Meeting a writing coach and feeling a bit disheartened

shamguy4

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So I’ve been trying seriously to write a novel now for almost 7 years. It was an on and off thing until i got older, got a job and made a serious block of time for it daily. I've been on this forum since I was around 18! I am now 32. time flies! I've grown up and learned a lot about the world and the novel I started in my 20's has expanded and changed quite a lot.. I finally broke through and wrote a couple chapters until I hit a large plot hole and went back to the drawing board but I fixed that recently and am moving forward again.
I know 70% of my plot and I’m almost there! For me it has been about plotting and plotting. I fear pantsering even now...

Recently, on a Facebook group a person reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in having a writing coach. The first session would be free. I figured it couldn’t hurt. Why not?

So she set me up with a woman who has written and published two books. I was hoping to hear about her writing process. Unfortunately I walked away from the meeting feeling a bit disheartened.

Within 10 minutes, I could tell something was wrong. I must’ve rubbed her the wrong way. I know I mentioned some books that I liked and disliked. Perhaps one of the ones I disliked was special to her. Regardless she began by saying that my book cannot fall into the two categories it is currently in. Fantasy and Sci-fi. Every so often as she spoke she would give a high shrill laugh with her eyes closed and shake her head as if, "heres another aspiring author idiot. Just like the rest of them..."

My book takes place in a futuristic setting, however some people still use magic, an old form of technology. she said there wont be readers for that. It's either sci-fi or fantasy not really both. I argued that all the mainstream stories out there combine the two a lot. Star wars has the force, Marvel movies are big and they are basically futuristic heroes with powers. I'm quite sure my story will find an audience. I set out to write a book that I would want to read, and I enjoy the mainstream stories out there. My goal is to write a good story and then worry about those things afterwards. Besides I am quite sure fantasy and sci-fi is "writing to market" as she says.

Then I told her I have 3 point of views. This upset her greatly. Again she laughed and made a dirty face like I had let a turd simply drop out of my backside. She said I should stick with one point of view as a beginner writer. I'm not exactly about to change my whole book because I am a beginner. All the characters are important at this point. It should be noted that while I have 3 points of view, I have one main character. the other point of views are secondary and only have a few chapters each.

The three point of views are: my protagonist, a kidnapped girl, and the antagonist's sidekick. The sidekick is only 2-3 chapters and lets us have a glimpse of what the antagonist is up to. Sort of teaser chapters. One in the prologue and two others later on. The kidnapped girl came about on its own and she has a small story arc thats quite exciting. I liked the game of thrones books because of the idea of having a few main characters, but I found it difficult to know who to root for. In my book there is a clear protagonist with some side characters weaved in. I was happy.

Then she discussed how my book MUST follow the three act structure. I'm not sure it does. Every story has a beginning, middle and end. However I found that trying to stick to a rigid format made the book seem stale and forced. For me it's about creating conflict as soon as possible and adding fuel to the fire as we go. Eventually everything will get resolved in the end. In hindsight maybe the book will fall into a three act structure, however I am not thinking about that and I can't see some of my favorite books working that way. I also read books on writing (Stephen kings, and a few others) and I like watching Brandon Sanderson clips on youtube. I find myself agreeing a lot with the things he says and he doesn't say you need to follow anything rigidly.
At some point she just began to shake her head "no" for the remainder of the zoom call. Her face said "this call was a mistake and a waste of my time." :/

She asked me if I would be traditionally publishing or self publishing and I said I have not gotten there yet. However I graduated in graphic design and know how to use inDesign seriously so I might give self publishing a try. I also know where I can hire some illustrators for the cover.
At this she almost died of laughter as she bounced up and down on her chair that squeaked away in agreement. The very idea of me trying to self publish! Now there's a good laugh!

"Sweety! If you want to be part of the professional world of writing you better hire someone to do the publishing for you. You can self publish, but please hire a professional. I'm just trying to help you here." She said, her face full of sadness and sympathy. "You don't want your book and cover to look like what I see in those... those silly forums and facebook groups!"

She has not read a word of my book. All I did was tell her what it's about. She seems to think it sounded ok, although her face was telling a very different story.

I may have animated her a bit more than she really was in the text :D.
So am I crazy? Should I be removing some characters and change the story? Am I trying to fly before I can walk or something? Is it bad to have magic and science mixed? Can I self publish? Why am I suddenly doubting my entire book....
 

Vladd67

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You say she has written and published two books, do you know what kind of books they are? Or how she got them published?
 

.matthew.

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I'd say there was a market for the genre cross. While I don't like how Sci-fi and Fantasy are always grouped together, they do tend to attract the same readers a lot of the time. In fact, I read the Starship Mage series and enjoyed those, which were literally magic in space.

