How Can Writer Coaching Help Me?

Whether or not you have read the previous blogs on writer coaching (see links at end), you may still be asking yourself, how can writer coaching help me personally?

I thought it would be helpful to tell you some stories (anonymously, of course) about several clients I’ve worked with, their reason for wanting coaching, and some of the work we did together.

Some writers find that one session is enough to get them unstuck. Others like to work on the issues/points raised in the initial coaching session, and are then ready for a second, third and sometimes a fourth session.

From their stories below, you’ll find it easier to know whether writer coaching would be helpful for you.

This post draws on coaching sessions to answer the question How can writer coaching help me? (Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels)

Client 1

Client 1 was around 10,000 words into her memoir when she contacted me. She needed help improving her writing technique, she said, but she had also reached a point where she was stuck and didn’t know how to continue.

As for many clients, we worked on a chapter structure and tried to write a synopsis. I say ‘tried’ because once we began, we realised it was difficult to express what the story was about, other than that it was based on a period from her youth when she’d travelled overseas. We discovered there were no outstanding experiences that could have good dramatic impact to capture a readership.

So I asked her, ‘Do you read a lot?’ and she said that she did. ‘What’s your favourite genre?’ I asked her.

She said she loved biographies of well-known people.

I asked if there was any fiction genre she enjoyed and she said, ‘I love thrillers!’

I then asked her how she felt about fictionalising her story and making it into a thriller. There was one ‘character’ she’d met during her time overseas who I’d thought could be developed into a shady character, which helped me suggest this genre. Bingo! That suggestion resonated with her completely. We ended the session with her brimming with enthusiasm and going off to reread her favourite authors such as James Patterson before embarking on her own thriller.

Client 2

When Client 2 called to say he needed help to progress his writing, he had written a few chapters of his life story – which he wanted to fictionalise.

When you’re so close to your story, it can sometimes be difficult to articulate what your actual issues are. After having a chat about this, we ascertained that the main problem keeping him ‘stuck’ was the lack of a structure for his book, as he was somewhat randomly populating chapters with content without first having a framework for it.

Pitch and Synopsis

To address this, we first wrote a pitch and then a synopsis for his book. After that, we worked on the chapter structure. Although we couldn’t finalise the structure during the initial coaching session – because he hadn’t yet decided on all the material he wanted to include – we achieved three-quarters of it.

We also realised that although he’d initially said the story was based on his own childhood, which had been traumatic, in fact, there was going to be very little based on his own experiences. The genre he was writing was crime fiction. We discussed how best to intersperse childhood events throughout the story – whether real or fictionalised – and decided the flashback technique would work very well for this.

As he had only written about 6,000 words, it was the optimal time for ‘professional intervention’! We spent some time discussing the importance of ensuring the reader was engaged – kept right in the story – at all times. It can be easy, as the writer, to forget that the reader isn’t in your head, so isn’t privy to things you as the writer know. While elements of mystery and intrigue are necessary, naturally, in crime fiction, that is different from putting the reader in the position of not having a clue what is going on.

Having had one coaching session so far, he has happily gone away to work on his book. He feels more confident now that he is working to a structure and has a clearer idea of where his book is going.

Client 3

This client initially contacted me mid-2017. We have continued working together, with breaks in between, until the present moment. Initially, over a period of four months, she had three coaching sessions to help her piece together her mystery novel. Her main problems were that as a first-time writer, the writing was self-conscious and tentative, lacking in confidence. The beginning of the book was not strong enough to capture a reader’s attention from the get-go, and the book needed more dialogue to break up long paragraphs of narrative and help bring the story to life.

However, the biggest issue was that it was not clear what the story was really about. One of the outcomes of our initial coaching session was for her to write a synopsis, which forces a writer to be concise and absolutely clear on the characters, especially the protagonist and any other major characters, what the main storyline and events are, and how the story will end.

Working on the Protagonist

Some of the other suggestions I gave her were making readers care about her main female character, who was not particularly likeable. In the context of her story, it was necessary for readers to empathise with this character (which isn’t always the case); tips for creating fictional characters; showing rather than telling; and using fresh expressions rather than cliches (more about that here: https://editors4you.com.au/cliches-and-overused-metaphors/).

After working on the outcomes from the first session for a month or so, she requested a second coaching session. During that session, we worked on fixing head-hopping and point of view; making the writing more emotive – so readers would feel what the characters were feeling; the overall chapter structure; and strong chapter openings and endings.

After she had implemented those suggestions, in the third and fourth coaching sessions we worked on some recurring grammatical issues including using active voice rather than passive voice, and simplifying the writing rather than over-embellishing and overwriting. This took us up to the beginning of 2018. She then spent the rest of that year, and all of 2019 (her time permitting) working on her writing. In mid-2020, she had finished writing and requested a manuscript appraisal for the novel. As of now, she is finalising the manuscript for the edit.

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My experience over the years has been that most writers who approach me for coaching find that one initial session is sufficient to get them unstuck and able to forge ahead with their writing. However, other writers need more help and coaching as they progress through the chapters.

I hope that this post has helped you answer the question, How Can Writer Coaching Help Me?

In addition to this post How Can Writer Coaching Help Me? take a look at the following links for more on writer coaching:

Book Writing Coach: https://editors4you.com.au/book-writing-coach/
Writer Coaching to Develop your Writing: https://editors4you.com.au/writer-coaching-to-develop-your-writing/

Writing Coach and Editor

Gail has recently nurtured through writer coaching and editing:

Award-winning author, Bianca Williams, of the Sidelined trilogy. In 2017, she won the USA Best Book Award and was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards for Book 1 Sidelined: The Draft.
cover of sidelined the draft for blog post how can writer coaching help me
Award-winning author, C.C. Harris, who won the 2020 American Fiction Award for her novel The Psychs of Manhattan in the Psychological Thriller category.

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