Writing is not always an easy job. Whether you’re a seasoned author or just beginning your writing journey, you are likely to find roadblocks. Sometimes, ideas seem to dry up and pieces don’t fit together the way you originally imagined them. Perhaps your fears are getting in the way, stopping you from finishing your story or putting it out there for the world to see.
It can be difficult to overcome those hurdles alone. So, where do writers turn when they need a helping hand? Writing coaches! If you’re working your way through a long piece and feel stuck, or have an idea and don’t know where to begin, you may want to consider reaching out to a writing coach.
What is a Writing Coach?
A writing coach or book coach is a professional who collaborates with authors to improve their writing, set goals, and navigate the process of writing books and other large projects.
They usually are experienced writers, editors or other professionals of the industry, with a deep knowledge of literature, language or communications, who offer their expertise to help others grow as writers and, eventually, see their work published.
What Does a Writing Coach Do?
Writing coaches work with authors to assess what kind of support they may need. They offer help at any stage of the journey, including idea generation, support with planning and structure, and provide resources to push the author to reach their personal writing goals; but their contributions may depend on each author’s unique needs, their experience, and where they are in their writing process.
Book coaches help with any of the following tasks, although this isn’t necessarily a comprehensive list.
- Idea Generation – Some people struggle to brainstorm on their own. Writing mentors can serve as sounding boards, allowing you to bounce ideas off of them as they provide feedback and direction. This can be incredibly useful in the early stages of a project. After all, some writers find it easier to write only after they have developed a complete concept.
- Outlining – Outlining and planning can become major hurdles for many authors. Hiring a coach is a means to get assistance with creating guides or an outline for your story. You’ll know where it’s heading and how to get there, decreasing the odds of feeling stuck at the midway point.They’ll also help you identify potential plot holes and how to solve them.
- Goal Setting – Failure to set appropriate goals can bog writers down. Self-discipline is a major component of writing, and good book coaches help develop and maintain it. By setting goals like daily word or page counts, they encourage accountability, pushing you toward your ultimate goal of finishing your book or project.
- Big Picture Critique – A writing coach acts as an outside perspective. They offer feedback on your writing’s effectiveness and structure, or provide insight into the content itself. They will tell you how to better embody the themes of your story and how to bring clarity to your message.
- Publishing – Book coaches may collaborate with you to develop a strategy for publishing your book. They can advise you in deciding whether to pursue traditional publishing or opt for self-publishing in an electronic format, informing you about the pros and cons of both options. A coach guides you through writing a book proposal and helps you understand different platforms and what you’ll need to succeed with them. They can also connect you with relevant professionals, such as literary agents or marketing experts, to smooth the process.
- Proofreading & Editing – Many book coaches give you a hand with clarity, language, tone, and sentence construction. They serve as proofreaders, too, offering line edits and correcting grammar or punctuation errors within the text.
Additionally, coaches for writers help with things like final polishing, finding your target audience, researching, and most especially identifying your fears about writing, publishing, or your abilities. Some writing tutors could even offer ghostwriting services.
Benefits of a Book Coach
Working with a book writing coach has numerous benefits beyond the obvious. You may not even realize what you’re missing out on.
Cuts Down on Isolation
Writing so often feels like a solitary pursuit. Until your work is complete and you’ve sent it out into the world to an audience, many authors are alone with their words. Because of that, it’s easy to lose sight of how your writing sounds to someone outside yourself, or know what it is lacking.
That’s where a professional writing tutor comes in. They’ll read your work, get to know you and your writing, and provide the kind of literary and intellectual insight you can’t get by yourself. Book coaches offer professional opinions on your writing and dive into the themes and ideas behind the narrative. These tutors have industry experience and know what works and what makes manuscripts successful. They’ll point out what you can do to meet those standards.
Focus on Details
Different writers struggle with different things. Some get stuck editing the same page or paragraph a dozen times and lose sight of where they intended to go. Others begin a project knowing the overarching concept, theme, and plot of what they want to accomplish, but struggle to pull it together in a cohesive or well-written way.
Coaches pick up on issues with style and execution and work alongside authors to fix them. Repetition, muddiness, poor word choice, and unnecessary filler can weigh down your work. They’re also difficult for authors to pick up on by themselves for the same reasons that it’s hard to fully edit your own work.
Identify and Overcome Roadblocks
Sometimes you may hit a snag in writing and not understand what’s holding you back. Why can’t you get the words down onto the page? Why can’t you pull the ideas out of your head and get them written? A writing coach listens to what you have going on and helps you understand how and why it’s affecting your writing.
Stress, life events, and worries can negatively affect your ability to write. Coaches work with you to identify the things holding you back, such as the fear that your book will never be published, or that your work will be poorly reviewed, or that your book might not make enough money and it would be a waste of time to finish it. A coach will help you see how those fears keep you from completing the writing goals you’ve set, and work with you to overcome them. They could encourage you to seek counseling or do something as simple as checking in to see if you’ve slept.
