(NOTE: This blog was previously posted in Natasha Ewendt’s Author Showcase series at Goodreads.com during the month of February. She graciously allowed me to repost here at my site. It appears here with only a few edits. )
I was both honored and delighted when Natasha invited me to be a guest blogger for her “Author Showcase” series. When I suggested a piece about writing coaches, she liked the idea, so without further ado, here is my contribution in list form.
1. You’re a published writer with so many credits and fans and zeros on your royalty checks that you can’t fathom while your current project is stickier than that ooze dripping from the asteroid chunk that landed on your sidewalk.
Perfect! As out of confusion comes clarity.
Let’s face it. Your storyline seemed cool at first, what with its twists and turns and loops and flashbacks (and forwards), but now you’re not so sure you like it. And to make matters worse, your characters keep morphing into monsters and back again to the point you’re not sure which is which or who is whom—and what happened to your human protagonist? You haven’t seen her in action since page four.
To make matters worse (or are they really better?), you discover that that weird feeling in the pit of your stomach is true love—and for that character you wanted to hate and kill off in oh-so-many exquisite ways. Sigh.
Perhaps it’s time to look for that writing coach flare. . .
2. You want to meet deadlines. Really you do. . .but for some strange reason, you keep stepping into an alternate timeline that prevents you from doing so. You thought you were in Venice Beach, then all of a sudden, you’re in Boston Harbor and the water is definitely freezing. Could it be that you flashed back too far to the first ice age?
Or did you flash forward to the next one, complete with Yeti-sized creatures that need your pituitary gland for a science experiment?
Didn’t that writing coach say she could assist with aligning your timeline? Or altering it if need be? And if I heard correctly, they also know how to remove phobias, right?
3. Your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and especially that hot checker at the local Whole Foods have already listened to your plot points and character profiles (both before and after you developed the proverbial elevator pitch). They’re riveted, and can hardly wait to hear what comes next.
But alas, you’ve been staring at that blank screen all day like a witch with her scrying pond, with not a single ripple of an idea.
Yup, it may be time to ignite that flare. . .
4. There’s a scene you want to, need to write, but every time you go near it, all sorts of emotions tangle you up like Cthulhu on holiday. Can that writing coach assist you with associating AND disassociating? Sure they can. . .Before you know it, you’ll be stepping in and out of characters (and scenes) like a demon at a séance!
5. Your short story, novel, or novella is really done! You can’t stop dancing around the room and high-fiving yourself in the mirror (or on your favorite social media outlet). It’s break-time! You clean house, read your snail mail, watch Walking Dead and Star Trek reruns, then head to the beach and the mall, followed by the local pub. The days turn into weeks, the weeks months.
What would you be doing if you had a writing coach?
You would be proofreading and editing, composing elevator pitches and writing synopses, researching markets and writing letters to agents and yes, submitting your work.
I know you still have that flare. . .it’s in the kitchen junk drawer buried under layers of coffee filters, bottle caps, burned-out flashlights, and something even I don’t recognize.
6. “Where-oh-where-is-that-stuff-I-cut-out?” you scream, frantically searching through your stray docs, dropbox, email, and trash.
Guess what? A writing coach can assist you with designing a personalized (and yes, practical) file labeling system. Just in case, said writing coach will also encourage you to discuss all those exquisite scenes that didn’t quite fit within your current project. It’s possible you cut them out on impulse. . .much like that guy or girl you knew in high school who translated that “No Trespassing” sign as an invitation to enter the neighborhood’s infamous haunted house.
What’s more, your writing coach will persuade you to closely examine those files for future projects and label them accordingly. Why? Because they know it’s important to keep it flowing so you’re consistently working on something while waiting for an acceptance (or a decline), a contract, a pay or royalty check.
Furthermore, a writing coach worth their fee will not shy away from telling—and yes, showing you (on occasion) where to cut. Okay, it’s still a democracy, so you’d be engaging in dialogue about this. It’s your choice. You’re in control. . .
And yes, a writing coach can assist you with morphing a 2500-word short story into a 100-word drabble or expanding a 100-word drabble into a 70,000-word novel. Sure, you could do this by yourself, but writers love company, don’t they?
What’s that, you say? You found that flare in your junk drawer? Go ahead and light it up. Just don’t do it inside the house.
7. You’re a unique individual. Okay, you’re a bit secretive and sensitive about your work. You don’t want to show anyone what you’ve written until it’s done-done-done.
You’re not alone. . .
Guess what? YOUR writing coach so gets you. After all, you chose them. You have rapport. You connect. You look forward to seeing them across a coffee table or via your laptop screen while skyping. Just the sound of their voice releases more endorphins than a wedge of chocolate cake with ganache frosting. You’re inspired by the work you’re doing and so are they! After all, they’re on YOUR team!
8. The portal is shimmering in front of you and you’re mesmerized. You can hardly wait to step through it to the other side. You inch closer and closer, basking in all the visions of what you’ll encounter, what you’ll experience, on the other side.
Then you have a panic attack, gasping for air, you scuttle the other way.
It’s okay. Keep breathing. That’s right. . .Take another breath, then another. Repeat as necessary. I mean really. . .Success? What’s that like? How will you handle all those book signings and publishing contracts and yes, gulp, fans?
If you want them to, a writing coach will step through that portal with you. While they can’t do it for you, they will be by your side when you need them. Furthermore, they will dispel your fears and assist you with finding and utilizing the resources you need to move forward to live the successful life you envision and deserve.
9. You want to traverse the universe, terraform new worlds, but haven’t left Earth before. A writing coach can assist you with finding a good cartographer, bio-engineer, and everything else you need.
That resources thing. . .
Have you lit the flare yet?
10. You want a writing coach who will assist you with setting reasonable goals and work with you to chart the path to completion. Even if you finished Nanowrimo with a flourish, you may still need to edit a bit. Trust me. . .
11. Writing coaches are cool to hang out with. They’re fun. Playful. Even a bit on the quirky side.
Okay, perhaps this one may be a bit of a stretch, you’re thinking, as a writing coach is supposed to keep you on-task. Workworkworkwork.
You may want to reconsider that belief, create a new one.
As a writer, you can create any belief (or belief system) you want. Need proof? Look at what you’re writing. I mean seriously! Werewolves falling in-love with vampires?
Of course it could happen. . .
And just in case you were wondering, an experienced writing coach will know when it’s break time and will insist upon your rewarding yourself. This includes napping, gardening, walking, meditating, and yes, getting caught up on your Goodreads.com list.
Is that sulphur I smell? What’s that crackling sound?
12. Some writing coaches have specialized training and certifications to assist you with removing blocks that prevent you from realizing where you want to go with that poem or book. Perhaps they have a magic wand or can take you through a guided meditation to assist you with contacting your subconscious and higher conscious minds.
Yup. I can see that signal flare’s light arcing through the clouds. . .
13. Bottom line, a writing coach is a resource. While you may not be able to send them out to pick up your dry cleaning or kids, and no, they won’t feed those pinkies to your pet snake, you can count on them to be there for you—even when you just want to talk about writing—period. Furthermore, your writing coach will insist (without judgement and with an open mind and big heart) that you explore your unique attributes as a writer and develop those even further. They will remind you (and yes, they may be a bit annoying at times) that one of the best things about being a writer is there’s always something new to learn, to explore, and to share. They will keep you on-task no matter how much you whine or squirm or threaten to fire them.
So go ahead and send up another flare. You may just call down a Muse or two during the process.