Do you need a Writing Coach?
3 Tips on Hiring a Good One
by guest author Pamela Jane as part of her WOW! Women on Writing Book Blog Tour
My memoir took me over twenty years to write, in-between publishing many children’s books, and Pride and Prejudice and Kitties. The journey was long and lonely, but also exciting – a rollicking ride into the past. The scenery was great even if I nearly went over the cliff a few times (in my past as well as during the writing process).
The hardest part, other than the work itself, was writing alone with no response from the outside world – no editors calling, no fan letters from kids, no reviews on Goodreads. Although I was cranking out thousands of pages (most of which I would ultimately toss) sometimes I felt like I wasn’t doing anything at all, as if the memoir existed only in my imagination. And the book was taking so long! As I’ve often said, story is an elusive thing, and the search for it is perilous. You don’t know when you start out on that stony trail if you’ll make it back with a tale to tell, or if a fellow traveler will find the remains of your narrative bleached like bones in the sun.
There were many days when it looked like that was exactly what was going to happen.
The loneliness, and challenge of not being sure where I was going or how to get there, led me to hire several freelance editors and coaches over the years. I was making enough income on my children’s books to pay for them, although I gave up many vacations, and the beat-up couch in my family room was painful to look at.
Many of the editors I hired made wonderful writing companions on my solitary trek and provided invaluable feedback along the way.
Should you decide to hire an editor or coach, below are three tips to help make sure the experience is a positive one:
Tip #1 Person vs. Persona
You may think you know a writer through an intimate memoir, an accessible book about writing, or a blog. The author seems so friendly and approachable. But writing is a performance, and the narrator, no matter how candid and intimate he or she appears, is acting.
When I present author visits at elementary schools, the kids run up to me in the hallway, “Hi, Ms. Jane! I have a cat, too!” or “Do you still have your parakeet Winky Blue?” Because I’ve just put on a fun, kid-friendly presentation, they feel like they know me. And I do love interacting (a grownup word for “playing”) with them. But my presentations are a performance, and so is anything you write, including a personal essay or memoir. So be sure to schedule a short telephone conversation with your prospective coach to get a feeling for her temperament and personality. If you sense the two are you are not a good fit, look elsewhere.
Tip #2 Make clear editing arrangements
Most editors offer anything from line editing to a deep structural analysis. Writing coaches may also offer support and encouragement outside of the immediate editing process. During your first telephone conversation, make clear exactly what you are looking for. Ask if there are different prices for different levels of editing. Does the editor offer an hourly rate, or a flat fee for a certain number of pages?
In addition, try to get a feel for her editing style. In my case, I have difficulty with abstract or generalized editorial comments. Instead of “foreshadow your fear of your boyfriend,” for instance, I prefer a concrete example, no matter how bad, such as, “when I saw my boyfriend going through my closet, I got a weird feeling, but I ignored it.”
Tip #3 Make clear financial arrangements
If the editor has an hourly rate, ask her to alert you if she goes over the estimated time so that you can decide whether or not to continue. Also, ask if the fee includes a follow-up email or a telephone conversation. And while it’s fine to pay with PayPal, avoid paying for blocks of one, three, or six months in advance. What if you’re not happy with her work? You should be free to stop at any time.
I hope these tips will help you decide if a freelance editor is right for you and, if so, to help you make a good choice. Most editors I worked with were dedicated and perceptive and helped me become adept at narrative tension, plot (memoirs do have plots), characterization, and theme.
When my daughter was two, her favorite word was self, as in, “I can do it myself!” (Now she’s twenty-two and that’s still her favorite word.) At some point when you’ve identified your story and discovered your natural writing voice, you too will say, “Self!”
It doesn’t get better than that.
WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING TOUR
“AN INCREDIBLE TALENT FOR EXISTING:
A WRITER’S STORY”
Tour Begins March 7th!
A Young woman longs for an idyllic past, despite her revolutionary
belief that everything that exists must be destroyed.
Paperback: 246 pages
Publisher: Open Books Press (February 1, 2016)
Amazon Link: click here
“An Incredible Talent For Existing: A Writer’s Story” summary: It is 1965, the era of love, light and revolution. While the romantic narrator imagines a bucolic future in an old country house with children running through the dappled sunlight, her husband plots to organize a revolution and fight a guerrilla war in the Catskills.
Their fantasies are on a collision course.
The clash of visions turns into an inner war of identities when the author embraces radical feminism; she and her husband are comrades in revolution but combatants in marriage; she is a woman warrior who spends her days sewing long silk dresses reminiscent of a Henry James novel. One half of her isn't speaking to the other half.
And then, just when it seems that things cannot possibly get more explosive, her wilderness cabin burns down and Pamela finds herself left with only the clothes on her back.
From her vividly evoked existential childhood ("the only way I would know for sure that I existed was if others lots of others acknowledged it") to writing her first children's book on a sugar high during a glucose tolerance test, Pamela Jane takes the reader along on a highly entertaining personal, political, and psychological adventure.
About the Author: Pamela Jane has published over twenty-five children’s books with Houghton Mifflin, Atheneum, Simon & Schuster, Penguin-Putnam, and Harper. Her books include Noelle of the Nutcracker illustrated by Jan Brett, Little Goblins Ten illustrated by NY Times best-selling illustrator, Jane Manning, and Little Elfie One (Harper 2015). Pride and Prejudice and Kitties: A Cat-Lover’s Romp Through Jane Austen’s Classic (Skyhorse) was featured in The Wall Street Journal, BBC America, The Huffington Post, The New York Times Sunday Book Review and The Daily Dot, and has just come out in paper. Pamela Jane has published short stories and essays with The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Antigonish Review, Literary Mama. Pamela Jane is a writer and editor for womensmemoirs.com
Below are three clips of her work:
Find Pamela Jane Online:
http://www.pamelajane.com (children’s books)
http://www.prideandprejudiceandkitties.com (humorous book)
Twitter: @memoircoaching, @austencats
Book Trailer for “An Incredible Talent for Existing”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PA1znyLsaGY
----------Upcoming Blog Tour Dates
Wednesday, March 16th @ Jerry Waxler
Fellow author and memoir expert Jerry Waxler reviews Pamela Jane's "An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer's Story"
Thursday, March 17th @ Selling Books with Cathy Stucker
Cathy Stucker interviews Pamela Jane to find our more about Pamela's memoir "An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer's Story"
Friday, March 18th @ Lauren Scharhag
Author Pamela Jane offers a great guest post "A New (and winning) Perspective on Rejection" and has graciously given a copy of her memoir for a giveaway. Don't miss this blog tour stop to find out more about Pamela Jane's memoir "An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer's Story".
Monday, March 28th @ Sherrey Meyer
Sherrey Meyer reviews Pamela Jane's memoir "An Incredible Talent for Existing"
Tuesday, March 29th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Fellow author and memoir writer Linda Appleman Shapiro shares her thoughts as she reviews Pamela Jane's memoir "An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer's Story".
Thursday, March 31st @ Karen Jones Gowen
Karen Jones Gowen shares her thoughts after reading "An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer's Story" by Pamela Jane. This is one memoir and one memoir review you won't want to miss!
Friday, April 8th @ Kathleen Pooler
Kathleen Pooler puts Pamela Jane in the author spotlight today as readers learn more about Pamela Jane's memoir "An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer's Story". There will also be a giveaway for one lucky reader to receive their own copy of this intriguing book.