No matter where you are in your writing career, your work can almost always be helped by feedback from fresh eyes that do not have a vested interest in the work itself.
Story analysis can help you see challenges in your story that might be invisible to you, whether through inherent biases or because you see the story clearer in your head than it has been recorded on the page.
Story analysis can also help you see opportunities in your work that you overlooked, if only because you are too close to it. Your priority for that early draft, in all likelihood, was simply to get things out of your head and onto the page, and we all walk with the fear of wandering down so many blind alleys that we never come out of the other end, wherever that end may be.
So fine, story analysis is helpful. But what the hell is story coaching?
Almost by definition, story analysis happens AFTER you have completed a draft (or several). It comes AFTER you have wandered the desert of creative confusion. It comes AFTER you have bled your creative juices onto the page and have become smitten with your creation.
And in some very unfortunate cases, it never comes at all, because the storyteller never completed the project, whether due to fear of failure, a sense of being intractably lost, or simply because Life intervened to distract from the task at hand.
This is where story coaching can help.
Story coaching is about a work-in-progress, whether a screenplay, a novel, the writer him or herself…whatever the storyteller needs most.
As with life coaching, business coaching or athletics coaching, story coaching is about providing guidance to the storyteller on a regular basis, whether simply as a second set of eyes to critique the work or as a mentor who uses the work-in-progress as a framework within which to help the storyteller develop as an artist.
Story coaching is also about commitment and accountability for the storyteller.
By hiring a story coach, the writer has made his or her creative art a priority in life. Why else spend the money?
And working with the storyteller, the story coach establishes expectations and deliverables, whether that is new story ideas, number of newly written pages, rewrites. These are the foundations of creative habits that can be difficult to develop and entrench in solitude because the creative process is so personal and fraught with self-doubt and self-recrimination.
But I can get this from a writing course or a writers’ group.
Yes, this is true…to an extent.
Writing classes can be invaluable, depending on the composition of your classmates and the skill of your instructor.
With a roomful of students, however, it can be difficult for the instructor to provide truly focused guidance to an individual student. More typically, the student is presented with a spectrum of general direction, all of which can be valuable but only some of which may be germane to a given work-in-progress.
Writers’ groups can also be a wonderful resource, again depending on the composition of the group. That composition and the individual writer’s position within the skill hierarchy, however, are critical.
Most writers’ groups are comprised of peers with relatively equal experience, and so may not be able to provide the more advanced analysis and mentorship that an individual wants or needs. And if an individual is the most advanced or skilled within a given writers’ group, he or she may find little opportunity for improvement.
[NOTE: I firmly believe that you will always find something in the feedback of any group of readers. The question is more whether it is worth the effort you put into the group.]
Although it is not impossible, you are very unlikely to ever become a professional football or hockey player by spending any amount of time playing flag football or pond hockey with friends. Why would we expect storytelling to be any different?
How do I know a story coach is right for me?
You don’t. Well, you don’t until you start a conversation with him or her.
Oh, hey! Is the story coach going to try to tell me what stories to tell?
The story coach is here to understand what story you want to tell or help you understand it better yourself, and then help you tell it in the most effective manner.
You are the Creator. The story coach is not.
If you want to learn more about Story Coaching, feel free to reach out to me (no obligation) at:
So, What’s Your Story? (web site)
So, What’s Your Story? (Facebook)