7 values driving good author coaching programs

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Choosing an author coaching program for help with writing a book involves many factors. Read seven values to look for in (and bring to) your collaborative writing process.

7 values to look for in an author coaching program:

  1. Building and maintaining trust
  2. Two-way communication
  3. Practical help with skills development
  4. Transparent and structured process
  5. Building accountability and responsibility
  6. Insight drawn from experience
  7. Empowering, encouraging integrity

Let’s discuss these values and practical examples of each:

Building and maintaining trust

Good writing coaches understand the importance of trust in building (and maintaining) supportive, professional relationships.

An author coaching program built upon trust will ensure that you have opportunities to:

  • Ask questions
  • Share honest feedback
  • Engage with (and get feedback from) real humans

Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy makes the useful distinction between ‘trust’ and ‘trustworthiness’.

They conclude that warranted trust allows people ‘to thrive in healthy cooperation with others’.

Natalie Goldberg quote on doing what you love

Two-way communication

Two-way communication is crucial for any collaborative or teaching process.

In a classroom, for example, teachers (ideally) include time for questions and answers. (We include Q&A sessions with coaches in Now Novel’s Group Coaching program and monthly webinars)

Students’ feedback, questions and responses educate their instructor in turn. Two-way communication helps an instructor to understand their students’ needs and challenges and meet them better, and may spark novel, fun content ideas.

In two-way communication, communication is negotiated. Both sender and receiver listen to each other, gather information and are willing to make changes to work together in harmony. Their intent is to negotiate a mutually satisfactory situation.

Boston Public Schools, Working Together Toolkit on communication models, available here

In an author coaching program, this type of communication is important because it builds positive cooperation.

Practical help with skills development

What is the point of an author coaching program (or any coaching process, for that matter)?

Course members’ primary goals may differ, but skills development is a common reason for taking a course.

An author coaching program may help you develop:

  • A consistent writing routine and process (for example, ‘showing up’ for your story by attending writing sprints)
  • A clearer vision of your goals and a roadmap to achieve them
  • New connections and relationships (many course alumni connect with other participants and even instructors beyond the end of their program)
  • A finished, practical result (such as a complete draft)

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Transparent and structured process

A transparent, structured process helps you progress your writing goals.

Knowing what you’re going to do when reduces uncertainty. It’s one of the reasons why many writers love to create outlines. It’s that anchoring sense of guiding structure.

Harvard University’s open resources on designing learning courses shares the benefits of building a course backwards from a final, practical outcome (such as writing a book).

[It] allows [participants] to develop these skills step-by-step and gives them time to reflect on their development—which in turn gives them more awareness of, and confidence in, applying these skills to “bigger” challenges.’

  • Great Circle: A novel Great Circle: A novel This is a story a woman’s unenthusiastic life as she strives to break free. Marian Graves is also from a family which has lost their fame. Instead of bitterness, Marian continues to dream for the future and works hard for her stars. Although her life is not easy, she refuses to let the circumstances of her past dictate the fate of her future. This is an American story about independence, shedding your past,Read More
  • Klara and the Sun: A novel The book Klara and the Sun is an emotional story about loss and love. A peculiar girl, Klara who always insists that someone else is always inside of her body finally comes face to face with her real self. It is a masterpiece is that still contemplative and thoughtful as you are being drawn in by the essence of that “someone else.”Read More
  • The Four Winds: A Novel The Four Winds: A Novel by Kristen Hannah is a charming yet gritty story of women who remember America's iconic dust storms and have been trying to survive since the nation asks them to. This book is a touching story of survival, resilience, and hope.Read More

‘SCAFFOLDING: USING FREQUENCY AND SEQUENCING INTENTIONALLY’, Designing your Course, The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University.

A good author coaching program will have the step-by-step (yet outcome-driven) structure described, be it weekly workbooks, a detailed course plan or other intentionally-sequenced elements.

This helps you keep track of your own progress and develop skills you can apply to broader writing challenges.

Building accountability and responsibility

A dedicated coach is committed to the development and progress of their mentees. While shouldering this responsibility, they also help mentees to develop their own responsibility and stay accountable.

The ideal outcome is that going through a guided author coaching program equips you with the tools to create your own structure and stay responsible to your own dreams.

This, of course, requires participants to:

  • Show up
  • Do the work only they can do (e.g. putting words on the page)
  • Communicate obstacles (if, for example, an unexpected life event means a participant needs to pause their progress)

In a writing program, aspects such as mutual critique and group writing sprints provide simple and effective ways to build the healthy habits that sustain a productive writing life.

Quote on learning from failure by Rick Pitino

Insight drawn from experience

Author coaching programs are best when instructors can share insight guided by their own experience. They’ve walked the road you’re on.

To use an example, in our monthly webinars Now Novel’s coaches share examples drawn from writing their own books, and lessons learned in the process.

The more experience an instructor has in the practical aspects of a subject, the larger the spring they can draw on in answering your own questions and providing guidance.

The saying ‘those who can’t do teach’ is an oft-repeated fallacy.

Often writing educators speak about learning how to do what they do better through coaching, by learning from their students’ challenges (and helping them solve them).

This is the cycle of giving and receiving in, the mutual ‘thriving in healthy cooperation’ described under ‘building and keeping trust’ above.

Encouraging integrity

This discussion of essential values in author coaching programs began with the idea of ‘trust’. Trust grows when you know that another person – be they a friend, partner or educator – has integrity.

To have integrity means to know (and care about, and do) what is right. Being committed to upholding certain standards for your own conduct. Communicating honestly, with sincerity. Owning your mistakes.

For example, if a coach has integrity, they will be honest in sharing the areas of your WIP that require further development and not give you an ‘all carrot, no stick’ critique in the hope you will work with them further. Yet the ‘stick’ in feedback (sharing work still to be done) will be given with kind, encouraging positivity.

What values are important to you in your own writing? Share your thoughts below in the comments.

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