It’s the New Year, and for many of us, that means making resolutions and getting parts of our lives in shape. Just as people might hire personal trainers to help them develop a fitness plan, writers often turn to coaches to get their writing lives on track.

The word coach has been adopted by many different industries to refer to a professional who knows your field well and who can help you excel in it. In the book publishing industry, a writing coach is someone who can work with you to help you produce the best book possible, according to your goals and timeline.

The coach should be adept at strategy: she should work with you to devise a concrete, achievable plan and then she should support you in following it.

Here are some specific things that a successful coaching experience might entail:

 

Structure, organization and time management

All writers have their own unique approach to completing a book, but most benefit from a solid plan that will help them organize their writing time as well as the content of their book. As a first step in developing your content, a coach can help you create an outline for your book that will organize its structure and break it down into chapters.

The coach can then help you create a writing schedule that will allow you to write the book according to the outline you’ve developed and your overall timing goals. Writing with this broader plan in mind can help to break a big project into manageable pieces and can help the writer achieve the focus necessary to get it done.

 

Addressing big-picture editorial issues

Not all writing coaches are also substantive editors, but any good writing coach should be able to address overarching editorial issues and help you overcome obstacles in your writing.

For example, your coach should be able to advise you on questions about character development, pacing, consistency of voice, the use of dialogue and other big-picture issues that are central to your book’s success.

If you are having difficulty with any such issues, your coach should help you find solutions to problems that have arisen, or offer alternative ways of approaching them. Your coach’s support should help you produce a manuscript that is coherent, cogent and editorially sound.

 

Encouragement and accountability

Writing is a notoriously solitary act. A writing coach can make the experience much less lonely. She can keep you accountable to your deadlines by setting meeting times after you’ve met certain milestones. During those meetings you can discuss how the process is going, what’s working and what isn’t, and what might need to change in order to improve it.

Your coach should offer the encouragement that most of us need to accomplish a big project – not just by playing a cheerleading role (though that’s welcome too) but by helping you identify obstacles to your success and making the path ahead clearer and more accessible.

As the writer, you’re definitely the one doing the heavy lifting, but a great coach will also work hard to ensure your writing experience is successful – both in terms of the process and the product.