I can't think much of anything she said without readng your book either. I'm fairly certain that if you described a not quite standard book it would always sound a bit weird. Books need to be read before they can be critiqued.
 

shamguy4

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In fact, I read the Starship Mage series and enjoyed those, which were literally magic in space.
My book is literally magic in space too!! Sort of...

I’m not sure I should mention her name or books because I’m not out to hurt this person. It could just be she made assumptions about my novel based on past people she has spoken to. The truth is I am also very opinionated about the books I like and the type of writing I think makes a good book. I think we all are.

However she could’ve been a little nicer and helped my dream instead of squishing it
 

ckatt

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I'm sorry too hear you had a bad experience. I can't offer any advice myself as I have no experience with writing coaches but your story reminded me of this article by Cat Rambo, former president of the SFWA. You might find it helpful.
“Six Questions to Ask A Writing Coach” by Cat Rambo https://link.medium.com/zq44jrLg7ab
 

Matchu

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I'm sorry to hear of your experience @shamguy4 .

It's difficult to know what to make of the tutor's comments.

Some of what she says falls into the realm of the 'accepted truths' in the big world of publishing/marketing/and writing. And I have immense respect for romance writers, by way of an example, who can repeat their own formula [of a romantic happy ending], sell themselves and their product to a publisher, in turn, nurturing an audience group...

It's amazing.

I almost grasped method reading Bernard Cornwell's first novel, a mystery aboard a yacht. You feel the writer's pain drawing the story around to a conclusion...and once he's done it that first time...

...

A lot of people are very earnest about self-publishing. That's not my area of interest.

As a hobby that might make some money, I think solitary writing time is best balanced with community time. I hope you have written short stories as well as the long one. I would consider joining the Open University A215 course. This gave me massive personal pleasure, satisfaction, validation ultimately.

Good luck
 

The Judge

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So am I crazy? Should I be removing some characters and change the story? Am I trying to fly before I can walk or something? Is it bad to have magic and science mixed? Can I self publish? Why am I suddenly doubting my entire book....
  • You're not crazy.
  • There's no reason at this stage to remove any characters or change the story -- but it might be necessary in the second or later drafts depending on whether what you've done works.
  • You may be trying to fly before you can walk -- but nobody will be able to tell if you're exceeding your writing limits until you've finished the whole thing.
  • It isn't bad to have magic and science mixed -- as long as the mix works.
  • You can self publish if you want -- anyone can, but whether it's a good idea for you, no one can say at this point.

However, I do wonder if you're getting a bit ahead of yourself. I know you've been writing this story for many years, but you've not yet finished the first draft of your first book and there's still an awful lot of work in front of you. A writing coach might be of use if he/she was helping you actually write -- ie put pen to paper/finger to keyboard -- because that to me is what appears to be the problem now, but such a coach shouldn't dictate what you write at this point.

I'd suggest you just knuckle down and get that first draft finished -- stop aiming for perfection by plotting 100%, just write the damn thing for better or worse. Then set the draft aside for a month or three and write something else. Then go back to it and work through it systematically to deal with things that aren't right, because unless you're a complete genius, there will be a lot of things that aren't right. When you've finished the second draft to your satisfaction, then look at putting stuff up here in Critiques and let us help you -- for free!

Also, take part in the Challenges and get some flash short stories under your belt -- shorts are very different from novels but the Challenges will teach you how to present things quickly and use words to their best advantage, which are useful things to know.

Meantime, forget about this woman and her opinions, and forget about paying someone to help you unless they really are going to help. Instead, look to join a Writing Group and get help that way.
 

shamguy4

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Meantime, forget about this woman and her opinions, and forget about paying someone to help you unless they really are going to help. Instead, look to join a Writing Group and get help that way.

Oh yeah. She made fun of writing groups. Said it’s just a bunch of amateurs sitting together doing nothing.

However I agree with you. It’s time to finish the book. I would love to post some of it up here but I’m always nervous someone will steal my story LOL. I know, it sounds stupid but weird things have happened before!

The only way I’m gonna know if I did a good job if I let people read it and they tell me so. I figure I was going to let some family and friends read it when I was done.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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This woman sounds very ignorant. For instance, some writing groups consist largely of published writers. Others may have one or two. And some have no one who is published ... yet ... but as time goes on several members may end up published and successful. Some are just there to feed each other's ego and never do get anywhere. In short, there are many different kinds of writers groups. To lump them all together as a bunch of amateurs accomplishing nothing shows that she knows very little (or perhaps nothing) about writing groups.

Also science fantasy (stories that have both science and fantasy) is a legitimate subgenre and there is a market for it.

Also, I know many successful writers whose first books included multiple viewpoint characters.

