Book writing consultants: How a coach and mentor can help

In the western world, writing consultants, coaches or mentors are common. [Read the note at the bottom of this post on the nomenclature]. Not so much in India, where most writers and aspiring authors prefer a do-it-yourself approach. This is less out of over-confidence and more out of a lack of awareness (about the concept itself and the availability of good writing mentors).

At Booksoarus, apart from the blog posts that we write, we have also been formally mentoring writers (who’ve approached us proactively for coaching and consulting) and thought it was a good time we write an article on it so more aspiring authors can polish their work before they approach literary agents and publishers in India and abroad.

Who is a Writing Consultant / Mentor / Coach?

Writing Coaches are typically objective third-party professionals who read your work at a micro level, form an opinion, give you honest feedback and make suggestions that will benefit your writing .

Let’s break-down the key words that define writing consultants:

Writing mentors are ‘Objective’

According to The Oxford dictionary, the word ‘objective’ means: not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

That is exactly the kind of opinion you need for your work. Face it, when you take your work to a family member or friend, especially somebody who cares about you, their feelings are going to get in the way. They might not want to hurt you and might sugar coat their criticism. (Or, they might shed tears of joy and break into a dance while singing, “Mera beta author banega!”) Or a particular nasty aunt might tell you that you have inherited your mother’s genetic composition and therefore have no talent whatsoever. Ah, now you know what I mean? Bottom-line: Not objective.

Writing coaches provide a ‘Third-party’ view

You need to, therefore, get your work read by somebody who preferably does not know you. I say preferably because I don’t want to discount the fact that there might be the odd family member or friend who could give you objective feedback. But there’s one more question left: is he qualified enough to do that?

Writing consultants are ‘Professional’

Somebody who is a voracious reader with an eye for detail might be able to give you the feedback that you are looking for.  But, the same feedback could be incomplete because feedback without corrective action and suggestions to improve its quality is of no use to anybody.

For instance, a close friend (a finance professional who meant well) read my work and told me, “You need to flesh out this character.” Great. But, neither he nor I (at that point in time) knew what “flesh out” actually meant. It was just a fancy (clichéd) terminology that is often used. So, how does one “flesh out” a character?

These are aspects of writing craft – a body of study in itself and it requires more than a chacha, a mama or a well-meaning friend to help you.

What else do book writing consultants do?

Writing coaches will understand the writer’s personal vision and ask the following questions:

  • What is it that the writer wants to convey with his or her writing?
  • Is there a story at all in the book?
  • What genre would the novel best fit into?
  • How does the writing process work for the writer?
  • What is the final product going to look like?
  • Who is the intended audience for the book?
  • Who are the other authors who write similar themes or in a similar writing style?
  • What sort of timeframe does the writer have in mind? Is it realistic?
  • Is the work too ambitious? Sometimes writers have grandiose ideas but their language skills don’t keep up with the ideas. The coach could help break up the work into manageable chunks of writing with a clearly envisioned end result.

Who needs a Writing Coach?

You do. If you have a story to tell or if you think you have a treasure trove of ideas and experiences that others might benefit from.

Non-Fiction:

You could be a teacher or a counselor who might want to pen your experiences about educating children or you might have insights about parenting – something new you tried and something that worked. Or you could be a doctor who wants to write a self-help book.

Fiction:

You might have a great story idea but you don’t entirely know how to take it forward. You stumble with words, you miss self-set writing deadlines, you don’t what’s going to happen next, your characters are mouthing inane dialogues…You’re struggling. But, you want to persist.

Whichever genre you are writing in, you might have the ideas and the experience and you may be entirely serious about your writing. But, you realize that you do not have the time or you are unable to articulate your ideas on paper.  You, my friend, need a mentor.

Benefits of Hiring a Writing Mentor

A book mentor not only asks the questions (as above) but is committed towards taking your work to a logical conclusion and helps you achieve the (realistic) vision goal that you have set for yourself.

A writing coach will apart from other things:

  • Understand what works for you in terms of the writing process itself
  • Understand your vision for the work undertaken. By vision, I mean, what is that you as a writer see the work become – the end product: A lyrical prose poem? A chic-lit fun caper of sorts?  A business book that de-mystifies FEMA guidelines for the layman? A chilling who-dunnit-detective novel that is going to become the next big movie?
  • Help you arrive at a realistic and sustainable vision
  • Diagnose writing problems such as the famed writer’s block or the no-time-to-write issues
  • Brainstorm with you and aid both imaginative thinking as well as self-analysis.
  • Will help you understand what works, what doesn’t and what needs to be done to align it to your vision
  • Help you address weaknesses in the writing craft and help you overcome those weaknesses by giving you craft exercises to work on
  • Help you strengthen your own writing skills
  • Help you develop structure to your writing (chapterizations, use of index cards, back-stories etc)

Note: For the purpose of this post, I have used the terminologies “writing coach” and “mentor” interchangeably although in some contexts there may be differences between the two. There are opinions that a mentor is “more than” a coach in terms of involvement. At Booksoarus, you can call us anything (parliamentary, please) and you are going to get the same high level of involvement.

If you want to know how our writing mentorship can help you and your book, drop us an email on: info [at] booksoarus [dot] com

About Lavanya

Lavanya Shanbhogue-Arvind | MBA | Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Special Prize (2011) | MFA in Creative Writing programme (City University of Hong Kong) | Her literary fiction novel will be published soon by Roli Books.

10 thoughts on “Book writing consultants: How a coach and mentor can help”

  1. Shailesh

    Hi Lavanya,

    Nice article ! appreciate your thoughts.

    Would like to discuss with you and need your advise on my first writing venture.

    Please reply. Thanks

    Shailesh

  2. Lavanya Post Author

    Hi Shailesh,

    Thank you for reading our posts and liking them. We’d be happy to help in any way that we can.
    Please do write to us at info [at] booksoarus [dot] com giving us information about your proposed body of work.
    We’ll take it forward from there.

    – Lavanya

  3. Sameer

    Pratibha,

    Lavanya has shared the email ID just above your comment. Send us details of your book and what specific help you are looking for.

    We’ll let you know if we can help or not.

  4. Nissar Noor

    I am looking for a n editor for my book of fiction which I just finished writing.
    Is there a difference between a mentor and and an editor?

  5. Sameer

    Nissar, yes there is a difference.

    An editor’s task is more focussed – starting with the manuscript that you’ve already completed and polishing it.

    A mentor’s role is broader, as explained in the article above.

    Depending on the author’s requirements, we’ve been playing both roles.

  6. Vasanth

    Hey Team,

    I already got a response from your team that you are not taking up any new requests. Does anyone else provide services similar to this.

    Not sure if I am supposed to ask details about your competitors here 😀

    Regards,
    Vasanth

  7. Raj John Verghese

    As my manuscript of 80000+ words of fiction does not seem to impress the publishers enough, I need to ascertain whether it has any real potential for ever making the grade.
    There seems to be a whole Industry in existence, pampering hurt egos. This appeal is an effort to elude them.
    With your expertise and insight, I expect, a quick read should resolve the question realistically.

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