In my particular case, there are two ways to look at the decision to hire a coach to help in my fiction writing. The first is simple: if it’s such a good idea, why didn’t you do it from the start? The answer to that one is equally simple: hubris. I’d been writing most of my life, thought I was pretty good, had a great idea for a novel, and get out of my way. To be honest, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a writing coach, though if I’d been smart, I could have used the Interweb to find out. Instead, I plunged ahead and just wrote. The resulting novel was fairly well-received, so I thought I’d just keep on doing the same thing for novel #2 (The Devil’s Breath), which was better received. So I repeated it for novel #3 (The Empty Confessional), which got even better reviews.
The second way to look at it is: what took you so long, chump? You believe athletes should have personal trainers. You had executive assistants when you were a hot-shot Silicon Valley exec. Why did you think you could embark on a new career without some professional assistance?
As I approached novel #4, I realized that I wanted to change things up a bit. Did I want to write in present or past tense? I’m more comfortable with the latter, but I read a lot of good work that uses the former. Then Point of View: if I was going with a more omniscient POV, how would that work? Whose head should I get inside, how many can I get away with? And, finally, my earlier books were in the 80-100K word category. This one would be more complicated, both in plot and in number of characters.
So I found a coach and started working with her. I sent her an early outline and a sample chapter and sat back, waiting for the email that said: ‘This is great. To be honest, I don’t think you need a coach. But let’s see if I can help you polish this jewel of a book.” Instead, she peed all over what I sent. She explained to me that, while I had a good plot, I didn’t have a book. Where was the antagonist? What was the internal conflict of the main character? And when it came to omniscient, she told me that virtually no one does that anymore (meaning being in all the characters’ heads all of the time).
After pouting for a day, I got back to her, listened, and revisited both the outline and the chapter. If it isn’t clear to you, dear reader, by now, I hate it when other people are right. But she was right. And once I swallowed my considerable pride, we set to work.
(NOTE: FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, THIS BLOG IS GOING TO TAKE A DIFFERENT DIRECTION. I AM GOING TO PUBLISH TO THIS GROUP THE CHAPTERS OF THE NOVEL AS I FINISH THEM, ALONG WITH SOME COMMENTARY ON WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY COACH IN THE PROCESS. HOPEFULLY THAT WILL BE BOTH INTERESTING AND VALUABLE TO YOU, WHETHER AS A READER OR AN AUTHOR.)