What is a writing coach?
An online writing coach or book coach is a professional mentor who guides authors through the book’s writing process. They offer personalized, bespoke services to meet writers’ needs at every stage, from assisting with outlining, plot development, writing goals, and guidance through the publishing process.
Just as athletes, academics, and professionals in all areas have coaches and mentors, writers can benefit enormously from specialized guidance while working on their books.
Let’s dig a little deeper and explore how you, as an aspiring or even established author, can benefit from the services of a writing coach.
Do you need a writing coach?
Aspiring writers, first-time, and professional writers (no matter where they find themselves in their writing career) seek a coaching session or sessions for all sorts of reasons.
If any of the following resonates, you might want to seriously consider hiring a writing coach or enlisting in a coaching program:
- You have an excellent idea for a novel, but you don’t know where to begin
- You’ve started your book, or you have a general outline, but you feel stuck and are unsure how to proceed
- You’re having trouble finding time to write, or you find your energy and enthusiasm for writing comes in bursts
- You have lots of unstructured pieces of writing and don’t know how to fit them together into a novel or feel like you lack the skill to do so
- You don’t feel confident in your writing and aren’t sure how to improve it
- You’re encountering plot holes that you don’t know how to correct
- You have questions and don’t know who to ask for help
What are the benefits of writing coaching?
If you’re struggling with confidence during your writing project, expert feedback and encouragement can be hugely helpful.
You might be comparing yourself negatively to other writers, worrying your writing won’t resonate with your audience, or feeling overwhelmed and unsure if you’re writing style is good enough to write the book you envisioned when you began.
Your writing coach should act as your personal cheerleader, believe in you and your work, and improve your confidence and self-belief. They do this by getting to know you and your book and understanding where your lack of confidence comes from. Apart from supporting and guiding you as an expert, they can also show you specific areas in which you excel and how to improve in areas you struggle with. This is a proven recipe for becoming a better writer.
For example, I have a client who writes fantastic dialogue and action, but initially, he didn’t feel confident in his descriptive writing skill. He wasn’t sure what the problem was or why he felt it wasn’t at the same level as the rest of his book, so I listened to his concerns and read the sections of his novel he felt were weakest. I showed him the parts that were fantastic and how to improve what didn’t work so well with specific, personal feedback and an example edit.
This strategy improved his confidence because it made the problem smaller: it wasn’t as simple or as big of a problem as him being “bad at descriptive writing” (his word choice and imagery were fantastic already), but he wasn’t integrating his descriptions into his prose as naturally as he could be. Having a coach showed him where he was successful and how to improve in specific areas he needed extra help with.
Another client wasn’t sure if her book was too similar to others in the genre. Together we looked at the competition, their relative strengths and weaknesses, and determined what she was offering in her novel that no one else is.
Your writing coach should improve your confidence by personalizing feedback, praise, and critique, all while being encouraging and supportive.
The combination of transparency, expertise, and passive mentorship provides a foundation for the author to improve organically as a writer.
All writers can benefit from extra accountability. If you’re writing in your free time, as a side project, or struggle with self-motivation, it can be challenging to force yourself to write. You’re busy, you don’t have deadlines, and you only have your own expectations and goals to meet.
They’ll guide you through how much you could write each day and what you should hope to achieve within that time. Whether you’re too unstructured or demanding too much of yourself and becoming burned out, your writing coach will collaborate with you to set the best schedule for you based on your personal circumstances and industry best practices.
You may have a broad goal to finish your novel by a certain date. But how realistic is this goal, and could it be optimized? Your writing coach will help you determine if that’s realistic and break down that large goal into smaller, more defined targets to help you reach it.
You're 90% likely to accomplish your goal if you have someone who you're accountable to!
If, for example, you have a broadly defined goal to publish your novel by May next year, your writing coach will work backward to show you what that means in practice. How much time will you need for editing, proofreading, beta-reading, formatting, etc.? If all of that means you must complete your first draft by January, how many chapters should you write each month? And going deeper from there, how many hours do you need to dedicate to writing each day, or how many words are required each week?
Trying to work this out alone can be overwhelming, and not breaking down your big targets into smaller ones can leave you unmoored and behind schedule. Working with expert guidance and basing goals on what worked within the field before to set realistic goals is the easiest and most productive way forward!
Having a book coach means having someone that’s checking in on your progress and if you’ve met your writing targets. Knowing you’re meeting someone on a specific date, who has expectations about what you will have accomplished by then, makes it much easier to motivate yourself to do the work than if you’re only relying on your own accountability.
One of our clients, before he started collaborating with us, was procrastinating on his first draft. He had created targets and completion dates, and one of these included scheduling paid beta-readers months before the first draft was completed. When one of the beta readers contacted him during his procrastination phase to confirm that everything was still going well, he realized that he needed to pull his socks up and finish the draft on time.
This is an excellent example of how an external party can influence accountability and motivate a writer to get back to the grind. A writing coach will assist in monitoring and keeping you on track and help by providing guidance and sharing proven strategies.
Time and Focus
A writing coach helps you find more time to write by scheduling, setting goals, and working around your busy life. If you’re honest with your coach about your current time and motivation, they’ll show you how to be more productive and increase your output exponentially.
This year, a client entered a hectic period at work, adding tremendous pressure to her daily life. She struggled to find time to write and concentrate when she sat down to work on her novel. Despite this, she was still able to set aside time to meet. This provided the segway to get creative, and we turned some of her coaching sessions into writing sessions.
We usually met on Zoom, said hello, and then got right down to business. We wrote together for an hour-almost like being in detention, but in a more supportive environment. She found the extra accountability and assisted focus helpful in her busiest periods, and soon she was back on track.
