Sunday, June 24, 2012

Notes From My Writing Life: Book Coaching

Believing that literacy is an amazing gift, knowing that people have shed blood and tears for it, I take reading seriously.   I also take writing very seriously.  So you have to know that when a friend approached me about acting as his book coach, I was enthused and took the request seriously.    What I should have done was to take a paraphrased cue from Forest Gump:  “Mama says, ‘reading is what writers do.’”  Suffice it to say, my friend is not a reader.

Hindsight being what it is, I suppose that I should have gone into the project realizing that someone who does not read fiction simply won’t have an automatic “feel” for it.  I probably should have asked to see an outline or proposal, but I love my friends , so I jumped in with both feet, from word one. 

On the surface, the job of a book coach is pretty straightforward:

·         Walk the author through the step-by-step process of writing, publishing, and promoting their book

·         Explain the structure of a book and how the parts fit together

·         Help organize ideas, research, main points, and written material

·         Help create a writing plan, set realistic deadlines, and create a schedule for meeting them

·         Work with the author to find their own unique voice

·         Help develop the book from the original idea through the outline, rough drafts, and revisions to polished manuscript

·         Provide feedback and advice on flow, grammar, substance, and writing style

·         Point out inconsistencies, word repetition, weak vocabulary, and lack of clarity

Knowing what the job entailed, I knew that I could handle it.  To his credit, my friend is not lazy and didn’t expect me to write the book for him.  What I didn’t plan on was that I would have to begin by tutoring him in grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling.  What I wasn’t prepared for was that he would grow more than a little angry with me for doing EXACTLY what he asked me to do.  That left me with some questions like:

·         How do you become annoyed with someone who mentors you on the use of YOUR native language?

·         How can you stay irritated by someone who insists that you use quotation marks in a novel?

·         How does anyone fume over the need for paragraphs?

·         What kind of novel has only one endless chapter?

Okay, so you probably already know how this ends…  My friend is convinced that he has developed a new 400-page art form, and that book coaching and traditional novel forms are over-rated.  He also now thinks that I am an anal-retentive book Nazi and I am not going to tell him any different.  For my part, I am hoping that he will figure out another way to tell his story.

Probably as a video.

1 comment:

  1. LOL, Gail - "anal-retentive book Nazi!" I needed the laugh-out-loud!! Thanks.

    The thing is if he can't take your feedback in doing the very job he hired you to do, he would jump off a cliff over an editor's editorial letter. You must have a thick skin, be open-minded, willing to learn, and know when to wave the white flag. We all grow and get better, but thinking we know it all gets us nowhere in this business, or in life.