Once in a while, everyone needs a cheerleader. Some parts of writing are full of creativity and spark, while others drag along and feel like they’ll never be over. It isn’t always fun, and it’s easy to give up during the dull parts. A writing mentor is there to keep you moving forward, instead. They offer motivation and encouragement. Whether you need support after finishing a lackluster draft or a reminder of why you’re writing in the first place – your coach is in your corner.
How to Find a Writing Coach
There are a few different ways to find writing coaches and mentors, and begin the process of hiring one.
Writing organizations are an excellent place to begin your search. These organizations can be broad, with massive member numbers, or smaller nonprofits aimed at helping niche writers excel. In writing organizations, you’ll find like-minded authors and many helpful resources, including access to coaches for writers, advice, and other tips and tricks.
Some writing organizations focus on specific genres or niches, like the Horror Writers Association. Others, such as ALLi, offer support for certain types of publishing. Below, you’ll find a few excellent writing organizations to begin your search for a writing tutor.
- ALLi – ALLi, or Alliance of Independent Authors, is a non-profit organization focusing on self-publishing authors. They have several different membership tiers, from aspiring authors to established, successful writers. They offer author forums, guidebooks, contract advice, and many other services. ALLi’s advisors are well-versed in all aspects of self-publishing.
- EFA – EFA, or Editorial Freelancers Association, is an incredible resource for freelancers or those seeking to hire freelancers. After joining, you can hire directly from the site. Submit a job listing with details of what you’re searching for or browse the member directory to find a freelancer.
- GrubStreet – GrubStreet offers everything from programs geared toward young, high school-age writers, to manuscript consultants (writing coaches). The organization is based in Boston but serves authors all over the world. They currently have around 90 consultants available and the hiring process is simple. You can contact a professional coach and set up a consultation, then hire them through the GrubStreet site if they’re a good fit.
- The Writer’s Center – The Writer’s Center is a nonprofit aimed at supporting all writers. It’s based in Washington DC and hosts numerous writing workshops and writing events throughout the year. It is not genre specific and doesn’t require a particular level of experience, so all writers are free to participate.
- International Women’s Writing Guild – The IWWG offers mentoring, resources, and support to women writers across the world. They host an annual conference and numerous events throughout the year designed to encourage writers.
- Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association – SFWA aims to support writers of science fiction and fantasy writers all around the world. It provides resources, community, fellowship, and support. This nonprofit is home to industry professionals like writers, editors, artists, and others within the genre.
- The Author’s Guild – An Author’s Guild membership opens up access to many comprehensive resources covering everything from legal issues to guides for getting through publishing. It has a Writers Marketplace page where members can hire professional book coaches, ghostwriters, proofreaders, and more.
Local Workshops and Conferences
Establishing connections with other local authors and writers is invaluable. The community could be small, depending on where you live, but it’s worth checking out. If you’re unsure how to find local groups or upcoming conferences, check out your local library or community center. You’ll likely find advertisements for any upcoming workshops there and information on how to sign up or attend. You can also check online directories to see upcoming events.
While online coaches for writers are competent and helpful, sometimes working with someone local has added benefits. You can meet up in person to get feedback and the connection seems more concrete. Additionally, attending local workshops and conferences lets you network with others and go beyond just finding a writing tutor.
Online writing communities offer the unique opportunity to get feedback, offer and receive critique, and improve your writing through classes and discussions. In some ways, they fulfill the same functions as a writing coach, but they can also be valuable in finding one.
- Bookbird – Bookbird offers one of the largest self-publishing communities on Discord and Facebook, filled with fellow authors and freelancers. Here, you’ll find resources for self-publishing and get in touch with other writers and professionals in the field. Motivate yourself, stay on track, and see how others meet their writing goals.
- Scribophile – Scribophile offers classes and forum access. It keeps its focus on feedback. You can find beta readers and offer feedback on others’ manuscripts here, fulfilling one of the most important elements of a book coach.
- SavvyAuthors – SavvyAuthors is a forum-style community with everything from writing advice to classes and webinars. You can connect with others authors and professionals in the field and pick up specific tips and tricks to improve your writing.
- Critique Circle – Critique Circle focuses on offering feedback and critique of manuscripts. It’s free to sign up, but you can’t get feedback right away. You unlock credits by critiquing other manuscripts and eventually unlock the ability to submit your work. Critique Circle also has forum-based discussion groups available.
- AgentQuery – AgentQuery is free to join and is an excellent resource for writers of all genres. It provides resources for publishing your work traditionally or online, and has a wealth of information for contacting literary agents.
- BookRix – BookRix is geared toward beginners and those looking to self-publish their work. It has an active community of authors and writers and offers everything from general discussion boards to writing critique and feedback.
- Absolute Write – Absolute Write is another forum-style community. It’s free to join and has an audience of editors, writers, agents, and others in the industry. Users can get advice about writing, trade feedback, and get insight into the publishing process.
- The Novelry – A membership with The Novelry grants access to a massive online writing community with discussion groups, writing classes, and professional advice from the Novelry’s editorial team.
