By Kimberley G. Graham
Professional writers need a coach.
Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, joked during a video interview at Georgia State University that she “looked harder for her writing coach than she did her husband.” I’m sure that isn’t true but it does raise the question, “Do writers need a coach, and if so what qualities should they look for when searching for the right person?”
First, let me define what a coach IS and IS NOT.
A writing coach IS NOT:
A. Your mama. (Sorry, but you’ll have to get up and write every day all by yourself.)
B. A consultant hired to give you all the right answers. (You’ll learn more if you’re taught to see why some things work while others don’t.)
C. An editor who will rewrite your book for you.
A writing coach IS:
A. Someone who can help you define your goals.
B. Someone who can critique your work.
C. Someone who can encourage you toward your full potential.
1. Has this person worked in the writing industry in various ways for many years? The book world is changing. Eight years ago there was no such thing as a Kindle. It’s important that your coach understand how the publishing world is changing so he/she can help you identify industry trends.
2. Does this person understand MY goals for the project? Your goals aren’t necessarily the same as everyone else’s. Be clear about what YOU want.
3. Will this person be available to answer my questions? If it takes someone more than a few days to reply to your email about coaching, move on.
4. Does this person have a wide reading background and interest in my genre? It will be beneficial if the person providing feedback about your book is familiar with the setting of your novel, enjoys your type of book, and/or is knowledgeable about the book’s topic.
5. Will this person be clear and honest about my writing flaws while also being respectful? You’re not perfect and neither is your writing, but your coach shouldn’t make you feel inadequate or stupid. Judgments should be about your writing, not about you personally.
6. Does this person share my values? This is especially important if you’re writing about a religious experience or spiritual journey. Yes, there’s plenty of room for argument even within church denominations, but you don’t want to publish something that’s inaccurate or could be misunderstood.
7. Does my potential coach have the ability to ask good questions? Don’t expect your coach to have all the answers. Hope instead that he or she will have all the right questions. It’s up to you to find a solution and make appropriate changes.
8. Is your coach willing to read your work a second time and answer your questions concerning suggested changes? Remember, your writing journey is going to be a long one. You may want your coach to read your novel more than once. Ask if they’d be willing to read the book a second time for an additional fee.
Hopefully, you and your coach will travel many treacherous miles together. If you decide your writing would benefit from the help of a coach, look for someone who’s going to stick with you until the end.
Kimberley G. Graham lives in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and three children. Her first novel, The Rocking Horse ofTuscumbia, was a two-time finalist in the CWG’s Operation First Novel contest. It will be available for e-readers in September of 2013.You can connect with Kimberley via Facebook, Twitter, or visit her blog at www.SparrowRefuge.com
Her coach is Susan Richardson: www.nextlevelcritiques.com