Posts Tagged ‘path to publication’

Writing Coaching for Older Writers

Writing coaching for older writers gives direction to writing dreams!

In the past week, I’ve been contacted by four writers, all in their sixties or seventies. Each of them is relatively new to writing. And they are all excited to finally embark on their long-held writing dreams. But where to start? When I offer writing coaching for older writers—perhaps like you?—I suggest we begin by exploring your wealth of experience, looking for the aspects that will most benefit you on your writing journey.

All your life lessons apply!

If you have reached your middle or later years without gaining literary traction, you may wonder, Is it too late for me, now? As a writing coach for older writers, I’ve learned that older writers may be much better-prepared for learning their craft than younger writers. Mastering the writing craft can take time. And as older writers (yup, me, too), we may have developed the patience that will help us onboard those important skills.

In fact, by fifty or sixty or seventy, many folks have learned how they learn best. We can capitalize on that knowledge to make the most of educational resources and opportunities.  For instance, will we do better with an online class or with personalized instruction? Or maybe we’ve found that we are actually autodidacts, able to teach ourselves what we need to know?

Writing coaching for older writers: habit patterns and perspective

As we get older, we get better acquainted with our own preferences. This awareness helps when we’re engaging in a writing project that may demand a long-term commitment from us. Knowing, for example, that we’re an inveterate night owl, not a lark, allows us to schedule our writing when we know we’ll be most productive.

And because our years have taught us more about what it means to be a human being, our work will be more meaningful and deeper than anything we could have written earlier in our lives.

First-time writers take heart

NEW YORK TIMESADVICE COLUMNIST ROXANE GAY has addressed concerns that newer or unpublished middle-aged-ish writers may have. She says, Throughout my 20s and most of my 30s, I was convinced I was never going to make it as a writer. My writing was constantly rejected, and I took the rejection personally, as one does. It is easy to fall prey to the idea that writing success is intrinsically bound to youth, she says.

Read more at Ask Roxane: Is It Too Late to Follow My Dreams?

But what about getting published?

THE GUARDIAN recently published an article about the opportunities for older women writers.   In it, Cherry Potts, the founder of the independent publisher Arachne Press, has much to say about the “ripple” opening doors for women over seventy.

She says, “There has been a sea change in publishers’ understanding and acceptance of older women’s experience and their voices, which are no longer dismissed as safe or cosy. It started with small presses like us but our ripple is now working through to the industry as a whole.”

In ON WRITING, Stephen King has something to say about older writers! “Agents, publishers, and editors are all looking for the next hot writer who can sell a lot of books and make lots of money … and not just the next hot young writer, either. Helen Santmyer was in a retirement home [in her eighties!] when she published AND LADIES OF THE CLUB. Frank McCourt was quite a bit younger [66] when he published ANGELA’S ASHES, but he was still no spring chicken.

Kit de Waal’s first novel, MY NAME IS LEON, was published when she was 56.

Harriet Doerr’s first novel, STONES FOR IBARRA, was published when she was 74 years old. It went on to win a National Book Award.

Then, there’s Sir Christopher Bland, who was 76 when his first novel, ASHES IN THE WIND, was published. Today, the Royal Society of Literature has established the RSL Christopher Bland Prize, to encourage the work of older writers. The £10,000 prize is awarded annually to an author who was fifty or older when they were first published.

Starting to write later in life? Writing coaching for older writers can help you get off to a great start!

Writing coaching inspiration with Jamie Morris, pictured smiling. If you’ve waited to explore your writing dream, you have likely seen many trends come and go in the world of literature. I’ve been coaching writers of all ages for over a dozen years. Let’s see if we can put my experience in the publishing industry to good use in the service of your long-deferred writing goals. Start by scheduling a free 30-minute consultation with me. You might also want to check out THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for kind permission to use the image of the Seven of Swords from the DRUIDCRAFT TAROT.

Writing Coaching Inspiration: One River Is Like Another River

Working with writers can be tricky. They’re on a wild and unpredictable journey. As a coach, I want to help—but sometimes a writer’s goals can prove out of their (current) reach. That’s when I reach deep into my bag of writing coaching inspiration. I need to pull out something that both acknowledges the hard truth they’re facing and offers reassurance that there are still fine opportunities likely to arise for them.

Recently, I read a beautiful ancient tale—one of discouragement followed by unlikely success. Told in Dianne Skafte’s LISTENING TO THE ORACLE, it’s the story of a Greek soldier who loses his way in enemy territory. He is supposed to meet up with his troop on the banks of a certain river. They plan to board a ship there and travel to a town friendly to their cause. Having hired a guide to help him get to his destination safely, the soldier is devastated to find he has been led to a different river!

He berates his guide, only to be met with a shrug—and this enigmatic response: “One river is like another river.” What? But in fact, appearing on the shores of this river is a small boat captained by a man who agrees to take the soldier back to the friendly town that was his original aim.

