I’ve recently started with working with a writing coach
And I’ve found it so beneficial, I wanted to share the love. This week, Ali Luke joins us all the way from Great Britain (don’t you love the web?) to talk about her approach as a writing coach.
For today’s guest, please offer a warm welcome to Ali Luke…
How can a writer decide if working with a coach would benefit them?
A coach can help you at almost any stage of your writing – but, ideally, you’ll want a reasonably firm grasp on the basics (like spelling, grammar, and the “rules” of your chosen genre). You might want to take a writing class or read a couple of books on writing, practicing your craft on your own before hiring a coach.
That’s not to say that a coach will expect you to be perfect! But when you’re paying for one-to-one tuition, you probably want to be at a level where you can work on more advanced things than editing out basic mistakes.
If you’re feeling stuck with your writing – perhaps you’re struggling with a new project, or you simply feel like you’ve stopped improving – then that can be a particularly good time to work with a coach.
What sort of goals or skills do you work on with a client?
I tailor my coaching very much to the individual client, though I specialise in the writing itself and practical suggestions. Goals vary in size and scope from client to client, but a few typical ones include:
- Writing a sales page or about page for the client’s own writing business
- Finishing a short story or making progress on a novel
- Getting a guest post onto a major blog in the client’s niche
We tend to work on skills as part of a goal: for instance, if a client is writing fiction, we might work on dialogue, or if a client is blogging, we’ll look at calls to action. Although writing exercises can be useful and fun, I think it’s more rewarding to work on skills in the context of a real piece of writing that’s intended for publication.
What lies outside the client/coach relationship? (For ex., writing craft, critiques, organization, motivation, goals, psychology)
Not much! I’m always happy to discuss whatever a client wants to bring to a session, though I’ll advise seeking other help or advice where appropriate. For instance, I’ll cover problems with motivation and getting over blocks, but sometimes it’s clear that there’s a deeper issue where a client might need to contact their doctor for professional advice.
I’ve got a fair amount of web knowledge and experience, so I’ll often lend clients a hand with a niggling technical problem (like using WordPress effectively) – but again, sometimes I’ll recommend seeking a specialist for this sort of help.
Tell me about the mechanics of a coaching relationship: how often you meet, the format, etc.
We’ll usually talk on Skype or the phone for 45 minutes, anything from once a week to once every few months, depending on the client’s needs. (Most clients have one session every two to four weeks.) A day or two before the session, the client sends me some writing, usually up to 2,000 words. This could be anything: a short story, part of an ebook, a few blog posts – whatever they’re working on – and it provides a good starting point for discussion.
In the session itself, we’ll generally talk about the project that the client is currently working on, looking at the bigger picture (e.g. how this fits in with their other writing goals) and the details (e.g. the effectiveness of different word choices in the piece). Depending on what the client needs, we may also discuss time management, motivation, or other similar topics.
How can a writer get the most out of a coaching relationship?
I’ve been on both ends of the coaching relationship (I had some fantastic tutors as a postgraduate creative writing student) so here goes…
- Don’t be afraid to show an early draft to your coach – just let them know that it’s not yet a polished piece.
- Pay particular attention to anything that seems to come up multiple times in your writing – your coach may well be able to point out problems that are occurring consistently.
- Write down any specific questions that you’ve got in advance: otherwise, it’s easy to forget what you wanted to ask.
- Try to stick to your session times. I’ve noticed that I have some clients who make steady, consistent process – and who never cancel or postpone a session – and other clients who struggle to find time for their writing and often push sessions back. I’m always very flexible on timings, but I know as a writer myself that self-discipline and deadlines can actually help a lot with creative work.
Do you have a particular area of expertise, or something you bring to the client/coach relationship that other writing coaches might not?
As well as having an academic background in writing (I studied English Literature at Cambridge University, followed by an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College in London), I’ve had several years’ experience writing for the web. A lot of my clients are bloggers, and I can share my expertise on everything from best practice in writing style to strategic tips on building traffic.
Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach from Oxford in the UK. You can find her work on dozens of blogs, including Copyblogger, Men with Pens, ProBlogger and Daily Blog Tips. Her homebase is at Aliventures.com and she has a bunch of free ebooks and other goodies available for her newsletter subscribers here.
Don’t forget to check out previous interviews:
- Brook Blander, Literary Coach
- Sue Mitchell, Writing and Creativity Coach
- Cynthia Morris, Writing and Creativity Coach
- Kendra Levin, Writing Coach
- Charlotte Rains Dixon, Writing Coach
- The Writing Coach: Is One Right for You?
Ali, it sounds like you bring something to the client-coach relationship that not all coaches can provide: a great deal of knowledge and insight about blogging and how it can help with the fiction writer’s platform. If a client has a specific goal in mind—such as improving their web presence—do you suggest strategies beyond helping with the writing?
Readers, please chime in with questions and comments. We’d love to hear from you!
Ali Luke says
Cheryl, thank you so much for interviewing me! I’m honoured to have taken part in your series (from across the globe too).
To answer your last question…
“If a client has a specific goal in mind—such as improving their web presence—do you suggest strategies beyond helping with the writing?”
— Yes, absolutely. There’s a lot that’s on the fringes of writing (like clear calls to action, for instance — that’s something that comes up with most of my clients) and some activities that support writing and self-promotion (using Twitter and Facebook effectively, for instance).
From my perspective, nothing’s “off-limits” for the coaching relationship: if I can help, I will! In cases where I don’t have the technical expertise to help, I’ll often put clients in touch with someone I’ve worked with (I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve recommended my website/ebook cover designer to, for instance).
Cheryl Reif says
Thank, Ali. I wonder if one of the most useful things that coaches do is to help in areas that writers might not initially consider: such as how to make a blog more effective. Marketing is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the writing life!
Ali Luke says
Thanks Deanne, so glad you enjoyed it and found it helpful!