May 22

Ten Signs You Need a Writing Coach

    14-05-22 Coaching
    I used to think the idea of a writing coach was a little strange. Isn’t it a lot like having an editor who just provides extra detailed feedback and enjoys talking about writing over the phone or through Skype?

    Over the years, though, I’ve come to really understand the subtle differences between the ways in which an “editor,” broadly speaking, can help your writing grow closer to the finished and published stage.

    When your writing piece is nearly finished, when you’re almost ready to hit that “submit” button, a proofreader can make sure that there are no typos, that every sentence makes sense and is grammatically correct, that your word usage is perfectly consistent (e.g., using American vs. British spellings), and that everything is formatting according to the style of the publisher (e.g., everything from margins and page numbers to the indentations in the table of contents).

    However, maybe your writing needs a little more attention than that? A copy editor can help with re-phrasing your sentences so they sound more sophisticated, choosing words that are more powerful or compelling, or tweaking paragraphs so that the logic flows smoothly from one sentence to the next.

    But neither of those editors will do much good if your writing piece has larger issues at hand. A developmental or substantive editor can help ensure that your argument actually makes sense (for non-fiction) or that your plot doesn’t have holes in it (for fiction). This broader type of editing looks at the general strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript and points out areas to the author that need more clarification, could be cut, or should be re-worded.

    Some editors specialize in only one of these (e.g., only proofreading), and some editors take on a range of different types of editing. If you’ve ever pursued my Editing Services page, you know that I’ve always offered the full range, from proofreading to copy editing and more substantive editing.

    But, what if you’re stuck partway through a manuscript, and you aren’t even quite sure what should be the next step in your writing? Sure, you could contact a substantive editor, but likely she’ll read through your manuscript once, give you pages and pages of feedback, and say, “Best of luck to you fixing all those problem areas. Contact me again when you want me to evaluate the entire manuscript all over again.”

    What if you need feedback and guidance, not in one by-blow, but as part of a continual process? Well, that’s where a writing coach comes in.

    An accidental writing coach

    In grad school, I was very close to a colleague in my same cohort who had brilliant ideas, but English wasn’t her first language, so she needed continual help with her papers. I offered to help her, and I ended up guiding her through a number of papers, from term papers through the master’s thesis and on into qualifying exams. I distinctly remember one late night, sitting with her at a table, talking about the first draft of her master’s thesis. We were sorting through some different ways to describe, in writing, the rationale for her methodology.

    And I remember feeling a residing sense of purpose – that helping my colleague write in a compelling, powerful way felt both important and satisfying to me. At that point, I would never have called myself a writing coach (even though that’s precisely what I was doing), but would have felt more comfortable with some form of “editor.”

    Fast forward. For about six years, I’ve been an independent editor, helping non-fiction authors write in clear, compelling prose. The days when I have Skype calls with my clients – those are my favorite days. I absolutely love hashing out issues in a writing project, working through a writer’s blocks and frustrations, suggesting different ways to approach the text. I’ve slowly come to embrace the idea that not only am I a writing coach, I actually love being a writing coach. And I’ve learned a lot about the types of writers who benefit most from a writing coach’s help.

    How can you tell if you need a writing coach?

    If you resonate with more than half of these points, you probably need a writing coach:

    10. When I’m feeling frustrated about my writing, I do talk with friends and colleagues about my project, but after about ten minutes of talking about my writing, they tend to change the subject. And I walk away from our conversation with no more of an idea about what to do next.

    9. Truthfully, even though I do have intense frustrations with writing, I don’t usually feel like I can voice all of my frustrations to friends, colleagues, or even my spouse. They’d probably begin to doubt my seriousness as a writer.

    8. I occasionally read books about the craft of writing, but I never really feel that they affect the way I write.

    7. Sometimes I have so many ideas that I’m not sure which to start on first, and I just sort of start on all of them, but never finish anything.

    6. Other times, I feel like I’ve entered a writing desert, and I just think, “There’s nothing new to write about!” It’s a pretty depressing thought, actually, and keeps me from feeling motivated for days.

    5. I have a hard time forcing myself to write. I procrastinate a lot and tend not to write consistently. But I know that my writing is important, and I want to be held accountable for making progress on my writing.

    4. I know that I need feedback on my writing, but I’m too embarrassed to have any of my friends or colleagues read my writing.

    3. I’ve been “working on” a writing project for more than one year, and it’s no where near being ready to publish.

    2. I know this writing project is important to me, but I just cannot foresee when I’ll be able to make time to finish it. Life is busy and just seems to get busier every day.

    1. I never know when “good” is good enough. I always feel that my writing should be better, and I allow my perfectionism to feed my procrastination. I worry that my perfectionism will prevent me from ever being published.

    Enter Writing Coach

    Did any of those ten statements ring a little too true to you? Have you ever considered hiring a writing coach?

    I’ve been an editor and proofreader for six years, and along the way, I’ve served as a writing coach for several authors, but I’ve decided that I love coaching writers so much that I am revamping my work flow to make space in my calendar for more coaching clients. Talking with writers about their projects is my favorite part of my business, and I would love to talk to you about your writing.

    Hop on over to the Writing Coaching page, and let’s talk about how we can work together.


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