Once the soldier disembarks from the small boat in the town, he learns, to his horror, that the ship with his mates was captured and all aboard were killed.

Writing coaching inspiration

The soldier was not able to reach the river he aimed for. But he was guided to another river that carried him to safe harbor.

Similarly, when we set our sights on big writing goals, it may be that we can’t reach them—or not at this time. Whether we want to publish in a major magazine or attract an agent to represent us, our desired outcomes may be (temporarily) unattainable.

That’s when it’s time to scout out another river. Reset your goals. Aim to get published in a regional magazine, rather than in O Magazine. Agents can be tough to impress. Consider submitting your manuscript to small press editors instead. Match your target to your current abilities to meet it.

Fortunately, different from this Ancient Greek tale, no one is likely to die in the literary trenches. But when we’re rejected, it hurts. Still, it’s a wise Modern writer who will remember the motto of that Ancient Greek guide. One river is like another river. So look around. A boat you never imagined might appear on a river you didn’t notice. And you might find, ultimately, you are carried exactly where you want to go.

Need some clarity about your writing goals? A consultation with a top writing coach might help! Let’s chat.

Writing coaching inspiration with Jamie Morris, pictured smiling. Writing is a powerful and compelling endeavor. If you are setting goals but not meeting them, though, you might need a different approach—or more nuanced goals. With over a dozen years’ experience helping writers take their work to the next level, I might be able to show you how to make similar strides. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me. Also, check out THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

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Why Hire a Book Coach: Jen’s Story

Perhaps you’re wondering, Why hire a book coach? Jen’s story, below, will give you a novel writer’s first-hand experience of working with a professional book coach.

When Jen first contacted me, she’d completed a Young Adult (YA) novel and had already been under contract with a literary agent for a year. Unfortunately, the agent was not able to sell the book. The editors rejecting Jen’s manuscript said things like: “The plot was slow-moving,” “I found my interest waning by the third chapter,” and “I couldn’t quite connect with the main character.”

Finally, mutually frustrated, Jen and her agent parted ways. This brought Jen to a come-to-Jesus moment with her literary career—and led her to hire a writing coach. I’m delighted that coach was me! And I’m so happy to share Jen’s thoughts on our process together.

Why hire a book coach: Jen shares her story

If you’re a writer, you spend a lot of time in your own head. If you’re not a writer, that might sound weird to you, but trust me—it’s fun! There are people in there, and they’re doing interesting things: falling in love, learning magic, murdering their families. Writers’ heads hold maps of cities and castles and the location of quicksand. They’re populated by talking animals, ghosts who refuse to speak their needs clearly, and, maybe, if we’re really good planners, several generations of violent family trauma.

See? Fun!

Writers, however, aren’t content to hang around in their own brains by themselves forever. We writers want to show-n-tell the insides of our brains to the world. And we want the world to love what they see. And pay us for it.

So we sit down to our laptops and we type for many years. And then we send our manuscripts to our friends and family and wait for them to say they like it. And then we email our manuscripts to carefully researched agents in New York who we’re sure are going to love it. And then we die when we receive piles of rejection letters.

But we revive ourselves and do it again. And again. Maybe we do it three times before we stand in front of our haggard reflections and ask ourselves if we should stop—forever.

We don’t, though, either because we really loved show-n-tell (and we’re still mad that Mrs. Walsh mismanaged her time and missed our turn on the last week of second grade) or because there’s something in our bones that won’t let us stop.

When to hire a book coach

After all those rounds of rejection, we realize it’s time to do something different. If we’ve got several years of free time on our hands—not to mention a spare $50,000—maybe we go back to school for a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in writing.

If we don’t have that luxury—and I didn’t—I highly recommend hiring a book coach.

If you’re intimidated by the cost of a writing coach, you might want to research the cost of a three-credit graduate class on novel writing. Then consider the fact that you’d be sharing your professor with your classmates. Not only that, but your class will likely end long before you finish a first draft, let alone your second.

When I found Jamie, I was in the middle of my MA in Special Education, and it put the cost in perspective. By the age of 35, I had invested tens of thousands of dollars on myself as a teacher and only a few hundred dollars on myself as a writer. I decided it was time to change that.

Why hire a book coach if you have a finished manuscript

I came to Jamie with a finished manuscript—my first foray into writing adult fiction, rather than my seemingly unmarketable YA novels. But no matter how many times I revised it, it wasn’t working.

We decided to go back to the beginning of the process—back to story concept. That meant I had to trust Jamie with the raw contents of my brain, and it wasn’t easy. Jamie, however, is a big fan of raw brain. She’s an idea zombie, if you will—deeply interested in the process. I learned to trust her to help me untangle the contents of my gray matter and weave them into a cohesive story, one that connects with readers.

