Fiction Coaching – What I’m learning

I’m about 30% the way through my fiction coaching course now and have taken on some lovely practice coaching clients. This has forced me to step out of my comfort zone and to stretch myself. It has been such a good experience for me and I am now able to use all the writing skills I have spent the last twelve years learning to assist and guide my clients to think through their stories and figure out where they need to do more work on their novels.

It’s a good feeling to contribute to an author’s novel process, but there is a huge responsibility that comes with giving feedback that is honest and caring. I am very mindful of how much it hurts to receive feedback that your story isn’t quite where you thought it was and needs more work. I’ve just been through that myself, and now that I am learning to coach fiction novelists, I am also very aware of how hard it is to point out to a writer who has spent years on a manuscript that something fundamental isn’t working.

In my classes I’ve been learning how to take my writers through a process that allows them to delve into their motivation for writing their story, what’s important about writing that particular story, what they’re really trying to say to their reader through story as it unfolds. I’ve been learning to coach my writers to figure out point of view, genre, develop their world building, and how to write scenes that show a change and add to the cause-and-effect trajectory of a story. It’s exciting stuff and it’s deep work that requires writers to go deeper than they’ve done before.

If you’ve ever written a novel, whether that’s to publication or it’s still a work in progress, then you know writing is an iterative process where each rewrite brings new challenges and rewards. Sometimes it feels almost impossible to finish but by making incremental steps forward you will get there. And if you have a story calling your name, then it will haunt you until you put words down on paper/screen. At least, that’s my experience.

The best thing about my coaching course (to my mind) is the focus on getting the foundation of your story sorted out before writing it. I did the plotting thing and I have discovery written my way through a couple of manuscripts and there are pros and cons to both types of approaches. In the end I’ve settled somewhere in the middle, but still I’ve instinctively known something was missing from my novel and that was a deeper internal level to the story. My story has a lot of action in it and I know about the internal plot and have that in there too, however, it’s not as deep as it could be. I’ve learned it doesn’t yet pull my readers into the trance state I want them to experience. So more work is required to incorporate what things mean to my protagonist as she faces set backs, challenges, obstacles on her way to achieving what she wants. So, I have much more work to do on my novel.

But no work done on a creative activity is ever wasted time. Not to me. I can look back at complete disasters in both my writing and my art, and I can see that each piece has been a stepping stone in developing my skills, my understanding of what I was trying to do, and in expressing on paper an accurate reflection of what I wanted my viewers/readers to experience. Every mistake has a purpose and no effort to learn is ever wasted.

I’ll add more posts about my experiences in the near future. For the moment, I am doing a lot of reading, loads of study, and I am still drawing. I have decided to put a watercolour painting and a mixed-media drawing into a local exhibition in May. It’s another step out of my comfort zone. I can’t put the images of this work up here yet as I need to wait until the exhibition to do that.

So, what I’ll show you is this great horror anthology, Black Cranes Tales of Unquiet Women that I got in the post and have been reading. It’s been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, and it deserves the recognition.

When I read Geneve Flynn’s Little Worm story my heart fluttered in my chest, time stopped and the hairs on the back of my neck stiffened. I was pulled into the story and couldn’t put it down until I was finished. I’m still haunted by it and it’s thrilling!

A horror anthology that will thrill you.

Geneve Flynn is a Brisbane based author and editor, and together with Lee Murray they edited this anthology. So if you’re looking for an anthology of horror stories this one is sure to thrill you.

Okay, that’s it from me today. I have more study to do and I am hoping to spend part of the afternoon doing cross hatching. I need to keep practicing my creative skills.

I hope you are staying creative and enjoying the process.

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