“Why do I need a Writing Coach?”
If you believe you’re not quite ready for primetime, but that you have a good story to tell; if you believe that an editor can only do so much with what you’ve provided, because it’s still just not strong enough; if you believe you have weaknesses that a little extra training can convert to strengths; if you believe the competition is just so fierce that you simply must be the best you can be; then a Writing Coach is a good investment.
This is what comes before you submit to an editor, agent, or publisher. This is what prepares you for those big steps. The new skills you develop here are what will put you over the top, ahead of the competition, and set you apart as a true professional.
What does a Writing Coach do?
A Writing Coach works with you on improving your understanding of the fundamentals of writing, and does so using your own words and style (segments from your manuscript). What are those fundamentals? Well, here are some of the big ones:
- Essential Elements: Plot, Characterization, Setting – This is too long a subject to tackle here. Suffice to say that a coach will concentrate heavily on the proper development of these elements.
- Grammar – Professionals know the rules, so if you’re going to be a pro, we need to address even this mundane stuff.
- Punctuation – This is just one small part of the grammar agenda, yet we mention it because nothing is more troubling to beginning writers than that pesky little comma. And please… every sentence is not the most amazing thing ever; do not toss around exclamation points like monkeys in a poop fight.
- Essential Structure – It’s not just which words you use to tell your story, but how you choose to place those words that will determine how well readers respond. Use structure to ramp-up the tension.
- Chapters – How do you structure your chapters to achieve maximum impact on readers? Where should one chapter end and another begin in order to heighten the reader’s emotional response?
- Paragraphs – You can achieve with your paragraphs, on a repeating basis, the same impact on readers that you get with well-placed chapter breaks. The key here is to provide, when possible and appropriate, that momentary thrill – a sense of great anticipation – as they must pause for that instant to start the next paragraph, and to see what comes next. Just as you leave them hanging at the end of a chapter, desperate to start the next one, so you can keep them turning those pages by structuring your paragraphs well.
- Sentences – Even at this micro-level, you have the power to reel in the reader. Learn the proven methods, but learn also when to use them to maximum effect, which means you must not overuse them, thus dampening their effectiveness.
- Primary Commandments of Effective Writing – The first two of these you’ve no doubt heard countless times before; the third, maybe not (since it’s a Lane Diamond construct).
- Show, Don’t Tell – We’ve all heard this a million times, but what does it mean? We’ll use some practical examples from your work to teach you how to convert dull, blasé “telling” into interesting, visual “showing.”
- Make Every Word Count – As an author, you owe it to everyone related to your project, from publisher to editor to the end consumers – your beloved readers – to provide a tight, well-paced story. Every time you use 14 rambling words to say what you could easily convey in 8 concise words, you’re stealing from the reader. Their time is valuable, as is their money (length often affects cost), so treat them with the respect they deserve.
- Keep It Strong and Direct – Avoid some of the “bad habits” (see below) of writing that are so prevalent in today’s market. Be strong, be forceful, be the authority, and your readers will love you for it.
- Convert Your Bad Habits into Good Habits – All writers bring some mix of bad habits to their work. Those can vary greatly from one writer to the next, yet certain bad habits are more universal than others. Here are just some of those:
- SOBs (State-of-Being Verbs) – The problems with SOBs are numerous, but in the end, the simply drag down a story, rendering it dull and uneventful, if overused. The most effective verbs convey a sense of action.
- Passive Voice – The problem with Passive Voice is that things happen, but nobody does anything. Weak construction makes for a weak read. Blah.
- Infinite Verb Phrases – Lane Diamond likes to call this “An Act without an Actor.” As with Passive Voice, the problem here is that acts occur as if they were the will of God, rather than the actions of a specific character. It creates a disconnect for the reader, yanking them out of the moment – out of the story. As a writer, you never want that to happen. The cart should not be leading the horse.
- Wordiness – Writers often meander about in their sentences, using awkward constructions that require significant tightening.
- Excessive Proper Nouns – Most writers toss around character names until they function as a thousand anchors on the story, dragging it into the dark abyss.
- Awkward Dialogue Tags – This is one of the most common problems out there. We can offer some simple fixes, some processes that will change forever the way you write dialogue.
- I-Bombs – It seems everyone is writing first-person narratives these days. This does offer some advantages, but it carries with it one HUGE problem: the I-Bomb. Learn how to focus on the subjects around the narrator, and how not to make it a constant stream of I, I, I, I, I.
- There’s more, of course, but we’ll tackle any other issues as we encounter them.
- Style – This will be uniquely yours, as it is with every writer, and a Writing Coach’s job is to teach you how to enhance your writing while remaining true to who you are. We all grow, and learn, and progress… but we remain who we are. That’s important, yet you must be ready to grow as a writer, willing to say on occasion, “Well, that’s not the me I want to be. I want to be this me.”
“How does the process work?”
Your initial minimum investment with a Writing Coach will be for 3 hours of review, conversation (via Skype), and planning. It’s important to understand that the first step in any coach’s job is to identify what his writer needs to work on most.
- Step One – Prepare yourself to be dissected. Remember: this is not personal in any way; it’s about making you the best professional writer you can be. While we strive to keep it fun and constructive at all times, let’s face it: coaches can be tough at times. Would we love to make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Sure, but our first responsibility is to make you a better writer.
- Step Two – Writer submits the full manuscript, if possible, but at least the first 20,000 words of a piece for the coach to review.
- Step Three – Coach makes notes, identifies problem areas requiring the most urgent focus, and lays out an initial proposal to tackle those issues.
- Step Four – Coach and writer talk about those issues, and the ultimate game plan, via a candid conversation on Skype.
- Step Five – Implement the plan based on the writer’s needs and budgetary constraints.
“How much is this going to cost me?”
The fee for a Writing Coach is $75 per hour. The initial 3-hour assessment is the minimum requirement. Whether they choose to move on from there is entirely up to the writer. After the initial assessment, the writer may purchase coaching in 2-hour minimum blocks. If the writer chooses to purchase a 5-hour block, a $10-per-hour discount will apply. At the end of each block, coach and writer will determine the appropriate course of action for the next block if appropriate.
If the writer prefers, the Writing Coach will offer a FREE 30-minute consultation via Skype as a preliminary step in determining whether this will be a proper arrangement for both the writer and the coach.
Here’s how scheduling and availability work:
The Writing Coach will work with only one writer at a time, with a minimum requirement of 4 hours per week after the initial assessment, and a maximum of 10 hours per week. If you cannot afford the fees at this time, please wait to hire the coach until you can manage at least the minimum requirements. It will be strictly first come, first serve.
“How many hours of coaching will I ultimately need?”
That will be entirely up to you, the writer. So long as you feel you’re gaining valuable training, and so long as the coach feels you’re not ready for the next step of just moving on to an editor, the training can continue. However, in order to satisfy additional clients needing the service, the coach will cap training at 4 weeks per writer (16 hours minimum, 40 hours maximum). However, writers may return for a second round of coaching 3 months after completing the first round. Please keep that in mind as you budget for this service.