Also, I agree with the judge. Wait until you have a finished draft (preferably a second or third or even later draft) before you seek professional help.
 

tinkerdan

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Okay.
Take a deep breath.
Close your eyes and just listen, can you hear your heart beating.
Good that means you are still alive.

Someone tried to help you--not very well.
I too have published two books.
You probably don't want me for a coach--however that person wasn't doing much coaching.
Maybe I could coach...
Well anyway moving on.

Look at this closely:
Recently, on a Facebook group a person reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in having a writing coach. The first session would be free. I figured it couldn’t hurt. Why not?
"You don't want your book and cover to look like what I see in those... those silly forums and facebook groups!"
A person who cold contacted you from face book set you up with someone who disdains those 'silly' forums and facebook groups.

I'd ask who this person was and what her two books are; however I'm certain that I'd not want to go there.
Read the persons books before accepting advice--If they write well and it appears they have sold a large number of books then you might want to listen to what they say--it couldn't hurt.

Right now I'm suspicious about the real motives of this person.

The fact that she didn't read your work tells more than anything else.

And everything else tells me this person has no idea about fantasy and science fiction--which takes us back to reading her work because if she were writing either fantasy or science fiction I'd be leery of it until I read what she wrote.

That much said--don't let some drive-by-critic spoil your efforts. Finish the book and do some research on editors and copy-edits and proof reading and, if you want, perhaps book doctors and find your own rather than letting someone insinuate themselves into your work.

I can't seem to find if you have put any of your work in the review area here.
I think that might be helpful both in advice and getting you acquainted with how rough criticism can be.

Also you might want to talk to people who you know, about your writing. When I first started I didn't; however my wife--who was editing--started telling people I was an author and then they would ask me what I'm writing. At first if was tough because I didn't have a short organized overview or what some might call 'the pitch'. This helped me begin to develop that, because most people won't stand there all day waiting for you to shuffle your mental cards around while you try to explain everything.

In five sentences: what's your book about?
In three sentences: what's your book about?
In one sentence: what's your book about?

Once you get to that last one you have something to tell them and also something to focus on when you are writing.

Lastly; keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.
Those are the three most important rules in writing.
 

sule

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one opinion is just that, one opinion. Her points about what "categories" have an audience (or don't) and having a story that MUST fall into three-act structure seemed particularly flawed to me. Well-written fiction will find an audience (even if it happens to be a small one), and there are plenty of other structures beyond three-act (five-point, seven-point, etc.) if you even need to follow a rigid structure.

I really didn't understand her assertion that you should stick to one point of view in your novel. I specifically take umbrage at her insinuation that you are a "beginning" writer. Although you aren't published, you have been writing for at least seven years--that's hardly a beginner (although there's always room for improvement). And the best way to improve is by pushing yourself--i.e., by writing a book with multiple POVs.
 

Biskit

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My first thought is you should read (or re-read) that link from @ckatt because from your description this person ticks the NO box on a lot of the questions.
My second is that even if this person is a good writing coach, it's not a good fit for you.
My third... sounds like a scam,
My fourth: if/when you need/want a writing coach, then you initiate it, ask around, seek recommendations from people whose opinion you trust and value.
 

Phyrebrat

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I hope you did your fair share of laughing at her. Sounds like an absolute 'mare with self-esteem issues. As a teacher/mentor/faciliator, it is incumbent to make sure you are lifting your charges up, not denigrating them.

She is an amateur. Writing isn't about market anyway, it's a deeply personal communion, so whatever she said to you about the validiaty of your ideas is horse feathers.

Personally (as a teacher myself) I'd name them so others can be forewarned. Imagine if she'd given this feedback to others who don't have such resilience as you; I can think of two chronners off the top of my head who'd be devastated and unable to write for a while if they got this kind of 'advice'.
 

HoopyFrood

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I’ve been on the Chrons for about the same amount of time as you, and have aged in a similar way (18-33) and I’ve seen you post multiple threads about your story so at this point I’d echo Judge and say...just write. You’re feeling that thing that all writers feel — that what you put onto the page won’t live up to what’s in your head, and so you are reluctant to do so; instead you seek answers and help from elsewhere, looking for that one perfect piece of advice that will make everything fall into place. The fact is that what you put down on paper won’t be perfect. But that’s OK. What’s more important is that you’ve done it. You basically have two choices: finish the story, and it won’t be exactly what you hoped in your head but it will be done, or never write it and keep it as a perfect fantasy.

But really, just get that first draft done. Everything else can come later. You can even rewrite it entirely. But imperfectly done is always better than not done at all.
 

shamguy4

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Thanks for the responses!

@tinkerdan it’s so hard to get that down to one sentence!! I have tried before! I can do three sentences.

anyways she wanted $350 a session which was way out of my price range.
 

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