#1: What is a book writing coach?
My role as a Romance coach is to help you grow as a writer and to find the courage to commit to your dream of publication. As your writing coach, I can help you:
• Evaluate your fiction book proposal, query letter and synopsis for coherency and sales appeal
• Prioritize which foundational book writing skills to develop first
• Motivate you to stick to your practice of writing books
• Overcome procrastination, creative writing blocks, and writing problems
• Rehearse your verbal story-pitch for literary agents or book editors
• Analyze rejection letters or the feedback of contest judges
• Brainstorm with you to develop novel ideas
• Develop press kits, news releases, advertising, and promotional tours
• Field questions during interviews by news reporters
• Hone your public speaking skills
• Point you toward alternative solutions and/or resources for writing books
#2. What is the difference between an editor, a writing teacher, and a book writing coach?
An editor is helpful if you have not mastered English punctuation and grammar; if your writing does not convey ideas in a coherent or logical manner; if the story progression is hard to understand; if the pace is bogged down by long passages of narration; and if your passages are full of weak adjectives, passive verbs, clichés, etc.
A writing teacher is someone who helps you learn the fundamentals of fiction / novel structure through class instruction, writing assignments, and suggestions for improvement.
A book writing coach goes beyond writing teacher, because you hire her to “hold you accountable” to your short-term page goal and your long-term publishing dream. Her job is to keep you motivated and inspired. A book writing coach may also instruct you in the foundations of fiction, and she may mentor you in the stages of selling / marketing your book.
As your book writing coach, I start our relationship by helping you determine your strengths and areas for improvement. To do this, I evaluate the beginning of your manuscript. I mentor you as far as you are willing to go — through your first sale and beyond, if you choose. After your first sale, you will need to develop marketing strategies for your book, and you will need to develop the next fiction proposal that you would like to sell.
#3. I already have a critique group. Why do I need a book writing coach?
Workshopping your manuscript is only one of the services provided by a book writing coach (see question #1.)
But since you’ve brought up story critiques, let’s focus on the advantages of manuscript evaluation by your writing coach.
Not all manuscript critics are created equal. Even published authors don’t always possess the skills to analyze somebody else’s fiction and offer constructive suggestions that will save your prose from the chopping block.
Sadly, I’ve encountered aspiring authors who’ve revised the same manuscript three or more times upon the (often vague) suggestions of published authors, literary agents, and book editors. Not only have these aspiring novelists grown disillusioned and defensive about story critiques, they’ve become bored with their book. Their manuscript has become homogenized and stale. As their frustration grows, their confidence dwindles, and they start to lose sight of their publishing dream.
The purpose of a book writing coach is to help you rekindle your dream. I can put the comments of former critics in perspective, help you recognize and build upon your strengths, and motivate you to write books confidently. By prioritizing areas for improvement, I can help you feel liberated from your sense of “critique overload.” My written comments will contain constructive criticisms. I do try to be gentle and encouraging, but after 20 years of working with fiction writers, I’ve learned that my methods aren’t for everyone.
Evaluating another writer’s prose is a subjective proposition. I don’t claim to have all the answers. Nor do I promise to get you published. That’s your job.
My job is to help you increase your writing confidence and find the courage to write your book to the end. I work with you to prepare a plan of action – one that is designed to heighten your sense of accomplishment as you watch your skills progress.
#4. How do you help fiction writers avoid the feeling of overwhelm during story critiques?
As a book writing coach, I’ve found it helpful to prioritize areas of improvement for my clients. For instance, after reviewing your work, I might determine that a focus on characterization would serve you better than trying to tackle characterization, plotting, and novel structure all at the same time. We would then work together to develop a plan of action – one that gives you a sense of accomplishment as you see your writing skills progress over time.
#5. I’m so tired of re-writing my book! How can I avoid revisions?
One of my published writing mentors used to say: “A book isn’t written. It is rewritten.”
As your coach, my goal is to help you practice confident writing and achieve your publication dream. If you refuse to keep writing when the going gets tough, you will not achieve that dream.
Accept now that 80% of your publishing career will be spent rewriting your manuscripts. Publishing houses often require veteran authors to rewrite scenes — or to slash entire chapters — for a variety of business reasons, including the cost of paper.
Revisions are just part of the business of writing.
#6. I’ve received so many contradictory opinions! How do I know which writing advice to follow?
Story critiques should never belittle your ideas. Nor should they ever leave you feeling so hopeless about your skills that you discard your publication dream. As your writing coach, I shall do my best to help you put contradictory feedback into perspective so that you can look at the book you are writing with a fresh eye.
My advice to writers is to follow your instincts. If my evaluation feels wrong because it’s detrimental to your vision of the story, then leave the passage intact. On the other hand, you may have to accept that additional practice in the fundamentals of Romance writing will be necessary before you can fix a problematical passage.
#7. Another writing professional told me that my revisions had made my story “stale.” How do I fix it?
If you’ve re-written your Romance manuscript so many times that the story no longer feels alive; if the thought of revising those chapters makes you so angry that you want to cry; then do yourself a favor. Retire that story.
Book editors have no trouble recognizing a tired manuscript. You’ll know your rewrites are doing more harm than good when you start to receive rejection letters that include comments like, “Your story doesn’t sparkle,” or “Your chapters lack punch,” or “I’m not sure why, but this one doesn’t work for me.”
In most writers’ lives, a time comes when she must accept that the book she’s writing has become her best teacher. In other words, by revising your manuscript umpteen times, you have gone through the tedious self-study required to learn how to write a book. At this point, the healthiest thing you can do for your career is to write a fresh story.
As your book writing coach, I can help you put into perspective what you’ve learned and help you apply those lessons in your next manuscript. My goal would be to help you devise a plot that is interesting for you to write, but to steer you away from storylines that are so complex, that they would frustrate you at this stage of your development.