Cuts down on developmental editing time and cost
Though a writing coach isn’t necessarily a developmental editor, you can significantly cut down on the time and cost of developmental editing once you’ve finished your first draft. Working with someone as you write to avoid plot holes and guide you through pacing and big-picture issues means you don’t need to address them afterward. This allows you to avoid extensive rewrites that are sometimes necessary when you write the first draft alone.
In some instances, the writing coach could also be an experienced editor. Having an editor/coach hybrid is great for some writers, and many of our clients prefer to link the two processes. For others, they’re entirely separate. As long as it’s working for you and you’re getting the benefits of each service, there’s no right or wrong way of going about it.
A writing coach will help you with the technical side of writing, too. Through personalized feedback and critique, they’ll help you understand your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and offer bespoke lessons on how to correct your mistakes and improve your craft.
Writing couches should be able to transfer wisdom and guidance through the experience they gathered from past clients, professional careers, and industry trends over the years. But not all who know how can teach how. The writing coach should be a patient communicator that knows the difference between guiding and instructing.
Occasionally I have clients who I check in with infrequently or only when they have a particular technical question. Recently, for example, a client of this nature set up a video call so he could ask about B-Plots. He wanted to know whether I thought he had too few or too many in his novel, how to weave them together, and what the function of B-Plots should be. Having someone with an expert level of technical knowledge on speed dial proved to be incredibly valuable in finding a fast resolution.
How does coaching work?
It’s essential that coaching fits into your life! Coaches will offer different types of services, points of contact, and schedules, but they should all offer some level of flexibility so that sessions work best for your schedule and needs.
Some clients send me an agreed number of words before our weekly session so that I can read them and offer feedback. Then, we meet on Zoom and talk about the process, what they’re struggling with, how productive and motivated they’re feeling, and any concerns, and to celebrate their wins.
With others, we email back and forth, talking about their progress and critiquing as they go. This can be great for people with hectic schedules, but I find it decreases the level of accountability that Zoom meetings offer.
What’s the difference between a writing coach and an editor?
Though writing coaches could also be editors, the roles are separate. Book coaches work with you during the writing process, and editors work on the complete manuscript. You will still need editors even if you have a writing coach, but coaching can reduce the time and cost of editing.
Collaborating with a writing coach (especially a coach/editor hybrid) as you go through the writing journey minimizes the need for extensive developmental editing because you’ve been doing it as you go along. Together, you should be catching and working out plot holes as you go, figuring out where you need extra scenes, character development, or more description, so you don’t have to do any rewriting or find mistakes after the fact.
Working with a coach should also improve your writing skills. In every case, every writer always needs a line editor, but the process can be sped up! Sometimes I use edits as part of coaching. By showing writers how I would line edit a portion of their writing, it can teach them how to self-edit more effectively and how to avoid repeating mistakes in the future.
How to find a good writing coach
After searching online and asking for recommendations, it’s an excellent idea to have a discovery call with your potential writing coach. A discovery call is a free, 30-60 minute video call where you can get to know each other, see if you’re a good match, discuss expectations and concerns, and ask questions. If a prospective coach doesn’t offer some version of a free or reduced-cost consultation call, it might be best to avoid them.
A good portion of your decision might be based on a gut feeling, and that’s absolutely fine! The most important thing when deciding whether to hire a particular writing coach is that you’re comfortable with them and trust them. A good relationship and mutual trust and respect are critical.
They might be the first person you’ve ever shared your writing with or the first person outside of your immediate family and friends. You might feel nervous about talking about your struggles or self-doubt. It’s vital that your coach understands this, respects how important your work is to you, and honors the trust you’ve invested in them. Without this type of appreciation, it’s unlikely to be a fruitful relationship.
In a more practical sense, it’s always a good idea to look at reviews and success stories and listen to personal recommendations.
Book Your Writing Coach Discovery Call
What should I look for in a writing coach?
Not all writing coaches offer free discovery calls. At Weekend Publisher, we find these calls add a chance to explore not only the services but the personality of the coach and are the best way to decide if a writing coach is for you. You can book a discovery call here.
In your discovery call (with us or any other coach), you’re welcome to ask your coach anything important to you and tell them as much or as little as you’d like about yourself and your book.
They should want to find out if you’re brand new or a seasoned writer so they can offer you advice at the right level specific to your needs.
This will help you both determine what you’re looking for and what might be the priority. For example, if you have a looming deadline, they might focus on scheduling and creating a plan. Or, if you’ve written half of your book but become stuck, you might discuss why that is and how they can help get you back on track.
They should be interested in your book! What genre is it, where did the inspiration come from, who’s the target audience, and what do you hope to achieve with it. You may not have clear answers to some of these questions-that’s okay! If you don’t know, just tell them you don’t know, and they’ll help you figure it out.
What are your perceived strengths and weaknesses? One part of getting to know you is learning how they can best help and personalize their services to optimize the eventual outcome.
And here are some questions to consider asking them:
- Do you have experience in my genre?
- How do you know when your coaching has been successful? How do you measure this success?
- What is your process? How flexible is it?
- How will you help me stay on track?
- What are your rates? Are there any hidden costs?
- Can you fit it into my schedule?
- How often do you recommend we meet?
How much does a writing coach cost?
Writing coach costs vary depending on their experience and your needs, wants, and timeframes. Typically, they will range from $250-$1,000/month.
Most writing coaches will adapt the rate according to your specific needs. Ensure that you are transparent about the type of service you require, your budget, time constraints, and anything else that could help you and the writing coach settle on a reasonable price that adds value to all parties involved.