Article submitted by S.D. Howard
There are many pitfalls when it comes to writing, and as indie authors, it can be hard to avoid all of them, especially when you’re going it alone. Which is why it’s a good idea to have someone showing you the ropes and guiding you as you go.
This post is to help you better understand the role a coach has in the process of helping you with your book, and why it is worth investing in. Shall we?
Why Do I Need a Coach?
Whenever I tell someone “I’m a developmental editor and story coach,” I usually get a blank stare in return. I don’t blame them since many of them don’t write or are brand new to writing, and they probably haven’t ever heard the terms before. Let’s face it, their main focus is keeping the coffee flowing, and the writing muscles moving while they work on their story; they’re not even thinking about editing, let alone a coach.
However, they should, and here’s why:
Writing is HARD!
That’s right, I said it. Writing is hard, and because of that, very few make it to the point of publishing a book. I know many Christian authors who have given up and called it quits because they felt like they couldn’t do it. That’s the farthest thing from the truth in my experience! The truth is they didn’t have anyone in their corner to help them or to tell them that they have what it takes; they didn’t have anyone to show them how to avoid pitfalls or to work past writer’s block. To help them find editors and cover designers.
This is where a writing coach (also known as a story coach) can help: two heads are better than one. A coach is someone with a little more experience who can help you take your story to the next level. How do they do that? Well, since I cannot answer for other coaches, I’ll go through how I have been helping my clients with their stories.
After working with teens who were struggling to finish their stories, I decided that they needed something that would help get their ideas out of their heads. Now, I don’t do well with academic-style language, and I wanted to avoid it as much as possible. I created the Getting Your Story Started Worksheets in a conversational style for people who don’t learn well from more formal tools, like a textbook. I also made it a point not to have them take themselves too seriously by making jokes, puns, and silly (but effective) examples. That’s why the teens loved them! The writing tool connected them and helped them get their stories going again.
The worksheets were designed to be easy to follow, even if you don’t have much time. They help you start getting your story ideas out of your head where you can work on them, which is why, I have continued to implement them in my coaching to help my clients, who range in age from the early twenties to late forties with great success.
With the way these worksheets have resonated with writers, I believe that the Holy Spirit inspired them and put them my heart as a way to help authors bring their stories to life. How that looks in the future, I don’t know, but I’m excited to see what happens!
One of the biggest things that I see in the clients I’ve coached is a lack of a writing process that works for them. They don’t have any writing goals, times blocked out to plot or write their story, or they edit as they go, thus stifling their creativity. That’s why the first call I have with clients is all about getting a writing process in place for them. I cannot stress how important this is!
The first thing I ask my clients is how many words per hour can they write/type. I ask this because it will help them figure out how to structure their writing goals. If they can bust out 1500 words in an hour and they have a first draft chapter goal of 3000 words, then they know that they’ll need at least two hours to write up a single chapter.
I used this method in January when I started a new Christian fantasy novel and pumped out 50k words in twenty-nine days. Never before had I gotten so much writing done in the thirteen years I’ve been writing!
You see, by doing it this way, you’re able to set up your chapters more effectively for the first draft, which in turn will make you more productive!
Is My Story Good Enough?
I get this question a lot from clients, especially the ones who are newer to writing. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you want to know if you have what it takes. Is your story good enough? The answer is, probably.
Yes, probably. I’m not putting your story down, but I am acknowledging that a story can change and transform into something completely different if you see a new way to take it. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve done this same thing since I started writing at sixteen. And it’s okay!
Something to keep in mind when wrestling with this is, who are you trying to please? Is it family? Friends? Are you writing the story you feel like God has put on your heart, or are you looking at what’s trendy so you can make a quick buck?
When a client contacts me about coaching, and we get to talking about their story, I can usually tell within ten minutes whether it’s a good one or not. How do I know this?
I read the author.
Are they passionate about it? Do they have an idea of where they want to take it? Is the plot a copy/paste of something else, or did they take an idea and turn it on its head? Do they see the “big picture”?
I help them figure out what it is they want to write about, what they’re passionate about, and that is usually the one that God has placed upon their hearts. Not because of anything I did, but because that’s where their passion is. Their eyes light up when they talk about that idea, and that’s where I hone in to affirm them on it.
That brings me to the #1 one thing I help authors with: confidence.
The Essence of a Coach
If you’re looking for a coach, not only should they be helping you with your story, creating a writing process, and be invested in your story, but they need to invest in you. More than anything, this is my number one focus when working with my clients.
As I get to know them, I challenge them and push them to do things that they may not have done before, and I do this because I see their God-given talent, the skills (even if it needs refining), and the passion for their writing.
As believers, we’re called to uplift one another, bear one another, and affirm one another. That is at the center of what I do as an editor and a coach; it’s a part of who I am, who I try to be, and how I want to run my business.
I believe that everyone has a story to tell and that storytelling is something that can be learned in time and through practice—which is why I don’t think you don’t have to have a degree in creative writing. You don’t need to know every rule of grammar and punctuation. You don’t need to “write what you know” or stay inside the box.
You don’t need these things to make you an author. Are they important? Of course! However, these do not an author make.
If these don’t, then what does?
Grit. Perseverance. Determination. Willingness to learn.
Remember what we talked about earlier? Writing is hard. It will feel defeating at times. You will want to give up.
It may be during the first draft or when you start sending it out to agents, or when copy editors rip your story to shreds. It could be while doing line edits, or when you become frustrated by the lack of character development in the story. You’ll wonder why you even bothered and might even be tempted to throw it in the trash and burn it.
Rely on God to be the source of your inspiration because He’s the one who put the story in your heart! He’s the one who called you to write it, so don’t pawn it off on someone else. He’s given you a voice; find someone who will help you foster it.
You don’t have to go it alone. Find a coach who will walk with you through the fires, the valleys, and the dark times. Find a coach who will uplift you and give you an encouraging word when you need it most. Find a coach who will be your biggest fan and help you take your book from good to great.
About S.D. Howard
Howard started writing at the age of 16. Since then, God has revealed Himself to Howard through writing in many beautiful ways. Howard’s passion for writing has led him to developmental editing, story coaching, and writing book 1 in a Christian fantasy series.