Not show-n-tell

Writing a novel is inherently a lonely process. While it may not be show-n-tell, writing is a way to make a human connection. (Maybe AI is going to write the next novel. And maybe it will be entertaining. But I daresay readers want satisfying connections with characters, understanding that another human designed that character and her journey.)

Leo Tolstoy said, “Art is a microscope which the artist fixes on the secrets of his soul, and shows to people these secrets which are common to all.” Writing 400 pages of the secrets of your soul just to receive a “no thanks” earns you membership in an especially sad club.

You start to wonder if there’s something wrong with you—something about your secrets that really are uncommon.

And then you meet Jamie, who tells you that’s crazy, to get back to work. The issue isn’t that you’re too weird, she’ll say. It’s that you’re not being weird enough. From there, you discover the secret to connecting to readers is mastering the craft. It’s a skill. It’s hard work. That narrative structure, the Hero’s Journey—the one that’s been in literally every story ever since the dawn of human language—it exists for a reason.

No, it’s not easy to master. But Jamie is a plotting expert with a keen eye for characterization. She’s a voracious reader with a book recommendation for exactly what you need to work on this month. She’s a cheerleader and a tough-love distributor. Family and friends will pretend to like your work when it’s bad. Jamie will not. She’s your personal trainer who’s going to tell you that you need to work harder, but she’s also going to make sure you’re not wasting your valuable time working harder on the wrong things.

Welcome to the book coach reality show

Working with Jamie hasn’t exactly been the show-n-tell I’ve wished for; it’s more like being a contestant on one of those reality TV shows. You know. The ones where the straight-shooting declutterer holds your hand as you tearfully toss four of your five chipped Teflon pans into a distended garbage bag. Just like that host, though, Jamie reassures you that, somewhere, behind those dutch ovens and glass casseroles, there’s going to be a story people—editors included—will love.

And I believe her.

—Jen Russ

Struggling to get published? A top book coach might help! Let’s chat.

Writing coach Jamie Morris, pictured smiling, can help you learn how to self-publish your book. I love story—and the characters that live through their stories. I’ve helped many novelists develop their plots in ways that make them more engaging and more marketable. If you’re working on a novel and wonder how to make it more successful, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me. Also, check out THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

Writing Young Adult Fiction

If you’re writing Young Adult fiction, also known as YA, you’ve probably already created an angsty, yet sympathetic, teenage main character (MC). Teen boy against wall writing young adult fictionWhat else do you need? Well, when we’re writing Young Adult fiction, we first need to give our angsty MC a problem to solve. We’ll also want to bestow upon them a skill to develop and an inner need to resolve.

In addition, we’ll want to surround our MC with a cast of characters—teenage and otherwise—who complicate or obstruct the MC’s goals. These might include a love interest (or two, for conflict), a mentor, and a sidekick/best pal. You’re also likely to need an antagonist (who may end up being a friend) and a “precious child” (a character dear to the MC, whose vulnerability puts the MC’s goals in jeopardy).

Be sure these characters have agendas that run counter to your MC’s. These competing objectives will provide a solid field upon which your MC can play to get the win.

YA writer published and awarded!

The above ideas may seem (unbearably?) clichéd to your own inner rebellious teen. But we can always at least explore the conventions of our genre. Then, we can see what of those tried-and-true ideas will serve our own story best.

My Young Adult fiction writer client Melody Maysonet found a balance. In her now award-winning YA novel A WORK OF ART, Maysonet skillfully incorporates YA conventions into her fresh, edgy tale of an art student on the brink.Writing Young Adult fiction book cover A Work of Art

Melody writes, Jamie, Thank you for the inspiration and knowledge you bestowed on me during the writing of the first draft. Not only that, but you gave me a killer critique for my revision. I revised based on your feedback, so the manuscript that got sold reflects your amazing instincts. Thank you so much.

Writing a YA novel? I’m a young adult fiction fan—and a top writing coach. I can help!

Book coach Jamie Morris can help you writing young adult fiction Morris can help.As a lover of YA, myself, and as a professional book coach, I can help you see the path for writing a young adult novel. Schedule a free initial consultation. And check out THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.” 

 

Two of Coins, Your Book Coach

When Ella called, upset that daily life was eating up her writing time, I knew just where to look for advice. Woman juggling two coins as book coach for balance“If tarot’s Two of Coins were your book coach,” I said, “she’d show you just how to keep all your priorities in play.”

The Two of Coins (aka the Two of Pentacles) has made multitasking a fine art! She juggles resources, makes time for multiple projects, and just generally finds balance amid her myriad obligations. Bottom line? There are only so many hours in the day, and it’s up to her to make the most of each.

So much to do!

As a book writer, Ella, like so many of us, struggles to make her time s-t-r-e-t-c-h. She’d like to work on her novel, sure. But she’d also like to help her daughter with her science homework, take the dog for a run, cook something nutritious for dinner, clean the bathroom—and finish the dratted report her boss tossed on her desk at the last minute!

