I had a dream when I was a struggling author. No, not the one about getting published. This one was about finding a mentor who would take me under their wing, tell me what I was doing wrong (and right), and be the cheerleader who stood on the sidelines and said, another rejection, don’t sweat it, you can do this.
I never found that person. I know in my heart if I had, I might have been published sooner. It was one of the reasons I decided to start coaching and mentoring.
These days just about anyone can call themselves a coach. I’ve even seen a handful of sites where people offer coaching services and they’ve never finished writing a book let alone published one.
You don’t have to be a New York Times bestselling author or have a six figure contract with a major publishing house to coach but I feel there are certain qualities a coach needs to have so I thought I’d share some of them with you.
Share a Goal
Both you and the coach need to be on the same page (on pun intended), about what you hope to get from the partnership. Write a book is broad term and it needs to be broken down into steps. I always give my students stepping stone goals. For example, by July 15th you’ll write your first three chapters.
They Offer You Tough Love
While I never make a student feel guilty for not putting in the effort or getting their word done, I always ask them to tell me why they didn’t write or didn’t get to the word count we’d agreed upon. Most of the time, their response enables me to figure out how I can help them get back on track. For example, maybe they’re struggling with a character, or they haven’t quite figured out the opening of the story yet.
They Feel the Pain and the Glory
I can honestly say I get as excited about my student’s stories as they do. I also say with all honesty that I feel the pain of the rejections too. Tuesday morning, I opened up my e-mail to find a note from one of my students. An insensitive editor had sent her a rejection letter that had cut to the bone. I felt for her because I’ve been on the receiving end of one of those too. A good coach, both cheers and cries for you, but the bottom line is a great coach never lets you quit.
They Tell You How to Fix Things
I’ve lost count the times I’ve entered contests or paid for feedback and received nothing but criticism but no solutions on how to fix things. A good coach points out all the imperfections but at the same time, works with you to make them shine.
I hope when and if you go looking for a coach you’ll find one that can be a true mentor to you.