How a Book Writing Coach Critiques Your Book

Jamie Morris Writing CoachWhether your book writing coach calls it a “critique,” a “review,” or an “evaluation,” they mean the same thing. Your coach will read your work and give you their professional feedback on essential elements of your manuscript.

But wait! Does that sound scary?

For many writers, the idea of a critique—no matter what term we use to describe it—can be anxiety-producing. If you’re worried about sharing your work with a professional writing coach, here’s something to keep in mind. Your coach is not assessing your work to judge you, but to help you achieve your writing goals! As part of your book-writing team, your writing coach has only one objective—to support you.

To support you effectively, when you hire a book coach, the first thing they’ll want to do is evaluate your book-in-progress. It doesn’t matter how far along your book may be. You might only have an idea for a book. If so, that’s fine! In that case, your book coach will work with you to develop an outline or a synopsis from that initial concept. Whatever you have in hand—an idea, an outline, a partial draft, or just a few chapters—your new coach will want to get a feel for where you are in your book-writing process.

This initial critique will allow them to give you feedback on what’s working and what needs further thought. And it’s a great way to get the writing-coaching ball rolling in the right direction.

What your book writing coach looks for …

Writing a novel?

Specifically, if you’re writing a novel, your novel writing coach will probably ask you for a synopsis, a character list, a rough plot outline, and a sample chapter or two. From these materials, your coach will be able to review your story for significant story elements. They will want to know, is your pacing tight and suspenseful? Do your characters’ voices support the general tone of your story? Is your main character facing enough of a challenge to create their all-important internal arc?

You and your coach will discuss these and other aspects of your novel-writing craft after their review of your materials. From there, you’ll create a road map of the path you’ll take as you complete your novel.

Writing a memoir?

While writing a memoir is surprisingly similar to writing a novel in some respects, your memoir coach will first want to consider the scope of your story and its focus.

Memoir vs. autobiography: You see, a memoir differs from an autobiography in two ways. An autobiography considers the entirety of a person’s life—from birth up to time of writing. It will be written chronologically, start to finish, and may well include quite a bit of information about the writer’s parents and other family members.

A memoir, on the other hand, considers either a limited period in a writer’s life or focuses on a single aspect of their life over a longer period of time. Because of these limits, a memoir might be effectively written in any one of a number of non-chronological ways.

Therefore, when they are assessing your memoir concept, your writing coach will want to know the timeline you’ve planned to develop: For instance, where does your story start and stop? Does it cover just your high school years? Your first ten years of sobriety? Or the six months you were in rehab after your accident?

They’ll also be interested in understanding how you are “framing” your memoir. For example, are you focusing your story on a specific event—like the summer you were a ball girl for your local AA baseball team? Or are you writing about a trait from childhood that you overcame in adulthood—like a debilitating fear of dogs?! Your memoir’s scope and focus will determine the outline, so that’s where your coach will start their critique.

Writing a nonfiction book?

If you’re writing a nonfiction book—especially an instructional book, like a self-help or how-to title—a chapter by chapter outline is the most efficient way to convey the organization of your ideas to your nonfiction book coach. This outline will guide you in your drafting process—and it can also form the basis of a nonfiction book proposal, if you choose to create one.

Add in a sample chapter or two, and your nonfiction writing coach will be able to “hear” how you’re addressing your audience. From there, you and your coach are well on your way to tweaking what needs to be tweaked and getting a good, solid draft—or book proposal—done.

Accountability partner + cheerleader!

In addition to reading and responding to your writing, your coach will act as your accountability partner, creating a regular meeting schedule and offering assignments to keep your book moving forward. Your writing coach will also cheer you up when you feel discouraged and cheer you on as you make strides towards completing the very best book you can write!

If you need support in finding a book coach, check out this article on how to find a writing coach. Also, check out Should I Hire a Writing Coachin THE WRITER magazine. If you are considering hiring a book coach, I’d love to invite you to schedule a free writing consultation. Let’s see how I can help!

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