What does a writing coach do? Why are so many writing coaches in demand at the moment?
Well, let me try to explain with an example.
Tom is sure he has a story to tell that will be of interest to readers. Having heard often enough that he is a good story teller, he sets down to pen his thoughts. He is not sure where to begin. He cannot understand what structure his narrative should follow. So he keeps thinking about it. Years pass without him actually writing anything. One day, when he does set up the “perfect” environment to sit and write, he finds that he cannot.
This is not a fictional tale. Ask any author and they will tell you that most have faced a writer’s block at some point in their career. Professionals who have struggled with the affliction include authors F. Scott Fitzgerald and Joseph Mitchell. Others include comic strip cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and songwriter Adele, according to Wikipedia.
Guess who can help aspiring authors in this situation? Yes, you guessed it right!
A writing coach.
Writer’s Block: Can a Writing Coach Help?
What is a writer’s block and is it real?
Wikipedia defines writer’s block as a condition, primarily associated with writing. “An author loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges from difficulty in coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years. Writer’s block is not solely measured by time passing without writing. It is measured by time passing without productivity in the task at hand.”
It also mentions that throughout history, writer’s block has been a documented problem.
What causes writer’s block? Wikipedia puts it down to stress or running out of inspiration. Other blocks may be produced by adverse circumstances in a writer’s life or career. These could be physical illness, depression, the end of a relationship, financial pressures, or a sense of failure.
The reality is that it is a mental block that cannot be cured by traditional medicine.
So, how does a writing coach help?
Let us explore the nature of challenges facing a writing coach to understand better how she can help.
Target audience of a Writing Coach
As a writing coach you need to be prepared for the fact that your clients’ needs may be vastly different. Your client could be an aspiring author, songwriter, comedian, poet, historian or somebody turning in a research project!
Some authors may be looking for help to understand how to enter the publishing world. On the other hand, some clients may have trouble writing the first word of their manuscript.
Typically, your clients may be facing the following hurdles:
- Finding it difficult to write
- Doubting their abilities: Being unsure about whether the content is any good
- Frustrated with the other tasks involved in becoming an author: getting a publisher, meeting deadlines, editorial cycles, marketing
- Lacking motivation and unsure about what is holding them back from achieving their dreams
This is by no means an exhaustive list. As I have mentioned earlier, the range of clients seeking your help may vary widely. You need to be prepared to go beyond your comfort level sometimes.
But do not worry. Help is at hand. At the end of this blog I have mentioned a free webinar. Sign up and find out what awaits you in the world of coaching. If you reach out, I can help you to set up your coaching business, too.
How Does a Writing Coach Work?
Here is how you can prepare for the vast range of client requirements.
As a coach, your primary task is to support the client through whatever hurdles he is facing. As a mentor, you may have to help a client by:
- Instilling confidence and boosting self-esteem
- Working on organization skills
- Goal setting and holding clients accountable
- Providing perspective about content
Although outside the remit of your expertise, you may also be asked to connect the author to any contacts you may have in the publishing world. This is because many writers often find the publishing world daunting.
Although it seems like you are going to be dealing with a lot, keep the larger perspective in mind. At the heart of it, all clients need assurance from a reliable expert that they are going to surmount their hurdles.
Once you remember that golden rule, you will find it easier to focus on helping each client for whatever crisis he/she may be facing.
Some coaches have come into criticism in the recent past due to unethical practices. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has launched a website called Writer Beware. It helps to document scams and official complaints against publishing professionals. This is meant to be a helpful resource for your clients to guard against falling prey to scams.
Traits of a Good Writing Coach
How can you prepare to be a good writing coach?
Well, there are no short cuts or miracle pills available to transform you from a good coach to a great writing coach!
What you will need is a lot of compassion for understanding people, passion and zeal to expand your coaching services and a calm and focused demeanor to help the client organize his thoughts and action plan.
Before listing what qualities clients will be looking for, let me draw you a possible picture of what to expect from your target audience.
- Your clients could be of any age or from any social strata
- Some are looking for a no-nonsense advisor, others will benefit from a more open-ended creative discussion.
- Some writers need confidence-boosting pep talks while others benefit from a hard deadline.
- Some authors need an objective and detailed input about their work whereas others may just be looking for tips to pitch their book idea in the publishing world
So, how will you please them all?
A writing coach listens
I know this sounds like a simple explanation. But once you learn to ask the right questions, you will find that each client will tell you exactly what they need from you. Clients hire you to be the objective, reliable sounding board and cheerleader that they need. So allow them to tell you what they are looking for. I have written several blogs on how to ask powerful questions. Check out my earlier blog 34 Coaching Questions to Ask Your Clients to Begin With. 44 powerful Coaching questions every coach MUST ask is another exhaustive list.
A writing coach questions
This sounds like a no-brainer. But you would be surprised with how many coaches still try to solve their client’s problems. Your primary role as a coach should be to help the writer explore possibilities he has not explored yet. The solution to every problem lies within the client, not with you. Do read my blog on self love coaching for some tips on how to build self esteem.
A writing coach helps focus
Many writers, though not all, struggle with organizing skills. This is a key trait to look out for during your initial discussion with the client. Does she struggle with meeting deadlines? What prevents her from a structured approach towards writing? The process of achieving goals works better when the client has participated in the initial goal-setting process. Chart out small goals and celebrate victories. Stack up these achievements and soon you will have helped a client imbibe a winning habit!
There are many other traits that are crucial for all coaches to have. You may want to read up my earlier blog Top 10 Coaching Skills You Must Have as a Life Coach. You may also be interested in my blog 23 Success Habits Of Becoming A World Class Coach.
