Coaching a Talented Writer

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Note: I recently did what I call a Discovery Session through Janice Beetle Books with a writer from Laconia, New Hampshire, named Claire L. Hebert-Dow. Claire is writing a memoir, and she came to me for some feedback on her work. I read thirty pages of her manuscript, and we met on the phone for two hours to talk about what inspires her and where she feels stuck. Afterwards, I asked Claire to answer the following questions for this blog.

What are you working on as a writer at this time?

I am preparing a recap of my life adventures, told in part from multiple perspectives.

What prompted you to have Janice review your memoir-in-progress?

It is awkward to maintain a balance on one’s emotions when reiterating difficult passages which, in some cases, adjusted the trajectory of my life. Getting a professional’s opinion is invaluable for bringing my story to life and, hopefully, to publication.

What were you hoping to achieve in the session?

A clarity on whether she felt I was on the right path and encouragment to continue this lonely journey through the past.

What did you learn that was helpful?

There are two voices within my writing style—the insightful and logical one, fighting against the emotional, brow-beating one. I need to separate myself from these emotional tentacles. I will consider writing separate letters to my son and give myself the opportunity to release these nagging feelings. Also, I learn to be alert to hackneyed expressions.

Any other specific tidbits that will help you to self-edit your work?

Focusing on moving the narrative forward. It’s easy to get consumed in words for the sake of word count. If a section doesn’t accomplish that objective, delete or revise. Also be attuned to the need to describe a thought or a scene in enough detail for third-party understanding.

Did you feel you made a connection with Janice? If yes, in what way?

Absolutely. Her voice is soothing yet projects confidence in her analysis. She supports without casting judgment and stays focused on the details to be covered.

Anything else that might be helpful feedback for Janice or someone thinking about working with her?

One has to be prepared to hear negative feedback on sections that I, as a writer, had thought were well-stated and finished. Flexibility is required for a successful partnership with a coach. 

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