• What is a Writing Coach?

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in ABCs of Writing     Comments 2 comments

    David’s post about what a writing coach isn’t got us thinking about what a writing coach is. A teacher? a trainer? an editor? a therapist? a mentor? a spiritual adviser? a life coach? all of the above? Definitions of “writing coach” are as varied as the writers our coaches work with. No two writing coaches are the same; no two coaching experiences are the same.

    Since the concept of the writing coach means so many different things to so many people, we figured we’d go right to the source. What follows is a roundup of responses from a handful of our coaches to the following questions:

    What is a writing coach to you? What role do you play in your clients’ writing lives? What role do your clients play in yours?


    Jessamine Chan:

    Jessamine Chan, consultant and coachI think of a writing coach as akin to a personal trainer, but instead of developing a fitness routine to suit a client’s goals, I’m working with them to develop new writing practices, whether this means figuring out how they can carve out writing time, how to approach drafting, or breaking a huge project into manageable parts. I find that I learn from my clients as much as they learn from me, because I have to articulate aspects of the process that I may know intuitively, but don’t necessarily talk about outside of coaching. Also, coaching forces me to keep up with my own writing, so that I can practice what I preach.


    Cecily Sailer:

    Cecily Sailer, consultant, coach, and instructorCoaching, it turns out, involves more than just the evaluation of a writer’s latest draft. It means carrying a flashlight into murky places, being a cheerleader, being a therapist, being a gentle, kind-hearted whip-cracker. Of course, the writing is our primary focus. It’s what brings us together. I highlight key areas in a draft that succeed and that need the most attention.

    But there’s so much more. We work through characters’ psychology together, we brainstorm together, we puzzle together. When I hear rumblings of frustration, I point out how much the writer has achieved during our time together (which is never just lip-service), and I echo the hard truths every writer feels: “Yes, it’s hard, and it’s not always fun, and you’ll never love every word you put down on the page. But you’ve got something here, and you only have to keep writing.” I think it helps to have someone outside your own head look at what you’ve created and help you chart the path forward.


    Lydia Conklin:

    Lydia Conklin, consultant and coachFor me, a writing coach is someone who provides help wherever it is needed. I will help my clients break through blocks and solve impossible plot puzzles, keep them accountable and on deadline, and help revise and polish one piece after the next until they build what they set out to build.




    Tom Andes:

    Tom Andes, consultant and coachOff the top of my head, I’d say a writing couch offers accountability, a nonjudgmental friend and reader who can support and encourage a writer through those sometimes-trying initial stages of a manuscript.

    Ideally, I feel like I help my clients achieve some of their dreams and ambitions by seeing their work begin to come to fruition on paper. I feel like my interaction with my clients grounds me in my own practice and my own process, as well as deepening my intuitions and judgments as a reader.

    I want to say a writing coach is something like a therapist, but that’s not really it. It’s more like somebody who can remind you of the fact that it all starts with putting words on the page, and who can help you get to the place where you’re doing that.


    Resa Alboher:

    Resa Alboher, consultant and coachI remember hearing a great professor of religions talk about how his teaching career turned a corner when he realized that a true teacher learns as much from his/her students as the students learn from the teacher, and that each time he would teach the material he would relearn it anew as it took fire in his student’s hearts and minds.

    So it is for me with book coaching.  Each time I connect with a client about his or her writing process, I relearn the magic of creating the world of the book in progress and all its rules, peaks, valleys, secrets and potentials.  Each book is its own world with its own rules for how that world works.  Writing one book in a sense never really prepares you for the next one, and so the world is created each time anew with each new book with mystery and wonder.  I feel humbled to be a part of someone’s process and grateful to each book coaching client for allowing me to share in the world of their book as it blossoms from initial inception through many drafts toward its final, publishable form.



    Thanks, coaches! In the coming weeks, we’ll explore the responses some of you WriteByNighters have shared with us about this topic. If you’d like to join the fun, let us hear in the comments below (or via email) your responses to any of the following questions:

    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)? 


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    […] Last 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. […]

    […] What is a Writing Coach? […]

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