5 Things to Look for in a Writing Coach

By Guest Blogger Margo Dill

Writers need all kinds of support on their way to publication. From editors to beta readers to critique group members, these individuals provide feedback to help writers make their manuscripts the best they can possibly be. But another writing service professional whom some writers need is a writing coach. A writing coach differs from the others mentioned above because she mostly works with the writer during the process of completing a manuscript to submit to an agent or editor, or a coach can also help with marketing or contest entries. With my writing coach clients, I’ve discussed plots, best times of day to be most productive, plans for marketing, why a writer feels stuck, what audience and genre their work targets, and more.

If you’re looking for a good writing coach, here are five things to consider before you hire one.

  1. Writing experience: A good writing coach will have writing experience. This does not mean she has to be published on the New York Times Best-sellers’ List, but she does need to understand the process of writing from idea to final draft, submitting work, handling rejection, and all the steps in-between. Think of a basketball or softball coach. You would not expect this person to have zero experience in the sport they’re coaching. The same is true for a writing coach.
  2. Teaching experience: This isn’t necessarily a must, but teaching experience is a good tool to have in a writer’s coach toolbox because being a coach is a lot like being a teacher. If the person you hire to coach you can also teach, her communication skills will be top-notch, and she will have experience with explaining concepts for people to understand.
  3. Professionalism: Your writing coach should take this job professionally. You are paying good money for someone to help you achieve your writing dreams and goals; and therefore, a writing coach should show up for sessions on time and prepared. She should know what type of questions to ask you and have resources available to share with you. If she doesn’t, she should be polite and let you know that she will find them before your next session. Just as we expect freelance writers to be professional and turn in material by deadline, your writing coach should also be professional. After all, you take all the hard work and dreams of publication seriously, so your coach needs to also.
  4. A Good Listener: Maybe “a good listener” should have been number one on this list. Before your writing coach schedules sessions with you or comes up with a plan for you to follow, she needs to listen to what it is you need. I have had clients that needed a weekly meeting with me because it made them write every week, so we would have something to discuss. I had others who needed to brainstorm plot ideas with me. Still others wanted to read shorter works aloud and receive feedback from me on the spot. It’s up to you, the client, on how you can best utilize your coaching sessions, and your coach should listen to your needs, and make suggestions if she has a good idea, but not force you into what she thinks needs to happen with your work or your career.
  5. Personality mesh: Finally, this may not seem important, but it really is. You have to get along with your writing coach and like him or her. This person should make you feel better about your writing and your goals when the sessions are over.

There you have it. I’m sure other writers with experience working with writing coaches may have other qualities to add to the list. But those are my top 5. You can find out more about my writing coach services at www.editor-911.com.

Margo L. Dill is a writing coach and WOW! instructor, as well as a writer and freelance editor. You can enroll in her novel writing coach that starts the first Friday of every month by going here. Find out more about Margo at margoldill.com

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