Can she—or you, or me!—get it all done? Maybe? On a good day, perhaps. But the truth is that for many of us, a busy day shoves our writing to the curb.

Book coaching for busy folks

Out of necessity—life!!—the Two of Coins has developed five writing coaching strategies for herself. She uses them to keep her life in balance and get her novel done! These strategies can help you keep your book project alive and spinning with all the other plates you’ve got in the air.

That’s why, if you find yourself in a similar pinch as Ella, I recommend hiring the Two of Coins as your book coach!

Strategies for book writers

1) First things first: When the Two of Coins gets up each morning, the first thing she does  is grab her tablet and jam out 250 words on her novel. These are not (necessarily) good words. She might try out a bit of dialogue or describe a scene. But good or not, these words set her brain to thinking about her novel for the rest of the day!

2) Catch as catch can: My admirable client Jessica works on her novel in the pick-up line at her kids’ school. A couple of times a week, she grabs a half hour when all four kids are doing homework to add another scene or two. Be like Jessica. She makes steady progress in the spaces in-between.

3) Make a date: Find a critique partner whose life is as busy as yours. Meet monthly to exchange pages—and complain about how little time you have to write! This strategy, based on accountability and camaraderie, will give you both someone who cares that you are writing and who sympathizes with how hard you worked to get that writing done.

4) Buy or barter time: If you have kids—or an aged parent, or dogs, or a yard that needs mowing—could you hire a neighbor to help? Or exchange your skills for their time? If some neighborly support buys you even an hour or two a week for writing, you are the big winner.

5) Keep a book diary: End your day by jotting down notes about your book. Maybe you had a thought about plot or structure during your busy day. Or maybe your morning writing gave you a jumping-off place for tomorrow. Spend ten minutes before lights out noting your progress—and where you want to go next.

The Two of Coins, your book coach, gives you a high five—and says, “Keep going!”

Once you get the hang of prioritizing your book, you’ll discover your own strategies to help you get ‘er done. Keeping in mind that the best lives are full to the brim with family, friends, and good creative work, we can always rely on the Two of Coins’ book coaching to show us how to get it all done.

Would you like some insight from a top book coach?

As a professional book coach, I’ve helped many writers create a workable life/writing balance. Maybe I can help you!Jamie Morris Writing Coach Schedule your free consultation.and take a peek  at the article Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

The beautiful image of the Two of Pentacles comes from THE MODERN WITCH TAROT DECK, published by Sterling Ethos.

Tarot Writing Coach: Four of Coins

Tarot writing coach? What?! Why?! Although I’m a professional writing coach, I still need the occasional new insight—for myself and my clients. I’ve found tarot’s 78 intriguing images can definitely inspire us! When writers need an out-of-the-box solution, tarot can act as a writing coach and help them find fresh ideas.

Tarot writing coach to the rescue!

For instance, when my memoir writing client Jeanine wondered why she wasn’t getting more traffic on her blog—which houses lovely vignettes from her life—we consulted the cards to see if they might offer an angle we hadn’t considered.

Although Jeanine was in the early stages of her book-writing process, she knew she intended to publish her memoir. So, building a base of engaged readers was important for her. That was why she’d started her blog. But it wasn’t garnering the interest she’d hoped it would.

Looking for further ideas, we drew the Four of Coins from the Anna.K Tarot. A person sneaks a gold coin to show tarot as a writing coachThis card reframed Jeanine’s issue perfectly! Using the image as a metaphor for Jeanine’s situation, we saw that she has the literary goods (the coins), but doesn’t want to share them!

Although she is posting on her blog, she’s reluctant to publish her work on any other social media platforms. Like the figure in this card, it’s almost as if Jeanine is trying to hide the gold of her writing from others’ eyes.

A writing coach’s solution

Once we saw Jeanine’s dearth of blog visitors from tarot’s point of view, we realized the issue could be resolved by her sharing her beautiful work more widely. For advice on how Jeanine might do so, I turned to author and artist Austin Kleon. In his book SHOW YOUR WORK! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered, Kleon shares a bevy of options—beyond the blog—for an aspiring memoir writer to choose from.

(If you, like Jeanine, are ready to try some low-risk strategies for sharing your writing, I’ve written an article that discusses Kleon’s ideas and includes several of my own. Take a glance at Publish Your Writing Now: Whisper, Shout, Hit Send!”)

What else could the Four of Coins have to say?

If the Four of Coins were your writing coach, it might suggest you share your resources with other writers. For example, you could host a monthly critique group for writers who need support. Maybe you could review a friend’s manuscript and give her feedback. Or what if you read parts of your work-in-progress at a nursing home or senior center?

This card’s bottom line? Share the gold of your writing and your experience. It will benefit both you and those in your writing world.

Would you like to discuss ways to get your writing out into the world with a top writing coach?

