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.