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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

RTW: The Writing Coach

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival, where YA Highway’s contributors and readers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s take on the topic.

This week’s prompt was: What kind of writing coach do you need? What kind are you?

So back in August Sarah Enni blogged about different types of writing mentors and coaches for YA Highway. To sum up her post: Writing coaches and mentors have personalities that range from Mr. Rogers to Tim Gunn to Jillian Michaels to the crazy Tiger Mom who scares her slaves children into submission.

There are two things you could take away from this post: Writing coaches can be sweet as syrup or mean as, well, a Tiger Mom. Also, coaches are pretty specific when it comes to their fashion choices—some like shoes with laces to tie, some prefer sports bras over shirts, and others gag in the presence of ugly fabric.

The Barney Stinson writing coach

Were I to pull a Frankenstein and create my own writing coach, he’d be part Mr. Rogers, part Tim Gunn. And I don’t mean he’d wear $2,000 suits with sneakers. I mean he’d be the right mix of positivity and criticism.

That’s because when I’m in the middle of a first draft, words like “this isn’t working” or “this sucks” or “have you ever considered a career at Walmart?” tend to dissuade me from finishing. I kind of need a cheerleader at that stage who will tell me I’m amazing and wonderful and possibly the most talented writer in the world. (Yes, I realize all of that will be disproven while I read the draft for the first time.)

After that, though, I need some tough love—just not the kind that also serves as a sucker punch to the gut.

That’s sort of how I see critiquing. Everyone likes praise, and it’s important to include what you liked about a story. A spoonful of sugar helps the honest critique go down. Besides, there’s usually some stuff that I really do love about a book. Why not mention it? And if there are parts that need some MAJOR WORK? That needs to be noted, too. Because no one gets better by hearing how fabulous they are all the time. Except maybe Tim Gunn.

How about you? What kind of coach do you need and which role do you fill?

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