This installment of the Book Coach Corner series addresses two common misconceptions writers have about when to start writing a novel and when to hire a book coach. Sometimes a book coach is the missing resource a writer needs to help them start their novel.
Book Coach Recap
Book coaches can support writers throughout the novel-writing process because one of their superpowers is determining what a writer needs to move forward. They will meet a writer where the writer is at any point in time: when the writer is first starting to work with them; when the writer shifts from one phase of writing their novel to the next; and at any time the writer needs to pivot—a mindset, writing process, story structure, story line, or character that’s no longer working for them.
This flexibility is one of the key advantages of working with a book coach since it allows a writer to work with a partner before they have completed a draft, much less completed a revised manuscript that’s deemed clean enough for another’s eyes. This is when most writers first reach out to work with a book editor to get feedback on what they’ve written.
Instead, a book coach can be there to back up a writer to make sure they finish that first draft or round of revisions and don’t succumb to the internal and external forces that will inevitably throw up roadblocks before a writer finishes writing their book.
The “I Must Be Ready Before I Start My Novel” Roadblocks:
1. “My Novel Must Be My Top Priority. I Must Have the Perfect Writing Routine.”
Many beginning writers think they must make their novel their top priority, and they must have everything figured out before they start to write it—or before they ask someone else to support them in writing it.
One way this attitude manifests is that some writers take an all or nothing approach, where they feel pressured to take time off, toil away in a cabin in the woods, and write a best-selling novel. This is one shared by many writers, yet it’s a reality for very few published authors.
Rather, most writers must juggle writing their novel with their already chaotic life. It’s easy to get down on ourselves when we can’t stick to a perfect schedule for something as important to us as our own dreams.
Another way this attitude appears is when writers feel like the universe is the enemy, putting up roadblocks everywhere. And sometimes that just might be the case for a short while, but using this as an excuse to avoid making progress on your dreams will get you nowhere fast.
In fact, most of us would be hard-pressed to find any aspect of our life where we’ve shown up 100%… forever. So, why should writing a novel be any different?
New Perspectives To Try
- Fluid and Flexible: Start writing your novel now even though you know that your writing life and goals will need to be treated with the same fluidity and flexibility that apply to the rest of your life’s responsibilities and aspirations.
- Open-Minded: Be open-minded to new ways of doing things and reimagine what writing productivity and progress means to you.
- Recover the Fumble and Try Again: When you drop the ball, mess up, or fail, cut yourself some slack, pick up the ball—or yourself—reboot, and start over.
How Can a Book Coach Help?
- Roadmap: A book coach will figure out what you need to move forward, design the roadmap, provide guidance and recommendations on next steps and new things to try, and identify how to course correct and get you back on the road when you hit a detour.
- Slow and Steady Scheduling: Many coaches recommend one to two submission deadlines per month (instead of weekly deadlines) to give their writers the space they need to meet all their responsibilities, including their writing assignments. Although you may take twice as long to complete a draft, you will still reach your goal faster than waiting until you think you have enough time to focus on your story to start.
2. “I Must Have a Fully Baked Story… I Must Know Every Step in The Process…”
Some writers think they must have the plot, every storyline, and every character figured out—plus how to get from idea to publication—before they start to write their novel or share anything with anyone. There are three ways this roadblock rears its ugly head.
First, some writers will delay starting a novel because they lack clarity on where they’re headed. This can be as simple as not knowing what next step to take. It can be as complicated as not knowing what happens in the story, or why they can’t shake the story even though they don’t know why they want to write it. And everything in between.
Secondly, many writers hope that writing their novel will be a straight line from start to finish. Instead, the writing process is a constant state of creation and iteration. Each idea becomes words on the paper that ebb and flow over many rounds of revision.
Ideas rarely end up in the same form as where they started, assuming they don’t end up on the cutting room floor. Trying to figure out every step at the start is inefficient because the steps will change over time.
And, if a writer’s goal is to wait until their ideas, much less their words, are fully baked before writing or sharing, they will inevitably be waiting until they’ve completed multiple revisions of their draft manuscript before seeking feedback.
Finally, writers who decide to delay asking for feedback often wait until they can no longer deny that something they’re doing is not working. Ultimately, they need to pivot and change their approach. But it’s much easier for a writer to pivot when they’re in the idea-generating zone and brainstorming a novel from 30,000 feet than after they’ve invested months or years in writing a draft manuscript that doesn’t work.
New Perspectives To Try
- Just Start: Start now, regardless of where you’re at, knowing that you will need to problem solve as you go.
- Stay in Motion and Curious: Keeping your mind and ideas in motion is critical to writing the best story you can. Looking at your writing from different angles throughout the drafting process, and not just at set intervals (such as a new round of revisions), will help you avoid detours down dead-end streets.
- Keep Pivoting: At times, you will need to discover and implement a new perspective, whether it’s one you come up with on your own or with help from others.
How Can a Book Coach Help?
- Focused Framework: A book coach can provide a methodology for brainstorming and structuring a novel before you begin to write it, which will save you time in the long-run. Then, they can design an individualized roadmap to move you through the novel-writing phases as efficiently as possible.
- Increased Bandwidth: Juggling ideating and writing forward while also assessing where you are can be challenging to do in a vacuum. A book coach can help you by supplying extra hours, brain space, and fresh perspectives focused on your novel in real-time as you brainstorm ideas, write, revise, and assess whether your draft is working.
If you’ve been holding yourself back from writing a novel, I hope the new perspectives recommended above help you reframe and break through your resistance, so you can start writing your novel now, not someday.
Take some time to revisit and identify which common attitudes described above are your biggest roadblocks. Pick one to start with and identify one action you can take that will move you forward from where you are today. For example, if you don’t know where to start, you can start with a writing handbook or an online course, such as the ones offered in the DIY MFA universe—DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira, DIY MFA 101, or one of the other programs offered.
You can also research and interview some book coaches to see if one might be a great fit for you. If you are new to book coaching and are interested in learning more about what book coaches do and how they can help you and your writing, check out Book Coach Corner: Book Coaching 101 and Virtual Writers Sabbatical: Discovering the Art of Book Coaching.
Remember, you just need to take one step forward at a time to see progress. But you must take that first step to start you on your novel-writing journey!
Until next time, happy writing!
Tell us in the comments: What’s been your biggest roadblock to starting a novel?
Richelle Lyn is a certified Author Accelerator book coach and a writer. Her favorite fiction reads involve leading ladies who push boundaries and conquer their fears while preferably digging for secrets, learning magic, and/or saving the World. She’s also a fan of non-fiction reads focused on personal growth and transformation. She loves her tea hot and her coffee iced. She calls South Florida home, but her favorite place to be is on a trip.