• No Really, What Is a Writing Coach?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 5 comments

    Writing at WorkLast week we talked about how there are as many definitions of what a writing coach does as there are writing coaches. (Well, maybe there aren’t, but it’s close.) We asked some of our writing coaches to discuss how they see their role, and the responses were enlightening.

    We also asked some of you WriteByNighters to describe your experiences working with these same writing coaches, and we got some great feedback. And yes, maybe we’re tooting our own horn a bit by posting these, but hey, who else’s horn are we going to toot? It’s rude to just grab someone’s horn and blow your spittle into it.

    Here are the questions we asked, and the responses are below:

    What is a writing coach to you? What role does your coach play in your writing life? What does your coach do that others in your life do not (or vice versa)? 


    “What is a writing coach to me?

    ‘Coach’ is the perfect title. Much like a sports coach, Chris motivates and inspires me, cheers for my successes and talks me through my failures, gives me strategies to ‘win’, and helps me see how each play affects the whole game. I’ve learned a lot and have taken giant steps toward my goal. I’m glad I decided to work with WritebyNight and Chris. I’m a better writer for having done so.”

    — Melissa Reynolds, Morgantown, West Virginia


    “My writing coach, Resa, is a blessing to me. She directs me and gives me information that will help my writing process. She encourages me, she compliments me, she shows me how something else might work better or worse. You know, when I first started this book I never had any training as a writer, I just wrote from my heart and she made me feel for the first time that I really can write. I never considered myself a writer, but now I do, and I already have two other books in mind. I now feel I will finish my book and I hope it will get out there and help others. It’s all due to Resa’s help.”

    — Marcia Smith, Austin, Texas


    “In my case, and as I understand the role of a coach, Tom is helping me complete the first draft of my novel in a way that ensures the best possible product. Once that milestone is reached, I expect that an editor will assist in honing the book through more drafts until it is finished. I hope that Tom will be involved as an editor at that point, but wearing a different hat.

    Tom’s role as a coach has been critical to my process. He has helped me understand and have confidence in my strengths, and has addressed my weaknesses with kind regard for my somewhat fragile ego. He has shown certain principles that have been incredibly helpful, and applied them to my specific writing style.

    It is, of course, the weaknesses that need special attention, and in my case he is helping me most with structure and plot. After doing some hard work at outlining and structuring, I am now writing with the confidence that the first draft will be as structurally sound as I can make it.

    I think the role of a coach may be less important for smaller pieces, like short stories, where structure can still be changed relatively easily one the first draft is done. For a novel, however, I think a coach is essential for an inexperienced writer.

    So, my thanks to you and Tom for your help in this adventure. While creative writing is essentially a personal journey, competent and objective help from my coach has been essential for me.”

    — Michael Allison, Albuquerque, New Mexico


    A writing coach to me is a writing mentor, a friend who walks the hidden path with me as various writing projects of the heart are worked on and shaped. A writing coach is that special someone who sees the potential in you and in your work and who has the perfect way of articulating this potential to you, where you actually believe the words being spoken to you. Enough so, that these very words serve to keep the writing momentum going in the midst of so much uncertainty.

    My coach at this time in my writing journey is a key pivotal piece of what will come next for me. My coach is part of the ‘help’ that will guide me from my current place on one side of the writing bridge to the other side of the writing bridge. Everyone works differently. There is a time to work alone, but then, especially for me, there is a time where others come along on your journey to walk shoulder to shoulder with you. Their presence makes all the difference in whether or not you succeed.  Sort of like those who come alongside a 5K or a marathon runner at the very end of the race. The runner is about to drop. They journeyed alone for miles. It is the presence and encouragement of others that brings them across the finish line. This is what my writing coach is to me.

    Family and friends are dear. I love them and know they love me. They are not the ones though who can speak to my writer’s heart. Encouragement they can provide at times. It is appreciated. The best encouragement, though, comes from those who truly get it, get what happens in the head during writing and at all other times when the writing is occurring subconsciously. My writing coach knows what to say because she gets it. Her words and her feedback validate in ways no one else can.”

    — Georgette Beck, Port St. Lucie, Florida


    To learn more about our various customizable coaching services, visit this page or request a free writing consultation.

    If any of you lovely readers would like to weigh in on what a writing coach is (or isn’t), let us know in the comments below, or drop us a line at info[at]writebynight.net 

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    I have never had a writing coach, but I hope I am correct when I assume that the process consists of two people who collaborate, using the best of themselves to create something which communicates their best to the world when shared. It’s the circle of the writing life, and for most life cycles to continue, it takes two. (wink) Plus, working alone is like a vacuum. It sucks. Keep writing, friends!

    Justine Tal Goldberg

    Collaboration in the coaching relationship is a complex issue, I think. We can probably all agree that a collaboration exists, but the question is, what kind?

    A coach isn’t quite an editor, nor is s/he a co-writer. Personal trainers don’t get credit for their clients’ athletic accomplishments. They like writing coaches work behind the scenes, priming the pump, laying the groundwork for success. A good coach (and maybe personal trainer?) needs to know when to step aside, always mindful of the nature of the collaboration and the healthfulness of the help.

    Thanks for weighing in, Eline!


    I think a writing coach is a bit like a parent. One is encouraged, corrected, and repeatedly pointed in the right direction by a writing coach. The wise coach knows when to push and when to let go. When the process works, the coach may stand proudly in the wings at “graduation,” (a great piece or a book deal) and say, “that’s my kid out there!” Later you find that the finished piece may be great, but nurturing the writer to grow was so fun, you wish you could do it all over again, like being a parent. Luckily, coaches… Read more »

    Justine Tal Goldberg

    That’s a great way to think about it, Eline. I always feel so proud of my coaching clients when they accomplish their goals. We’re grateful for each other, I think, which is partly what makes the relationship strong.

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