Your motivation has become stagnant, the words on your unfinished manuscript stare back from the page with dumb accusation, the last thing you want to do is open your computer, and deadlines are elbowing up to you like inconsiderate riders in a crowded subway car.
You want to scream, rethink your profession, maybe change your name and open a Cinnabon in Omaha. Or maybe your situation is less dramatic, and you just want to level up your writing game, or tackle a daily writing practice or a project larger than you’ve ever worked on before.
Wherever you fall in this range, it’s probably time to find a writing coach.
A writing coach can provide you with things an editor can’t, and vice versa. While an editor takes your manuscript and expertly annotates and/or runs it through the red-pen wringer (check out the different types of editors here), that service usually doesn’t come into play until after at least a first draft is finished.
Your writing coach, on the other hand, might not provide that kind of nuts-and-bolts markup, but they will guide you on your journey and help you refine your voice and tone for the industry or audience you’re trying to reach.
An editor is your resource for a specific project, while a writing coach is about the big picture and permanent change. Craft Your Content’s own Yi Shun Lai has an analogy: Think of an editor as your trainer for the Ironman Triathlon that is your magnum opus, while a writing coach is your guru for overall eating and exercise habits.
Editing is both very transactional and bound to the document you’re working on; with a writing coach, you’re never left without a resource. Writing coaches get into the emotional and psychological aspects of writing, turning you into the writer you want to be.
An editor will take your work, cover it in notes that help your ideas come across more clearly, and then return it to you. With a writing coach, all of the creativity comes from you. The piece is way more labor-intensive on your end because you are creating it without the guidance of a hundred little red markings.
If you’re in the woods at night, follow the one with the flashlight. If you have a writing coach, use them. They’re waiting to listen to you, and they’re ready to help.
A writing coach is an objective voice. They are far enough removed from your projects that they can see things you can’t. A problem area in your manuscript may smell off to you, or it may not. Writing hazards can be odorless, flavorless killers. Think of your writing coach as a carbon monoxide detector or a Geiger counter.
If they’re flashing red and emitting a buzzing alarm, listen to them.
Your relationship with your writing coach is customizable and tailored to you, so it’s important to nail down specific goals at the beginning.
You may need them on the phone for only a few hours total. How much time is up to you. Organization, scheduling, strategy—writing coaches help with these on a macro scale, in regard to your overall writing lifestyle. Their direction can be a guiding hand through the bogs and quicksand of writing and publication and can ease your frustration and increase your chances of success.
A writing coach can’t assure your success any more than a dialect coach can ensure Kevin Costner sounds like Robin Hood (and you’re welcome for the callback to 1991). If you don’t listen to them or give them enough time (still talking about Kevin Costner), you’ve wasted what edge they did give you.
Writing is hard. Nearly every writer will tell you that. So show up with all the resources available to you.
Nathan Winfrey graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and a minor in creative writing. After years navigating a colorful succession of reporting and editing jobs, he took the helm of his hometown newspaper before eventually becoming the copy editor for the largest state agency in Oklahoma. Nathan is currently a swing editor for Craft Your Content.