Skip to main content
Publish date:

The Benefits of Having a Book Coach for Writers

What is a book coach? How could they help authors? Award-winning author and writing instructor Mark Spencer answers these questions and more in this post about the benefits of having a book coach for writers.

Every writer can benefit from having a book coach. For Stephen King, publishing-house editor Chuck Verrill has essentially served King as a book coach. In King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he says, “to write is human, to edit is divine.” Editing is just one service that a book coach provides.

(7 Self-Editing Processes for Writers.)

Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald had Max Perkins, their editor at Scribners. At the age of 17, William Faulkner discovered Phil Stone, a graduate of Yale, as a writing mentor in Oxford, Mississippi. Prior to becoming a published writer, Hemingway was coached by Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. F. Scott Fitzgerald served as a book coach to Hemingway on The Sun Also Rises, the novel that propelled Hemingway to fame. Fitzgerald gave Hemingway advice mainly about making cuts to the novel, and Fitzgerald was spot on. The deletion of the original opening of the novel made a world of difference.

What Is a Book Coach?

A book coach is potentially anyone who is qualified and capable of offering constructive guidance regarding a writing project—a teacher, an agent, a publishing-house editor, a fellow writer, a professional editor, even a friend.

The operative words here are “qualified” and “capable.” Sometimes friends and relatives can make a writer feel good (or really bad), but few are objective and have the abilities as a reader to provide detailed advice regarding overarching plot structure and characterizations; they often can’t explain how to create vivid, vibrant action or how to construct a stunning and memorable world; they may not have the background necessary to point out that a particular word is not the best choice, that there are other and better options; and they may not even have the training to catch common usage errors and grammatical mistakes.

The Benefits of a Book Coach for Writers

The Benefits of Having a Book Coach for Writers

A good book coach gives guidance on all things large and small. It’s particularly valuable to have someone who can illustrate how to improve texture and style. Make no mistake—the small details matter tremendously. I see a lot of stories and novels that are successful in terms of the “big picture,” are predicated on compelling plot lines and characters but lack effective execution—the style is wordy, repetitive, and/or simply doesn’t enhance or reinforce characters, actions, settings, themes; the action is vague.

A good coach is an exemplary reader and knows that a good story is a meticulous accumulation of small details. A writer’s grandmother or spouse might be able to point out a gaping hole in the plot, but only a good book coach might pick up on ineffective stylistic tendencies or a lack of texture in a critical scene, in addition to pointing out the gaping hole.

A book coach works with a writer one-on-one, and a true literary intimacy can evolve when the book coach is entirely in tune with the writer’s intentions and aesthetic values. Before I take on a client in a book-coaching relationship, I give the writer a copy of my writer’s guide Fiction Club. That way the potential client is going to have a good idea of my perspectives on the creation of fiction.

Every Writer Needs a Little Help

If Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King need help, every writer needs help. Until a writer has had a high level of success in the publishing world, agents and publishing-house editors are not likely to be willing to serve in that role, but the good news is that there are various opportunities for guidance including classes, writers’ retreats, workshops, and one-on-one writing and editing services.

*****

Book Coaching for Advanced Writers

Are you ready to take the next step toward a final draft of your novel? This course is for you! Join Mark Spencer in an intensive 16-week coaching session focused entirely on your novel in progress. You'll work with Mark on your choice of up to 60,000 words of your novel or two drafts of up to 30,000 words each. You'll also have the opportunity to speak to Mark directly about your work during two one-on-one phone calls or Zoom sessions.

Click to continue.

How To Find the Right Professional Editor for Your Writing

How To Find the Right Professional Editor for Your Writing

It's not enough to know when your manuscript is ready for a professional edit—it's knowing who is the right fit to do the editing. Here, Tiffany Yates Martin discusses how to find the right professional editor for your writing.

From Script

Understanding the Writer and Agent Relationship (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, read an intimate interview with Verve Literary Agent and Partner David Boxerbaum about the state of the spec market, the relationship between a writer and agent, and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is ending your story too soon.

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes with Magic

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes With Magic

In this post, trained fighter and author Carla Hoch explores the process of writing fight scenes with magic—how to make the unbelievable believable, how limitations bring us closer to our characters, and more.

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

If you're a freelance writer who is able to secure assignments, an essential tool you'll need is an invoice. In this post, Writer's Digest Senior Editor Robert Lee Brewer shares a very basic and easy invoice template for freelance writers to get the job done (and get paid).

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

A career behind the curtain helped Amy Neswald in creating her own stories. Here, the author shares 3 things being a broadway wig master taught her about storytelling.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let things get a little out of control.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 14th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

After an intense writing challenge, you might feel a little lost. Here are some tips from Managing Editor and fellow Wrimo Moriah Richard for capitalizing on your momentum.