September 2020 archive

A Writing Coach’s Welcome to Writers

WHEN YOU VISIT MY SITE FOR THE FIRST TIME (hello!), I want you to feel welcomed. Also, because you’ve likely come to find out if a writing coach can help you achieve your writing goals, I want to introduce myself and explain the process!

I’m Jamie Morris

I’m a full-time writing coach who’s been coaching writers for well over a decade. Among other writerly pursuits, I directed Central Florida’s Woodstream Writers for ten years, mentored writing consultants at the writing center at Rollins College, have taught creative writing classes and presented at numerous writing conferences, was a featured writing coach in THE WRITER magazine, and co-wrote PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL WITH THE PLOT CLOCK

And you?

We may not have met yet, but I bet you’ve arrived here because you’ve been researching “writing coaches” and “book coaches”—and because you have an idea for a book! However, you might be feeling a little stuck. Maybe you’re trying to figure out exactly what you want to say, or how to organize your thoughts, or what’s the best way to plot your story. Or maybe you just wonder how to handle such a big project with so many other demands on your time!

So, can a writing coach offer the support—accountability, know-how, strategic planning—to help you move your book ahead?

Of course I think so! But you may not be so sure! That’s why I offer a free consultation.

That (free!) initial consultation

I offer a free twenty-minute phone consultation—and it’s exciting for both of us! During that initial chat, I’ll want to hear all about your writing goals. (I might even give you a few pointers right away!) And, most importantly, you’ll want to get a feel for my style: Am I supportive and encouraging? Am I knowledgeable about your project? Do you find me generous with my insights, right from the get-go?

All of this—and that undefinable quality called “chemistry”—will let us know if we might work well together.

Writing coaching steps

Now, truthfully, I don’t work with every writer who calls. We want to make sure we’re a good fit. So, if I think there might be a better coach out there for you, I will make a few suggestions—or even offer to introduce you to them.

If it is feeling right (yay!), we’ll decide how to begin. We might agree that developing a solid outline for your book is job one (I did co-write a book on plot, after all!). But if you already have an outline (or you’re a pantser!), we’ll create a plan to launch a draft.

Either way, our work together will be unique—because you’re unique! However, it will generally look something like this:

  • Every week or two, you’ll send me what you’re working on—an act, outline, chapter or scene, perhaps—and your current questions about it.
  • After I review your pages, we’ll meet by phone or video to dive into the material you’ve shared.
  • At the end of the call, we’ll decide on our next steps—always moving your book toward your publishing goals.

(And just so you know, our calls will be deep and engaging—and a ton of fun, too!)

First-50 page manuscript review

But what if you already have a draft? Great! Then we can start with my review of your first fifty pages. In that case, using my “literary sixth sense” and years of experience in the book world, I’ll identify the strengths of your work, as well as areas that would benefit from further attention. Among the many points I’ll consider are:

  • style and tone
  • plot and pacing
  • structure and arc
  • audience and genre
  • character and point of view

After the follow-up consultation that’s included in your review, you’ll have a bushel of fresh ideas tucked into your literary knapsack. Those ideas will guide us as I coach you through your revision.

Wondering what’s next?

From here, you might visit my rates page.
Or ask me a question.
Or book a free initial consultation!

Thank you!

I appreciate you visiting my site. If you like what you see here, let’s make a date to chat. But please know that, even if we never meet, I wish you and your book the very best!

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

Cats and Writers: A Writing Coach’s Purr-spective (Sorry!)

MAYBE YOU’RE NOT A CAT LOVER. If that’s the case, you might not understand the enduring connection between cats and writers. Here are some thoughts on the matter:

  • Cats are companionable. They’ll hang around wherever you settle to write. (Sometimes, they want to sit on your keyboard. Sigh. But if you put low boxes on your desk, they’ll likely curl up there instead of on your hands.)
  • Despite the above caution, cats are relatively undemanding. Unless they’re hungry, they won’t interrupt your work—nor will they make critical comments. Pretty much, they think you and your writing are awesome.
  • Not only are they noncritical, cats are quiet. Unlike, say, dogs, cats sleep right through most anything that’s going on, inside or outside your house.
  • The only noise your companionable cat is likely to make is a soothing purr. An old wive’s tale says the purr of a cat knits broken bones.* I don’t know about that, but I do know that the sound knits my frayed nerves when a scene or paragraph is going awry! This is why I keep boxes filled with purring cats on my writing desk at all times.

This YouTube video features a cat purring for three minutes. If you don’t have cats of your own, cue it up the next time your story is going south and you want to pull your hair out by the roots! Chances are the sound of this lovely little cat will calm you—and a calm writer is one to whose mind unexpected solutions spring!

*Our old friend science is definitely pro-cat—for writers and for other folks! Recent studies have shown that purr vibrations may help heal infection, promote bone strength, and even reduce the risk of heart attack!

Need more convincing that cats are a writer’s best friend? Check out this Writers Write article: “The Relationship Between Famous Writers and Their Cats”

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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10 Tips to Make You Look Like the Smart Writer You Are!

I WAS READING AN EXCELLENT BLOG POST by a writing-industry professional (who will remain unnamed, here, because this is not a grammar-shaming post), when I stumbled over his use of the word “hone” where he meant “home.” The sentence went something like this: “You’ll improve your chances of garnering agent representation if you hone in on agents who are enthusiastic about your genre.”

Unfortunately, the verb “hone” means to sharpen, while the verb “home” means to aim for or close in on—which is what the writing pro intended: “We should home in on (aim for) agents who like what we’re writing.” (“Typo,” you’re thinking? Me, too! Until he repeated the mistake later in the post.) Admittedly, this particular misuse is a pet peeve of mine. Still, this is a guy who is giving aspiring authors high-level publishing advice on a regular basis. He should get this right.

