Why Would a Writer Need a Coach — An Interview with Ali Hale

There are a wide variety of ways to use writing skills and build a business. I had the chance to chat with Ali Luke on the new coaching service she’s rolling out to help other writers. Full disclosure: Ali is my partner over at ConstructivelyProductive and I think she’s absolutely awesome.

1. How can a coach help a writer? What exactly does a coach do?

Many writers — however experienced — have days when the writing just isn’t quite working. Perhaps they’re branching out into a new area and struggling to find their voice, or maybe they’ve hit a roadblock. A coach will work alongside a writer: looking closely at the writer’s existing work, finding the potential there (even in first-draft material), and making concrete suggestions to make a particular piece stronger.

A coach can also help the writer with big-picture issues — like motivation, finding and developing ideas, and working on bigger projects like blogs, books and novels.

2. What’s the process when you work with a writer? How do you help a writer with his or her craft?

I ask for around 2,000 words of the writer’s current work-in-progress. That could be several blog posts, a novel extract, a short story, or even an outline or synopsis of a project.

My help is very much tailored to the writer, and to their needs. In general, I offer a combination of close reading and overall advice — for instance, I might suggest ways to reword a sentence to make it punchier, along with ideas for fleshing out a particular piece into a series or book.

I always look for the potential in a writer’s work, and I highlight areas which are working well.

3. Are there differences in working with a writer on different types of projects (like fiction versus non-fiction, or a blog versus a book)?

Yes — although the process is similar, the type of feedback I provide differs.

With blog writers, my advice tends to be a bit more strategic — I often encourage writers to try guest posting, for instance. When I focus on the nitty-gritty details, I look for a conversational and dynamic style.

With novelists, I’ll ask about how the writing is going in general. It’s hard to stay motivated over the course of a novel, especially when multiple drafts are required. I find that writers often get stuck part-way through — and then I’ll help brainstorm ideas for moving forwards.

Fiction tends to be more difficult — emotionally and technically — than non-fiction, and I make sure I’m pulling out positive points as well as making suggestions for changes.

In general, I find that writers working on long projects (like an ebook or a novel) will need at least three sessions so that we can discuss the project as it progresses. Bloggers or copywriters focused on one particular piece — such as a guest post — may need only one or two sessions.

4. What’s your writing background?

I’ve been writing seriously (with an eye towards publication) since my teens, and I’ve been in writing workshops since I was 14. I studied English Literature as an undergraduate, and worked on creative projects alongside.

During 2008-2010, I took a creative writing MA part-time. My income throughout the MA came from blogging — a combination of freelance work for big sites and more entrepreneurial projects of my own, like ebooks.

5. What got you interested in coaching writers?

While I was taking my MA, I organised a weekly meeting amongst a small group of fellow students. We shared our work and gave feedback to one another. I really enjoyed doing this — and particularly liked being able to encourage others with their writing.

Online, I’ve built up a name for myself as a writer, and I found myself getting requests from friends to read a guest post or help with a piece of writing. I realised that there was an unmet demand for writing coaching, and decided this was something I’d love to do!

If you’d like to learn more about Ali’s coaching, check out her coaching services page.

Image by Antonina Mamzenko

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