During my writing journey, I’ve been blessed by several professional writers who have invested in me and challenged me to hone my craft with excellence. One of my writing mentors, Sandra Byrd, is a bestselling and award-winning author of over four dozen books. She’s currently celebrating the release of her historical novel Mist of Midnight and The One Year Home and Garden Devotions.
Sandra has gleaned a wealth of experience from years as a successful writer of contemporary and historical adult fiction, teen and tween novels, and devotionals for adults and tweens. She’s mentored, edited, and coached hundreds of aspiring writers toward fulfilling their dreams of traditional or independent publication.
During our interview, Sandra Byrd offered valuable insight and encouragement to writers who may be considering teaming up with a writing coach.
Would you please describe the role of a professional writing coach?
To me, a coach is someone who comes alongside at any stage of the work to plot, strategize, teach or correct technique, read and then brainstorm content solutions, point out what is working well and where a writer’s strengths lie. Finally, coaches encourage authors through the finish line!
What’s included in a typical coaching program?
Every coach works differently, but my coaching program includes two hours together every week – one reading and editing, one personal coaching via online meeting or phone.
Are there any steps a writer should take before investing in a coach?
I partner with writers at any stage of their careers. All that’s required is the dedication to see things through, which is one reason my initial coaching package requires a three-month commitment. After 13 weeks, you’ll have made so much progress you’ll be in love with your book!
How can a writer get the most out of their coaching experience?
Commitment to the craft and passion for their calling propels writers through the, “I can’t do this” and “my work is no good” periods we all go through.
Carefully consider feedback. You won’t always agree with the comments, but be willing to find out why a character, incidence, or plot thread was flagged. I encourage writers to be willing to listen to critique – but also, to be confident in their ability to discern what editorial guidance works for them and which does not.
What can a professional writing coach or mentor offer that an average critique group can’t provide?
I love my critique partners. But early in a career, writers’ critique buddies are likely to have little or no publishing experience. A professional coach is like a surgeon who has successfully performed a particular operation hundreds of times. A coach can dedicate hours to your work each week. Our critique partners have books, and lives, of their own which may preclude that.
What can a coaching relationship offer that writing conferences or workshops can’t provide?
When you walk away from a conference, you usually can’t send your ideas, chapters, or the full manuscript back to the teacher for feedback. A professional coach works with you to build your confidence and strengthen your skills and story within your individual, unique book. If something’s not working, you’ll figure it out together.
What makes a good writing coach?
A good coach cannot and should not promise a best-seller, representation by an agent, publication, or a book that will never receive a critical review. No editor or author can promise this.
Rather, a good coach should help you develop your book a full grade or two stronger than it is when you bring it to her. She should also work herself out of her job with you. You’ll improve your skills through this one-one-one teaching and be ready for your next book, and she’ll move on to the next writer, though each and every book will need an editor.
What can a coach offer a writer who has a completed, or partially completed, manuscript?
I offer developmental editing. I’m here to help you “novel remodel” into a solid, unforgettable story. I will carefully read your manuscript, marking it with many track changes and also summing things up in a ten or so page editorial letter. I have refined fiction editing to twelve to twenty elements that I think need to be carefully addressed before publication.
Our main goal is to make your book shine.
How have you been blessed by serving as writing coach and mentor?
I’m not the first to say it, but I consider myself a manuscript midwife. It’s your baby, but I get to help you deliver it safely, strongly, into the world, and encourage you while you do! It’s such a pleasure for me when I see clients offer their amazing books, proudly, to a new and then growing readership.
What would you say to a writer who is hesitant about committing to the investment of working with a writing coach or mentor?
It is a commitment, there is no doubt, of time, emotions, intellect, and resources. It’s not right for everyone, and there is a right time in your life when you can whole-heartedly commit.
The Lord encourages us to count the costs (Luke 14:28), and I think that is good advice here, too. But, also, I’m often reminded of the biblical admonition that I shall not offer my lord anything that costs me nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). I want to offer my best. I keep that in mind when I’m struggling with a book and need to set time aside for work or commit resources toward my research and editorial expenses.
There’s never going to be a time for any of us when we have lots of extra time, energy and money and nothing to do with them. You have to leap!
Thanks for your faithfulness in encouraging and equipping aspiring writers to inspire the world through the written word.
Thank you for inviting me to share.
Sandra Byrd has a few slots open in her 2016 coaching calendar and is offering a one-time special offer for Inspire blog readers.
Mention the Inspire blog special, and sign a contract before April 1, 2016, to receive 10% off any three-month coaching or editing program. (Click HERE to read what past clients are saying about the benefits of teaming up with Sandra.)
Xochi (so-she) E. Dixon encourages and equips women to embrace grace, as they deepen their relationships with God and others. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, ENCOUNTER—The Magazine, Devo ‘Zine, in three Inspire anthologies, and at www.xedixon.com.