Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Finding An Online Writing Coach

How to Find An Online Writing Mentor
Could you use a little extra help polishing your writing skills or getting started on that novel? Do you have journals full of half-written poems that you've always thought you could spruce up and get published someday? If you want to take your writing to a new level, but you don't have the time or patience for a formal classroom setting, an online writing coach may be the perfect solution for you. Working online with a writing mentor allows both flexibility and a high degree of personalization to meet your specific needs.
The first step in searching for a coach is to get clear on what your writing goals are. Be specific and realistic. For example, "Completing the first 5 chapters of my novel within three months" is a more effective goal than, "I want to write a best selling novel". You can always work with your coach on revising the goals if needed, but have a good idea of where you'd like to start. Then, compose an ad that states your goals and tells potential coaches a little bit about your personality and learning style. If you know that you can't work with someone who won't be flexible with deadlines, say so. If you really need someone to hold you accountable to producing something every day, state that clearly. Don't be afraid to let your personality and passion come through! Writing coaches want to work with people who are motivated and excited. If you have an online blog or journal with substantial examples of your writing, offer to send the link to potential coaches so they can get a sense of your style, strengths and challenges as a writer. Or, offer to send them samples via e-mail.

Craigslist is a good place to start for placing your ad, but there are a number of other online venues that you might find helpful as well. Search for sites that support freelance writers, and check out freelancing message boards. There are numerous free sites to post your ad, so do some research and be creative. Start with two to three sites. You may get a lot of responses, and you want to be able to sort through inquiries without feeling overwhelmed. Once your ad is placed, the selection process begins. Interview, interview, interview! One of the primary things to look for in a writing coach is a proven track record of both experience and integrity. Since you'll be entrusting this person to nurture your talent, they must be foremost concerned with supporting your development as a writer and helping you find your unique voice. Look for red flags. If you have any sense that a potential writing coach is prone to putting their own ego first, or exerting control over you through dishonest or hurtful criticism, do not pursue a connection with them. Remember that you are the expert on who you are as a writer. You want someone who will challenge you, yet always encourage you and put your growth ahead of their needs. Ask to read samples of their work, and always check references, not only from coaching clients or students, but from other professionals as well.

Some potential questions to consider asking are: Does this person demonstrate integrity in their financial dealings? Did they do what they promised they would do by the deadline? Were you pleased with the quality of their work? How have you grown as a writer since working with this person?As you communicate with potential coaches, look for a good rapport and similar interests and passions. Pay attention to their level of professionalism, and be wary of anyone who makes aggrandizing claims about your talent and what they can do for you. Finally, trust your instincts. Just like in love, when the "right one" comes along, you'll know it.

Congratulations! You've selected your writing coach. Now, you and your coach will need to hammer out an agreement about the parameters of your work together and what your payment schedule is. A written agreement of some kind, formal or informal, should be drafted and signed by both of you. This agreement will help keep your relationship focused and clear. Refer back to it regularly for review and revision as needed.

As you begin your journey with your online coach, work hard, keep your goals foremost in your mind and heart, and always communicate immediately about anything that doesn't feel right to you. You'll be in the process of learning to work with one another, so there will inevitably be a few bumps in the road as your get to know one another's quirks and communication styles. As important as knowing how to work with your coach is knowing when it is time to stop working with your coach. Eventually, you may come to a point where you have met or exceeded your stated goals, grown and developed enough to "go it on your own", or simply feel that it's time to move on and work with someone with differing skills or perspectives. That's growth, and it's a wonderful thing. The trick is to know when the time is right. Make sure that you're terminating the agreement out of a genuine response to your growth as a writer, rather than just trying to avoid a difficult communication or a challenge. Again, listen to your gut. You'll know when it's time to say goodbye.

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