I’d love the chance to hear about your story and offer you some support from my many years of experience helping writers become authors. If you’d like to chat with me, Jamie Morris Writing Coachschedule a free consultation. Also, check out this article: Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

 

Thanks to Llewellyn Worldwide for kind permission to share this image from the Anna.K Tarot.

Publish Your Writing Now: Whisper, Shout, Hit Send!

PUBLISH YOUR WRITING! 

WHILE WRITING CAN BE A FORM OF SELF-EXPLORATION, it is also a way to communicate our thoughts and stories with others. That’s why it’s important to publish your writing.

About this, my novelist pal MK Swanson says,

There is no writer without a reader. Writing is a performance art. When I was little, I used to make up stories that my girlfriends and I would act out—sometimes with puppets, but usually with our bodies. One time, Kori and I pretended to be in the Nautilus, being dragged down into the depths by a great sea creature, a story inspired directly and entirely by the sound the washing machine made as it shifted cycles.

We performed as if someone was watching and applauding. I thought I was the most talented, funniest writer in the world, as I directed my friend and myself to run around the porch, captaining the submarine. Now, when I try to make something new, and I don’t think anyone will ever see it, it falls flat. An audience pulls art into the third—or maybe the fourth—dimension.

I agree with MK. When I write with an audience in mind, it gives my work a sense of purpose—traction, focus—that it lacks when I am writing only for myself. But going public with our work can feel daunting. Here’s the good news: You can publish your writing in a wide variety of ways.

 

publish your writingIn SHOW YOUR WORK! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (see a list of those ten ways, below*), author Austin Kleon discusses the many benefits of sharing our creative work with others—especially how doing so can make us “findable.” Reviewer D. Bivins says of the book, “This is a refreshing kick in the butt about believing in yourself as a creative person and jumping in with both feet. The basic idea is to put yourself out there even if you (or your work) are a work in progress.

And while we may not currently be availing ourselves of pre-Covid in-person opportunities to show our work (remember open mics and free, monthly bookstore writing groups?!), there are myriad contact-free ways to offer our writing to the world.

You could always start a blog, join an online writing group, or send out stories to literary contests—all great options for sharing your work. You might also try one or more of the following suggestions if you’re seeking fresh avenues to show your writing to others:

Postcard poems
Every August, there’s an event called the Postcard Poetry Fest. Essentially, once you register at the site, you’re sent a list of addresses. You then write a (possibly terrible) poem each day for August’s 31 days and mail it to one of the 31 recipients on your list.

Can’t wait until August? A friend and I used to declare an arbitrary period our own personal Postcard Poems month. Then, for the next 31 days, we would email daily mini-poems back and forth. Often goofy, sometimes poignant, our “poems” generally started with a place name (fictional or not) and were written from the perspective of an imagined persona who was there visiting. Here’s an example:

Dear Dolores,

I’m in Quincy, Alabama, and the almond trees are in high bloom. So are my allergies. My nose, red like a rose, won’t win me any suitors. But my days and nights are full enough without thoughts of another to cloud my view of the stars.

Wish you were here.
Myra

Throw a Zoom! prose-and-poetry party
Back in the day (basically, pre-February 2020), friends and I used to gather regularly to eat, chat, and read our work to one another. Zoom! makes this even easier, now. No need to arrange a ride—or even wear proper pants. Just find your tech-iest friend and get them to make it so.

Publish on Medium
If you don’t know about Medium, I’m about to make you very happy. Medium is a platform for writers. And readers. Here’s their mission statement:

Medium is not like any other platform on the internet. Our sole purpose is to help you find compelling ideas, knowledge, and perspectives. We don’t serve ads—we serve you, the curious reader who loves to learn new things. Medium is home to thousands of independent voices [um, that means “independent writers,” which, by definition, could include you!], and we combine humans and technology to find the best reading for you—and filter out the rest.

Interested in writing for Medium? Start here.

Submit to THE SUN MAGAZINE‘s Readers Write
A well-regarded, ad-free, glossy print and online monthly, THE SUN magazine not only publishes poetry, interviews, short memoir, short fiction, and fabulous black-and-white photographs, they also open their pages to their readers!

In their Readers Write section, they publish twenty or so short nonfiction pieces each month. These pieces are written to themes (like “ghosts” and “getting started”) listed on the website. As their Readers Write submission guidelines say, Topics are intentionally broad in order to give room for expression…. Writing style isn’t as important as thoughtfulness and sincerity. There is no word limit, but we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the section before you submit.

And if your piece is chosen for publication, you’ll receive a six-month subscription to the magazine!

More ways to publish your writing

You’ll find more ideas and resources in A Writing Coach’s 5 Simple Tips for Sharing Your Writing on Social Media. Choose an approach from those choices, or from any of the ones listed above. But whatever way suits you, do as Austin Kleon suggests and be “open, generous, brave, and productive [… and] share something small every day.”

