Part 1: What is a Book Coach?

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When I became a book coach nearly 20 years ago, I’d actually never heard the term before. I knew about life coaches and fitness coaches, but coaching on a book? I was teaching fiction writing in a university extension program when one of the students came up to me after class. Would I work with her privately on her stories? She didn’t want to have to share the painful truth of her life with everyone else in the class. At first, I said no. I didn’t want the heavy load of carrying someone else’s book, but later I relented.

After I took on working with this woman privately, I put out a notice via email to all current and former students that I was now seeing people one-on-one. Within six months, I had a full roster of “clients” and could quit all my other work. I’d become a “book coach”, even though I didn’t really know what that meant.

In 20 years, I’ve learned a great deal about working with people on writing memoir, self help, and fiction (novels, short stories, scripts). I was given a label at 36 years old, and now at age 55, I can confidently say I grew into a pair of very big pants.

What is a book coach? A book coach is someone who…

  1. actively writes and puts their own work out there. There is no way I could be a successful coach if I didn’t, myself, go through the rigors of writing, both the emotional and literary challenges. I couldn’t coach someone on first draft, revision, editing, proofing, getting an agent, securing a publisher, if I didn’t go through the entire process myself.
  2. commits to both you and your book. Your process is so much more than learning about setting, plot, and characterization. It’s a soulful, emotional, and personal journey to owning yourself as an artist. A coach needs to commit to both the practical and the soulful. I’ve had clients leave me to try working with someone else (which I encourage, the more experience you have in the lit world, the better). They always come back. Why? Many coaches commit intellectually only. At AofS, we commit to the soul of the work, and to you as a writer. When we work with you, it’s not just about this one book. It’s about your life as a writer, and all that entails. We want to see you earn your wings and fly.
  3. cultivates your voice, and doesn’t try to make you write like anyone else. This may seem obvious, but in the coaching business, it isn’t always followed. Your voice is original, one-of-a-kind. Trying to write like other bestselling authors is NOT the right direction. Write like yourself.
  4. holds you accountable. Just like a fitness coach won’t meet you at the gym and let you do whatever you want during the session (oh, too tired to do sit ups? Fine, just sit there and do nothing), a book coach needs to hold expectations and deadlines to a high level. She holds the bar for you a bit higher than you can reach, so that you’ll extend yourself, and keep growing as a writer.
  5. forces you go to deeper as a writer. As a coach, I see my process as literary acupressure. As I read the rough draft of a chapter, I can feel where the energy is trapped, where it’s not fully realized on the page. I’ll push the writer to go more deeply, even if it’s a bit painful, to fully realize the power of the story being told.

When seeking out a book coach, yes, definitely look at their credentials. Are they published? Award-winning? Have they worked with others in your genre? Look, as well, for their soulful intent. Are they holistic in their approach? Do they commit to you as a person? Is it just an intellectual process? Is it just about this one book? Are they in too much of a hurry?

The coach should help transform the client and her writing,  and I’ll be honest here, I, myself,  am very often transformed by the coaching process. My clients transform me.

Want to know more? We offer a free initial consult, www.artofstorytellingonline.com

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