form can change and transform into something completely different if you see a new way to take it. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve done this same thing since I started writing when I was 16. And it’s okay!

When a client contacts me about coaching, we talk about their story and I can usually tell within 10 minutes whether it’s a good one or not. How do I know this?

I read the author and ask myself these questions:

Are they passionate about it?

Do they have an idea of where they want to take it?

Is the plot a copy/paste of something else or did they take an idea and turn it on its head?

Do they see the big picture?

It’s been rare that I come across someone whose idea is bad. It may have been done before or might feel familiar, but that doesn’t outright make a story bad.

This brings me to the #1 one thing I help authors with: confidence.

Your #1 Fan: The Essence of a Coach

If you’re looking for a coach, not only should they be helping you with your story, creating a writing process, and be invested in your story. They need to be invested in you. More than anything, this is my #1 focus when working with my clients.

As I get to know them, I challenge them and push them to do things that they may not have done before, and I do this because I see that they have the talent, the skill (even if it needs refining), and the passion for their writing.

You don’t have to have a degree in creative writing.

You don’t need to know every rule of grammar and punctuation.

You don’t need to “write what you know” or stay inside the box.

You don’t need these things to make you an author. Are they important? Of course! But these do not an author make.

If these don’t, then what does?

Grit. Perseverance. Determination. Willingness to learn.

Remember what we talked about earlier? Writing is hard. It will feel defeating at times; you will want to give up.

It may be during the first draft or when you start sending it out to agents, or when copy editors rip your story to shreds; it could be while doing line edits, or when you become frustrated by the lack of character development in the story. You’ll wonder why you even bothered and might even be tempted to throw it in the trash and burn it.

Don’t.

You don’t have to go it along. Find a coach who will walk with you through the fires, the valleys, and the dark times. Find a coach who will uplift you and give you an encouraging word when you need it most. Find a coach who will be your biggest fan.

S.D. Howard is the owner of The Editing Bard and provides developmental editing and story coaching services to new and seasoned authors alike.

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