“Publish your writing” doesn’t have to mean getting a three-book deal with a major publisher! It can simply mean “make your work public.” Sharing your ideas and work with the world in whatever way appeals to you can make you feel more empowered as a writer and more involved as a citizen of the world.

* Here are Kleon’s ten ways:

  1. You don’t have to be a genius.
  2. Think process, not product.
  3. Share something small every day.
  4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.
  5. Tell good stories.
  6. Teach what you know.
  7. Don’t turn into human spam.
  8. Learn to take a punch.
  9. Sell out.
  10. Stick around.

Writing coach

If you want to publish your writing, I can help! I’m available for book and writing coaching! Also, check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Is It Too Late? Writing in Our Middle and Later Years: Perspective of a Writing Coach

AS A WRITING COACH, I OFTEN HEAR “I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO WRITE!” I was just waiting for the kids to leave the nest (or to be able to work part-time, or to retire, or …). I hear this or some variation from aspiring authors pretty regularly. And I understand! Writing takes a certain amount of time and quiet and concentration—and all of these are in short supply when we’re raising kids and working full-time. But once the day comes—kids successfully launched, work obligations managed—and you’re ready to get serious about that long-held writing dream, do you worry you’ve left it too late?

What you know now will help you as a late-bloomer writer!

Writing, as much as any art form I know, has a long curve. I have come to learn as a writing coach that no matter when we start, we’ve got to dig in and learn the craft, as well as figure out our own best approach to getting words on the page reliably. In later life, we may have developed more patience for both of these tasks. In fact, we may even have an edge over our younger selves!

At fifty or sixty, we quite likely have a better sense of how we learn than we did earlier in life. Will we get more from an online class? One-on-one instruction? Or taking a deep dive into a pile of books on the subject? Or do we do best when we just jump in, accruing knowledge on an as-needed basis as we go?

In mid-life (or later), we are also better acquainted with our own habits than we may once have been. Such self-awareness is invaluable when we’re engaging in a pursuit that requires the type of long-term commitment writing asks of us. For instance, by this point, we might know we are absolutely a morning person, not a night owl. That means we can create a schedule that has us writing at our most productive time of day.

We might have also learned strategies that keep us from spinning our wheels. For instance, we once may have dug in our heels, wasting precious energy trying to wrestle a problem into submission. But now, we’re more likely to let the problem go, to step away and take a walk or a nap, understanding that sort of soft focus is more likely to bring us to an elegant solution.

Even more important? With a few extra years under our belt, we understand more about what it means to be human than we did in our youth or early adulthood. And this, above everything, will make what we write today all the more valuable than what we would-a could-a should-a written a few yesterdays ago.

Get inspired by older writers!

In ON WRITING, Stephen King says, … agents, publishers, and editors are all looking for the next hot writer who can sell a lot of books and make lots of money … and not just the next hot young writer, either; Helen Santmyer was in a retirement home [in her eighties!] when she published AND LADIES OF THE CLUB. Frank McCourt was quite a bit younger [66] when he published ANGELA’S ASHES, but he was still no spring chicken.

Taking a quick spin around the web, I discovered a few more notable, late-publishing authors to inspire us who have left the art of writing for our retirement years.

Grace Burrowes always kept a diary, but the best-selling romance author was more reader than writer—until she wrote her first novel when her daughter left for college.

Anna Sewell, author of BLACK BEAUTY, began writing at the age of 51.

Kit de Waal’s first novel, MY NAME IS LEON, was published when she was 56.

Norman MacLean, who wrote A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, started writing at 70.

Harriet Doerr’s first novel, STONES FOR IBARRA, was published when she was 74 years old. It went on to win a National Book Award.

Then, there’s Sir Christopher Bland, who was 76 when his first novel, ASHES IN THE WIND, was published. Today, the Royal Society of Literature has established the RSL Christopher Bland Prize, to encourage the work of older writers. The £10,000 prize is awarded annually to an author who was fifty or older when they were first published.

And if all that doesn’t assure you that you are in good company no matter how old (or young) you are when you first get the writing bug, there’s a great article in THE NEW YORKER, by Malcolm Gladwell, titled “Late Bloomers: Why Do We Equate Genius with Precocity?” that might do the trick.

You might also like a short post I wrote a couple of years ago called “Is It Too Late: Writing Practice.” It features an encouraging article on late-blooming writers by author and literary advice columnist Roxanne Gay.

Writing coach

Are you thinking why should I hire a writing coach? 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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Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for kind permission to use the image of the Seven of Swords from the DRUIDCRAFT TAROT.

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10 Writing Coaching Tips for Teens

Do you want to encourage a young writer? Here are 10 writing coaching tips for teen and preteen writers.

A young person you know may have a clever way with words or be an off-again/on-again journal keeper. They may write song lyrics or poetry or put on shows with their friends. Kids that gravitate to these kinds of activities might bloom into full-fledged writers with some support. You might test the waters by sharing these writing coaching tips for teens.

