The Difference between an Editor and a Writing Coach

Pink RoseBefore I became a writing coach I didn’t even know that writing coaches existed. However, I did know about editors. I had been running a writing group for a little over five years and had heard various stories—some good, some horrible—about the editing experience. Some of the writers I talked to loved their editor and couldn’t imagine getting to a final draft without them. Others had been burned and vowed never to go back. But no matter what kind of experience they had, one thing was very clear:

Editors were all about the manuscript.

This makes perfect sense. That’s why editors are editors. They take a rough draft and whip it into shape. And you better believe I’m not the first person to use this kind of warrior/trainer/military language when describing what an editor does and how they do it. There is a very real expectation surrounding editors that they will function as a sort of disciplinarian, a strict sergeant who will break down a manuscript in order to build it back up into what it needs to be.

It was this question of “what it needs to be” that gave me pause. Why was it so generally accepted that the editor knew more than the writer about what the work needed to be? What if the writer was very sure that it was already what it needed to be? What if the writer wasn’t sure at all, but wanted help and teaching in order to learn what it needed to be?

And why weren’t more writers questioning this? Why were so many of us signing up for boot camp and swallowing the warrior/training/military atmosphere in writing culture that had become so prevalent? Why, when so many of us actually don’t identify at all with aggression or domineering attitudes?

And why were so many people putting all of their energy and attention on the manuscript, instead of the writer behind it?

All of these questions combined into one of the big reasons I decided to become a writing coach, and not an editor. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading manuscripts and helping writers make their manuscript the best it can possibly be. But what I’m really interested in is the writer, usually found hiding behind said manuscript.

I believe that every writer worth their salt also needs to learn how to edit their own work. I believe that every writer already knows  the best path for their protagonist and the best escape for their villain. I believe that every writer has the ability to naturally draw their perfect audience to them, using creative marketing means that they have fun with and feel comfortable employing. I believe that all of the answers are inside the writer, and always have been. It just takes a compassionate, gentle listener to draw them out.

That’s why, when I coach my clients we might talk about:

All the sudden emotions they’re experiencing while writing their memoir

Whether or not their main character is finally ready to talk to them

The fear they’re feeling about how friends and family might react to them following their dream

Creative ways they can share their message on social media while staying authentic

What kind of cover they want for their book, and how to write the blurb

Any archetypes they see in their characters and ways they can further research those archetypes

These are just some of the kinds of things a writing coach works on with writers. It is a very different role than that of an editor. A writing coach concentrates on the development of a writer as a whole artist. What that means, first of all, is helping the writer to not be afraid of their own power. Then teaching the writer how to grow that power, and finally, how to hold and manage that power to serve their highest good and the highest good of all.

Sometimes it comes down to little steps, like learning how to write a book blurb. Sometimes the task involved is huge, such as getting that first book out there into the world. Whatever the work entails, a writing coach helps the writer every step of the way, so that they’re not alone, and so that they don’t lose courage.

Last night over dinner my husband told me how he felt about the experience of raising our toddler son. He said, “It’s intense and so much fun and awesome and completely horrifying. All at once.” It struck me that the experience of being a writer can feel the exact same way.

If you just need a little help, or you need a lot of help, or you don’t know quite know what you need but you know you need something, shoot me an email at writecitysf@gmail.com to talk about coaching. And if you’re interested in knowing just a little bit more about how the process works, check out:

The Difference between a Critique Group and a Writing Coach

Hate Critique? This Kind of Critique Might Change Your Mind.

Introverted and Intuitive? Why the Writing Rules Probably Don’t Work for You.

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