Social media gives authors a chance to browse writing mentors, learn about them, and check their credentials. Certain platforms, like Reddit, have whole communities dedicated to freelancers posting ads and availability. These platforms make communication simple, too, as most have an instant messaging option that lets you reach out to any potential coach right away.
LinkedIn is the best option for searching out fellow professionals. If you’re serious about finding a writing tutor, you can set up and post a job advertisement detailing what you’re looking for. You can also search for LinkedIn members who list “writing coach” or similar positions under their available services, skills, or employment. Because LinkedIn is geared toward professionals, it’s easier to navigate credentials, see testimonials and endorsements, and generally get a feel for someone’s history as a professional coach for writers.
There are a handful of freelance platforms that make it simple to find available writing coaches or writing tutors. You can create job postings, search for profiles that list the specific skills you need, and even hire and pay all in one place. Some of the most popular platforms for freelancers are:
- Upwork – There are tens of thousands of members on Upwork, so you’ll likely see several applications come in for each job posting. Past clients can leave reviews, so you’ll be able to see feedback for anyone you’re looking to hire. Upwork also allows freelancers to build and display portfolios, allowing you to see their past work. Pay is set either per project or per milestone, and you can determine a range or upper limit for what you can offer.
- Fiverr – The major difference between Fiverr and Upwork is the bidding system. Fiverr sets a flat rate, while Upwork leaves room for negotiation. Upwork also allows you to get more specific in your search.
- Guru – Guru has more restrictions and limits on entry than platforms like Fiverr. Freelancers pay to be members and offer their services, so it’s easier to find serious professionals. The search process is easy. To find a writing mentor, simply type the term into the search bar. You’re immediately directed to dozens of members who fit the bill. You can request a quote and begin the process right after sign-up.
How to Choose the Right Writing Coach
It’s important to find a book coach who is a good fit for you. Collaboration is a critical element of working with a coach, so you want someone who understands you and the intent of your writing. For the greatest chance of success, you need to be on the same wavelength and work well together. Certain qualities increase the chances of that happening.
Able to Inspire
The ability to motivate and inspire authors is incredibly important in a writing mentor. When you’re searching for the perfect tutor, find someone whose work is riveting to you. It’s difficult to listen to someone you find dull, and you’ll be far less inclined to follow in their footsteps or allow them to guide you.
Writing tutors are meant to help you along your own journey. The advice they offer should push you to get up and go to write, to improve, to hone your craft.
Genre plays a massive role in writing, so it stands to reason that you need a book coach familiar with your chosen genre. For example, if you write historical fiction, a coach well-versed in high fantasy probably won’t be the best fit for you. Everything isn’t about ability or professional credentials. Sometimes, finding the right person to work with comes down to shared interests and passions.
Each genre has its own set of defining characteristics, tropes, themes, and common elements. If your writing tutor is already familiar with and interested in the core traits of your genre, they’ll know whether you’re capturing them appropriately. Their advice will be more relevant, and they’ll have the right target audience in mind.
Matching schedules and shared communication styles go a long way in finding the right writing tutor. An excellent coach demonstrates empathy. You shouldn’t feel intimidated to reach out to your writing mentor or feel as if the two of you can’t understand each other. If you need a coach available at odd hours who has quick response times, let them know that before hiring anyone. Be aware of your own communication needs and take care to find someone who can meet them. It will save both of you from potential frustration.
Formal training isn’t everything, but you should know who you’re hiring. Verify the information you’re given. If a writing coach claims to have written for the New York Times or published novels, do your due diligence and check that information for accuracy. You’re paying for their services and it’s perfectly reasonable to ensure that you get what you pay for.
How Much Does a Book Coach Cost?
While there’s no universal standard charge for coaches for writers, expect to pay at least $50 per hour. Rates vary depending on:
- Needs of the author
- Expected schedule
Some book coaches offer flat packages (for instance, $2700 per month), while others have an hourly rate. If you’re working on a budget, take care to understand rates and your expected payment.
Do You Need a Writing Coach?
Certain people are more likely to benefit from the services of a book coach. First-time authors, those struggling with writer’s block, authors who need brainstorming help, and any writer struggling to establish structure and stay motivated will find writing mentors useful.
Not every problem is one for a personal writing coach, of course. If you’re seeking advice on style, shaping narratives, and generally improving your writing, there are many other resources. There are dozens of books focusing on the art of writing.
- On Writing Well, by William Zinsser – This guide is geared toward non-fiction writers, but its lessons suit any genre.
- On Writing, by Stephen King – If you’re looking for advice on plot and character development, On Writing is a lesson in both (and more) from one of the world’s most famous authors.
- The Sense of Style, by Steven Pinker – This book focuses on constructing clear, thoughtful prose and effective ways of communication.
- The Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne – The Story Grid offers expert advice for anyone looking to perfect their story structure, sharpen their technique, and revise their work.
If you’ve hit a wall with your writing and can’t scale it on your own, reach out to a coach. It could be the answer you’ve been searching for.