Of course, young folks might just noodle with writing—among many other creative activities—for a year or two and then move on. No matter. Any time spent developing the art of putting words on the page is likely to benefit them throughout their academic and professional careers!

Here’s a backpack-full of great writing coaching tips for teens and preteen—and some resources to get them started:

1) Comic books count! Do you know there’s a huge comic-book culture out there? writing coaching tips for teensI bet your teen writer does! Whether a younger writer wants to team up with an artist pal or pen both drawings and text themselves, comic books could be a great way for them to tell stories. Check out Little Scribe’s article “Comic Books: A Powerful Study Tool for Teens.” 

If your teen is more ambitious, they might want to dive into writing a graphic novel. Like comic books, graphic novels rely on images to tell half the story. However, graphic novels typically tell longer, more fully developed narratives than comic books. Penguin Books has a helpful graphic-novel guide titled You Can Do a Graphic Novel.”

2) Writing fan fiction can help a young writer get their novel-writing feet wet! Fan fiction writers enter already-created fictional worlds—that of Harry Potter and crew, for example—and write their own stories based on the characters and settings in those worlds, then share their work online, building community with other fan-fic writers.

A surprising number of professional novelists got their start as fan-fic writers. Read more about this phenom in THE NEW YORKER article “The Promise and Potential of Fan Fiction.”  HuffPost article “Fanfiction: A Guide for Parents” offers a different perspective on this teen-centric writing form.

3) Virtual or actual diary- or journal-keeping gives a kid a place to dream on the page, to hear themselves think in that slightly different way that writing just for oneself produces. And the self-trust journaling builds will serve as a foundation for all their other writing opportunities, as well.

You might want to gift a teen with a physical diary or a beautifully bound journal. Or you could recommend they try an online journal platform. Penzu is just one example. On their site, they say, Whether you’re looking for a tool to record your daily emotions and activities in a reflective journal, keep track of milestones in a food diary, or even record your dreams in a dream journal, Penzu has you covered.

4) Many magazines invite young writers to submit their work. STONE SOUP is a literary magazine and website written and illustrated by kids through age thirteen. EMBER is a journal whose submission guidelines are open to authors and poets age ten and up. Print magazine TEEN INK says, Whether you’re interested in poetry, sports, movie reviews, or fiction, send us your work and let your voice be heard! And then there’s ONE TEEN STORY, an award-winning quarterly literary magazine that features the work of today’s best teen writers.

5) Did you know that NaNoWriMo has a young writers’ program? Yup! Through that program, National Novel Writing Month offers younger folks the chance to dig deep and produce a full draft of a new novel in a single month! As they say, Our Young Writers Program (YWP) supports under-eighteen writers and K-12 educators as they participate in our flagship event each November, and take part in smaller writing challenges year-round.

YWP invites participants to set their word-count goal and draft their novel right on the site. The program also offers support from published authors. Sound good? You might want to buddy up with a teen writer this November. You can root for one another as you complete your daily word counts and push toward THE END!

6) Websites for kid writers abound with inspiration and creative fuel! For instance,  UNDERLINED  presents writing prompts, authorial advice, and literary community—all geared toward the young writer. Wattpad goes a step further. Here, according to BRIGHTLY, teens can find and follow favorite authors and release their own works as serial novels. This platform also helps young writers find an audience among its 25 million+ members! 

BRIGHTLY also recommends Tumblr, pointing out that this blogging platform … doubles as a go-to for young literary enthusiasts, bookworms, and those in need of some writing motivation. Some to check out: The Writer’s Helpers (for advice on everything from grammar to plot); Writing Prompts; and John Green’s Tumblr (the Tumblr account of YA author John Green, which is just fun and inspiring).

7) It’s exciting to discover books that inspire young writers. I’ve listed three.

WRITE YOURSELF A LANTERN: Featuring lines from Elizabeth Acevedo’s THE POET X among its pages, this full-color, beautifully designed journal is perfect for readers, long-time writers, those trying their hand at poetry, or anyone with a voice all their own.

JUST WRITE: Here’s How!, by Walter Dean Myers, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, includes an afterword by Ross Workman, Walter’s teen coauthor of KICK, and covers Walter’s six-box and four-box outlines; excerpted pages from his own notebooks; and writing tips from both Walter and Ross.

THE FRUIT BOWL PROJECT, by Sarah Durkee, describes a fictional, yet still inspiring situation: The kids in 8th Grade Writer’s Workshop are awestruck when rock superstar Nick Thompson comes to talk about writing. Nick, known for his lyrics, tells the kids his secret: A song is just a bowl of fruit—one must figure out how to paint it. Nick gives the kids two weeks to tell an interesting story, reflecting his or her style. And so the Fruit Bowl Project begins. Rap, poetry, monologue, screenplay, haiku, fairy tale—and more.

8) Some YouTube videos offer advice-filled snippets specifically for young writers. 