In an earlier blog I have also written about how coaching women is different from coaching men. You may benefit from this!
Salary of a Writing Coach
Can you earn enough as a writing coach?
According to this website, writing coaches usually charge by the hour. Their rates can range from $30 – $300 an hour!
However, I would also urge you to think outside the box. Look at the suggestions listed here and you will understand what I mean. Responding to a query, the author suggests that a writing coach could use their skills to turn editor for PR firms. Writing is a big part of corporate communications and having a trained external eye could help in-house teams. These companies can range from nonprofits to law firms to even technical companies. The other avenue for finding work is at the grass root level. You may also target blog writers, corporate websites or novelists in writing groups or even local libraries.
Keep Learning As a Writing Coach
If you wish to train as a coach, you may read my blog How to Select the Best Coaching Training Program in 2020 for pointers.
Some coaches worry about taking their careers online. I can understand the fear of the unknown that stops some coaches from exploring new avenues in their coaching journey. However, if you are afraid of taking risks, how will you convince your clients to explore the unknown? Here and here are some blogs that may have relevant information for you.
Books for a Writing Coach
There are several books written to help you in your career as a writing coach. You may find it helpful to look through some of the titles and see which one is a good read for you.
- A Writer’s Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies That Work by Jack Hart
- The Writing Coach by Lee Clark Johns
- Your Writing Coach: From Concept to Character, from Pitch to Publication – Everything You Need to Know About Writing Novels, Non-fiction, New Media, Scripts and Short Stories by Jurgen Wolff
- Your Creative Writing Masterclass: Featuring Austen, Chekhov, Dickens, Hemingway, Nabokov, Vonnegut, and More Than 100 Contemporary and Classic Authors by Jurgen Wolff
- The Modigliani Girl by Jacqui Lofthouse
- Your Personal Fiction-Writing Coach: 365 Days of Motivation and Tips to Write a Great Book! by Stephanie Bond
- Conversations with a Writing Coach: 40 Conversations with a Best-Selling Author Susan by May Warren
- Bluethroat Morning by Jacqui Lofthouse
- The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman
- The Business Writing Coach by Patrick Forsyth
- Dear Writer, You Need to Quit by Becca Syme
- Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) by Rochelle Melander
- Prentice Hall Writing Coach by Evelyn Arroyo, Jeff Anderson, and Kelly Gallagher
- The Creativity Cure: A Do-It-Yourself Prescription for Happiness by Alton Barron and Carrie Barron
- Breaking Ground on Your Memoir: Craft, Inspiration, and Motivation for Memoir Writers by Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers
- The Writing Coach: How to Start Fast and Finish by Victor McGlothin
- The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human by Vint Virga
- Creativity Now: Get Inspired, Create Ideas and Make Them Happen! by Jurgen Wolff
- A Writer’s Coach: An Editor’s Guide to Words That Work by Jack Hart
- The Rock Your Writing by Cathy Yardley
- The Generosity Plan: Sharing Your Time, Treasure, and Talent to Shape the World by Kathy LeMay
- The Sky Is Green and the Grass Is Blue: Turning Your Upside Down World Right Side Up! by Deb Scott
- The Weekend Book Proposal: How to Write a Winning Proposal in 48 Hours and Sell Your Book by Ryan G. Van Cleave
- Read Books All Day and Get Paid For It: The Business of Book Coaching by Jennie Nash
- How to Choose a Writing Coach: A Beginner’s Guide: Ensuring Your Best Chance for Publishing Success by Ged Cusack
- The Courage Habit: How to Accept Your Fears, Release the Past, and Live Your Courageous Life by Kate Swoboda
- Memoir Writing For Dummies by Ryan G. Van Cleave
- Coaching Writers: The Essential Guide for Editors and Reporters by Donald K. Fry and Roy Peter Clark
- What’s Your Book? A Step-by-Step Guide to Get You from Inspiration to Published Author by Brooke Warner
- Successful Sitcom Writing by Jurgen Wolff
Besides this list you may also want to look up related coaching books on Goodreads. Although generic some of the books are relevant for you too:
- Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills by Tony Stoltzfus
- Unlocking Potential: 7 Coaching Skills That Transform Individuals, Teams, and Organizations by Michael Simpson
- The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation by Elena Aguilar
- Coaching for Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose – the Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership by John Whitmore
- The Coaching Hours (How to Date a Douchebag, #4) by Sara Ney
- The Coaching Mindset: 8 Ways to Think Like a Coach by Chad Hall
- Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition by Lyssa Adkins
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
- Agile Coaching by Rachel Davies, Liz Sedley
- Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Co-founder by Kenny Moore, Phil Knight
- FYI: For Your Improvement, A Guide for Development and Coaching by Michael M. Lombardo, Robert W. Eichinger
- Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People by Bradford D. Smart
- Conscious Coaching: The Art and Science of Building Buy-In by Brett Bartholomew
There is another list of relevant books available here.
Some other books that you may find interesting are listed here.
Video Content for Writing Coach
There are several YouTube videos and podcasts that are relevant for you. Some of the best writing coach podcasts are listed here.
Writing Coach Anne Kroeker has several podcasts that explore various nuances of the trade. You may find several podcasts here.
Writing coach Kevin T. Johns also provides tips on his podcast channel here. He has recorded conversations with instructors, editors, coaches, and mentors who help writers and authors.
The Writing Coach Podcast with Rebecca L. Weber explores how a big area of growth for writers is about recognizing small wins. In her latest podcast she shares a small mind hack to interrupt the narrative that nothing’s working. Do check it out!