But, you know, English is an odd language. And we English speakers may confuse words that are similar in sound and meaning. For instance,

  • home and hone
  • imply and infer
  • compose and comprise

As writers, we generally like to be precise in our use of language, though, as that is the raw ore we meld into the gold of our literary work. Also, we are smart folks! And, whenever possible, our smarts should shine like a halo around our brilliant heads—untarnished by avoidable usage errors. Hence, the following list.

10 tips to make you look like the smart writer you are

Tip 1: Take care with your use of commonly confused words. Amber Nasland wrote an article for MEDIUM that lists 31 commonly misused words to watch for.

Tip 2: Double-check for spelling errors—especially (because you’re a writer!!) misspelling the foreword of a book as “forward,” and the afterword as “afterward.” If you’re not 100% certain of a word’s spelling, google!

Tip 3: Get yourself a fun, readable editing guide and keep it at hand when questions of correctness arise. I like COPYEDITING & PROOFREADING FOR DUMMIES, by Suzanne Gilad.

Tip 4: Know your style guide. If you’re writing articles for publication in periodicals, you’re likely to be expected to follow AP (Associated Press) style. Non-scholarly book-length work? It’s Chicago style all the way (usually, lol). Style guides clarify things like which numbers to spell out and how to punctuate street addresses for your intended audience—among about a gazillion other arcane rules. Whether you like the idea of a style guide or not, though, your written work should adhere to one—unless you make a clearly defined house-style guide for yourself.

(Believe me, the pain you experience as you try to accept this professional requirement and figure out how to apply it to your own projects will be worthwhile: Your correct style usage will make you look smart to editorial eyes for years to come—which is the point of this entire post.)

Tip 5: Subscribe to THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE ONLINE. In their own words, “It is the indispensable reference for writers, editors, proofreaders, indexers, copywriters, designers, and publishers.” A year’s subscription is (currently) $39. Knowing who to turn to in the middle of the night to help you avoid embarrassing usage mistakes? Priceless.

Tip 6: Unless you’re deliberately trying to create interest with an experimental approach, format text conventionally. (For dialogue, for instance, start a new indented paragraph with every new speaker.) Research or review the formatting requirements for your application. Good formatting makes you look like a hotshot right out of the box.

Tip 7: Keep language fresh! I generally have THESAURUS.COM open when I’m writing. It helps with spelling (yay!) and offers me new ways to express what I’m saying. (Fresh = reader interest. Good spelling = reader respect!)

Tip 8: Read your work out loud. And I don’t just mean your dialogue! When I read every word of a blog post aloud, I find sticky sentences, boring passages, repetitious use of language—and TYPOS! I don’t know why I can’t SEE all these things on the page. But evidently I can’t. Thus, reading my work aloud has saved the day (and my readers’ sensibilities) more times than I can count.

Tip 9: It’s easy to become word-blind to our own work. The more important a piece is to you, the more important it is that you have it professionally edited before publishing it or sending it out.

Tip 10: Enjoy the process of drafting. Let loose! Freewrite, explore, ignore all the rules of grammar, spelling, style, and anything else your English teacher (or I) taught you. But once you’ve got what you want on the page, make sure to polish that diamond to a high shine—using any of the tips above.

See how smart you are?!

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Permission? Denied: A Frustrating Writing Prompt!

TAROT’S EMPEROR IS MY NEMESIS. Committed to authority, structure, systems, and patriarchy, he’s the STOP sign, the NO ACCESS barricade, the guy manning every single freakin’ security checkpoint. Ask him for permission, and your request is likely to be stamped: DENIED.

The Emperor makes the rules and hires minions to enforce them. He’s the senator voting on the speed-limit bill, which the police uphold. He’s the president of your homeowners’ association, who, having established how short you need to keep your grass, has his secretary send you threatening letters if it’s grown over a half-inch. He’s the manager of the hair salon at the far end of the waterfront, where there are no public restrooms, who instructs the receptionist no to let you in to use theirs—no matter that you’re about to pee your pants.

All of which is fine. I mean, someone’s got to keep chaos at bay. But, dammit, when I’m faced with one of the Emperor’s implacable minions? When I need something just one toenail across their seemingly arbitrary line? For instance, when the stern librarian turns down my request for a measly three-day extension on THE SECRET LIFE OF OWLS? Then, I’m not a fan. Nope.

(FRUSTRATING) WRITING PROMPT

Perhaps, like me, your character just wants an extension on a library loan—or permission to paint a butterfly mural on her garage. Or maybe she’s facing something more serious. Temporarily strapped, she might be seeking food assistance to tide her over. Or coverage for critical medical treatment. Or political asylum! Whatever her need, the resounding “no” she receives from the Emperor or one of his representatives may seem like the final, defeating word.

Unless she’s prepared to take matters into her own hands, that is.

So, what do you think? Do some brainstorming, pen in hand, about:

  • what your character might need,
  • what rides on her getting it,
  • whether she’ll buck authority if she has to,
  • and, if so (yay!) what bold steps she’ll take in her bid to govern her own life.
(IMPERIOUS) WRITING INSPIRATION

WENDY AND LUCY, 2008 drama, starring Michelle Williams, adapted from “Train Choir,” by Jon Raymond

BUCKING THE SARGE, by Christopher Paul Curtis

NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, by George Orwell

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

***

Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for kind permission to use the image of The Emperor from the RIDER-WAITE (SMITH) TAROT.

 

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