11 Writers: Advice for Young Writers (features Patti Smith, Jonathan Franzen, and Umberto Eco!)

Shaelin Writes: Advice for Teen Writers: What I Wish I’d Known

Margaret Atwood’s Top 5 Writing Tips: In this National Centre for Writing video, Atwood is interviewed by two teen writers.

How to Become an Author and a Good Writer, by J.K. Rowling.

16 Tips for Young Writers, by Hannah Lee Kidder, Writer and Other Stuff

9) Programs for kid writers offer community and support. From summer writing camps to online workshops, there are many options to help a young writer take their craft to the next level. A few of these include Writopia Labs: based in NYC, a team of published authors, produced playwrights, and passionate administrators champion Writopia’s unique approach to creative youth development. Education Unlimited’s Writing Summer Camps for High School Students offers the Emerging Writers Institute, a two-week creative writing camp program to develop students’ imaginative writing across genres. Brave Writer emphasizes the support a home-schooling parent can give a young writer—but many tips and resources are applicable to any young person trying to move their writing skills ahead. 

10) I’ll end with a single entry from writing guru Jane Friedman, publisher of THE HOT SHEET, a newsletter on the publishing industry, columnist for PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, professor with The Great Courses (which released her 24-lecture series, HOW TO PUBLISH YOUR BOOK), and author of THE BUSINESS OF BEING A WRITER.

If you are looking for more writing coaching tips for teens, Jane knows her stuff. Here’s a little bit of it for kid writers: Writing Advice for Children and Teens, in which she offers pithy advice and invites writers John Green, Ira Glass, and Ta-Nehisi Coates to weight in, too. Together, these fine writers share some simple but deep truths—exactly the sort of truths we need to guide us as writers, whether we’re young … or not so young anymore.

Writing coach

Looking for additional writing coaching tips for teens or 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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Photo by Brecht Bug, used via Creative Commons license.

A Freelance Editor’s 5 Tips to Getting the Most from Your FREE Sample Edit!

TOM WALLACE IS A SAVVY EDITOR and an extraordinary ghost writer. I asked him if he’d be willing to share a useful nugget from his wide experience in the world of professional writing—and he delivered the goods!

The Sample Edit

Tom Wallace

Shopping for a freelance editor can be a nail-biter. You know you need one, but they have to be the right one. You want an editor who not only knows the principles of editing backward and forward but has the sensitivity and perception to edit your voice, to get what you’re saying. One of the most important tools to use in this epic search is the sample edit.

There are two kinds of sample edit. The first is the paid sample, usually of a good chunk of your writing—say, your opening two chapters or initial twenty pages. This is, frankly, not a popular choice, because, if you’re getting four paid samples, this search could get a bit costly.

The second type is free, so that’s what we’ll focus on in this post. Most freelance editors will be happy to do a free sample edit. They’ll jump at the opportunity to prove they’ve got the chops you’re looking for.

5 Tips to Getting the Most from a Sample Edit

Tip #1: A free sample will be about five pages. Get a sample of this length from three or four editors, so you have enough comparison material to make an informed choice between them. Have all your prospective editors work on exactly the same material—which should be the first five pages of your book. (Indeed, the three most important parts of your book are the first sentence, the first paragraph, and the first page. What’s in the beginning constitutes your best hope—quite likely your only hope—of hooking a reader.)

Tip #2: This sample should be done in Microsoft Word with the Track Changes function turned on, allowing you to see every revision and margin comment made by each editor.

Tip #3: Editors might deal with any number of issues: wordiness, spelling, punctuation, character development, pace, etc. So comparing these few sample edits can be very enlightening.

Look for things in the text like deletions of repeated words or ideas, the rearrangement of sentences and re-punctuation of dialogue, and the solving of grammatical problems like dangling modifiers. If two or three editors agree about the majority of these issues and one does not—well, then it’s time to remember what you learned on SESAME STREET: one of these editors is not like the others.

Also, if editors are revising for style, which does the best job of polishing your work without obliterating your voice. Are they really adding value, or are they just changing things to change them?

Tip #4: Look at the margin comments. These may contain information about why something was changed, suggestions to you about what you might add, or questions meant to clarify your meaning or clarify an idea in the editor’s head that will help her do good work on your material, should you decide to work with her.

Tip #5: Finally, if you don’t understand a choice an editor has made, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember that each editor is essentially auditioning for a part in the play that is your writing life. If they grumble at the idea of answering questions—or communicating with you in anyway—they shouldn’t be in your play.

Sample edits rock. They’re one of the best tools you have in your search for a talented editor.

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Thanks so much to Tom for sharing the ins and outs of getting a sample edit. Want to learn more about working with a freelance editor? Contact Tom Wallace!

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Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review!
Want to know more about hiring a writing coach? Click to read Should I Hire a Writing Coach in THE WRITER magazine.

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