Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On Writing Coaches

"Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic."

It's Wednesday, and you know what that means: I have to stop procrastinating and get a post written before heading off to university. YA Highway wants to know "What kind of writing coach do you need? When you have to coach friends, what kind of coach are you?" Me?

I really wish I had some previous students pipe in here.  Was I a pain in the rear? So stickly that I ruined creative writing for you and now instead of living the tortured life of a literary novelist, you're living the tortured life of an accountant? As a graduate student, I tried to model my own creative writing teachers: tough as nails, but dedicated to anyone truly interested in the craft.  I was the kind of "coach" who handed back short stories with my comments inked in blood all over the margins.  Garsh, I was so serious.

 I'm finding that now that I've ventured into YA territory, I'm in need of some young whipersnappers (Garsh, I sound so old!) to give me some tough love.  Slay me with your worst "This part is so boring" so I can figure out how to balance the exposition, character development (aka, "telling"), and all the rest ("showing"). Criticism you can use to improve your novel is like a gift, after all.

I'm in the "query dumps" right now.  It's too early in the process to be feeling down, but to me, this is the worst part about being a writer. (Not the querying; the waiting. Okay, and the rejections.) Is there a coach for that?

Soup Dumpster
Yep: the query dump, where dormant dreams reside


  1. I've found that I've had to actually encourage people to rip my work apart. "Please!! Tell me what you hated! And actually say 'I hated that' if you really hated it!" Perhaps I just know too many nice people. They don't want to hurt my feelings, which I appreciate, but I, too, just want them to tell me what bits were boring, where there's too much "telling," etc. And only tell me it's good if it really is good.

    I'm not a query coach, but I'm in the same boat--querying, waiting, fielding rejections. I cope by reminding myself of two things: 1) there are hundreds of agents, and it just takes one to launch a career; and 2) it's okay if this novel isn't the one to launch your career. Janet Reid said this recently to a querier on her QueryShark blog. Let me quote her: "Some novels you need to write to get them out of your system, but not all novels should be shopped." That's not to say you should give up, but continue to work on the next novel, and be prepared to move on if you get no takers for the novel you're querying.

  2. Thanks, Colin. I completely agree with you. I was gripped by this current story and HAD to write it out of my system. If it doesn't get an agent, I won't die or cry. But I'll shop it till I drop. And keep writing other novels.

  3. This probably isn't what you want to hear, but sometimes you need to be rejected. I've been writing for several years and quereyed a few earlier projects. And OMG, I am so glad those books were rejected! They SUCKED!!! I could do so much better, I have done so much better. If my earliest work was in bookstores now, that would be beyond embarrissing.

    The only way to become a better writer, is to keep on writing, and keep on querying. Maybe the first book you write will be the one, and maybe the fourth book you write will be the one. If you love writing, getting a rejection is only encouragement to keep on writing and hope the next one turns out better. Why is that bad? It's not. Trust me, it's not.

    How is that for tough coaching for you.

  4. Ohhh - I think EVERYONE needs cheerleaders during query time. And shoulders to cry on. And someone to bring numerous boxes of tissues. I rely on my husband and my CPs for that. They cheer me on when I get requests and let me cry/vent/scream when I get rejected. And then keep encouraging me. Love them.

  5. Oh man, the querying process is definitely a rough patch! I think you can get coaches for that, but more likely than not they'll be OUTSIDE the writing world so they can just distract you from your inbox entirely!!


  6. I don't think anyone decides to write so that they can query. But plenty of people don't write because of the need to query. So the fact that you're to that point puts you way ahead of the game. Give yourself tons of pats on the back and doses of self-confidence and this too shall pass!