Monday, October 6, 2014

Working with a writing coach

To tell you the truth, I suggested we do a theme about education as a writer because I wanted to talk about my experience with a coach. But now that I'm actually here, I'm not entirely sure what I wanted to tell you. So I'll start at the beginning.

Back around the end of May I finished the first draft of my fourth novel. It is also the first of my novels that I'm actually planning to have reach publication of one form or other. And yet it is deeply flawed on a number of levels, not least of which being the fact that the original ending was the most contrived thing to be contrived since Home Alone 2.

Like a good little planning-to-be-pro writer I started working on the outline of the next book I'm planning to write while I was letting my novel rest for the recommended month. Since I haven't yet found a novel plotting method that would completely work for me I was also reading Cathy Yardley's Rock Your Plot. Cathy's site Rock Your Writing has some lovely free dowloads to accompany the books and while I was there, I took a look around (something to think about, marketing wise) and it turned out Cathy had a range of services to offer, including revision coaching. I bet you can guess what happened next.

Ryan Gosling understands my pain

Pain! That's what happened next. Pain and suffering though thankfully no bloodshed. Cathy's coaching package consists of four one hour calls by phone or Skype and email answers to any questions. On our first call we went through character motivations then Cathy had me read through the whole manuscript, making notes and taking down scene motivations. It's a good thing I subscribe to the "dare to be bad at first" school of writing because reading through that book left me feeling more or less like I'd been run over by a series of trucks.

It's a far better thing that Cathy has been doing this for a while. I sent her a scene outline of the first draft as it was, warts and all and in two consecutive calls we went through it scene by scene, cutting mercilessly where necessary, adding new scenes and revising character motivations as well as tightening tensions all round. The result was an outline for a much better book and a plan for revisions. As I write this I am in the middle of executing said revision plan and outline and I have one more call remaining to use when I eventually melt down in the middle of my revision round.

That's nice of you, Ryan, but I know you're just saying that because you love me.
I would highly recommend working with a coach, especially when you're starting out. My experience with Cathy has brought me that much closer to finally understanding novel structure and I'm going to end up with a great book because of it. Going through my first draft with someone more experienced has given me perspective that I might have gotten without it but it would have taken me a long, long time more than it did with Cathy's help.

Now all I need to do is finish my revisions, get my query letter in shape and start working the rounds.

Oh yeah, there's that too...


  1. Heh, I also subscribe to the 'dare to be bad at first' method. As a result, it's always the second draft that is much more terrifying for me these days.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences - I had no idea something like this existed!

  2. First off, Ryan Gosling is a national treasure. Second off, this sounds awesome. I want to BE a writing couch, and have one in my pocket for everything I've ever done. Love this.

  3. It looks like Ryan Gosling is an international treasure, right, Nina? This coaching thing looks amazing, but I imagine it requires quite a monetary investment. I went over to the site and couldn't find the price. It sounds fabulous though.

  4. Ryan Gosling was born in London, Canada so he is absolutely an international treasure.

    The price for Cathy's revision coaching package at the time of this writing is $400 ( so it is a bit of an investment but I thought and I still think that it's completely worth it.


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