Writing coaching Writing Process

How a novel writing coach helps you get better faster

The benefits of coaching in athletics and business are well known. How does a novel writing coach help you write your story, though? Read on for eight insights into how coaching works, and why:

The benefits of coaching in athletics and business are well known. How does a novel writing coach help you write your story, though? Read on for eight insights into how coaching works, and why:

8 reasons why a writing coach makes writing easier:

  1. You set and achieve SMART goals
  2. Coaching fosters accountability
  3. Extrinsic motivation is powerful
  4. You build writing competence
  5. Confidence empowers creativity
  6. You build self-reliance
  7. Communication grows more effective
  8. You develop clarity of purpose

Let’s look closer at how and why coaching works for reaching goals:

1. You set and achieve SMART goals

COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors of South Africa) gives a useful definition of coaching:

A professional, collaborative and outcomes-driven method of learning that seeks to develop an individual and raise self-awareness so that he or she [or they] might achieve specific goals and perform at a more effective level.

COMENSA, via the organization’s website.

Examining this definition of coaching, the phrases ‘achieve specific goals’ and ‘outcomes-driven’ are key.

Although a coaching process has general benefits (such as learning easily remedied ‘bad habits’ in your writing style via feedback), it also helps you target (and reach) specific, measurable outcomes.

Specific and measurable are two qualities of ‘SMART’ goals. These are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based.

Working with a novel writing coach helps you set and reach SMART goals. Why? Because:

2. Coaching fosters accountability

Accountability is a fancy word for ‘showing up’.

Peter Bregman for Psychology Today puts it thus:

Accountability is about delivering on a commitment. It’s responsibility to an outcome, not just a set of tasks. It’s taking initiative with thoughtful, strategic follow-through.

Peter Bregman, ‘The Right Way to Hold People Accountable’, Psychology Today, January 2016.

You have your own motivations for acting or following through on desires. Yet many aspiring authors struggle with challenges that reduce motivation. For example:

  • Procrastination
  • Self-doubt
  • Feeling one does not know enough
  • Indecision
  • Chasing after shiny new ideas (then getting stuck)

Coaching fosters accountability – the ability to deliver on your commitment to writing – by adding extrinsic motivation to the mix.

Weekly check-ins with writing coaches (or daily participation in a writing sprint), for example, make it easier to keep showing up. You’re showing up for others, too, and that connection and sense of responsibility is motivating.

Writer Junot Diaz on coaching and mentoring benefits

3. Extrinsic motivation is powerful

One of the reasons working with a writing coach works is that extrinsic motivation is powerful.

‘Intrinsic motivation’ is what motivates us when we perform an activity for its own satisfaction.

Writing, as an activity, is not consistently motivating, though. What if your own motivation to finish writing a book wanes?

‘Extrinsic motivation’ refers to doing something because you’re motivated by something separate from the satisfaction of the action itself. You’re motivated by a deadline you have set with your writing coach, for example, or by your pact with your writing sprint circle to keep meeting up.

Coaching combines external motivation with making a positive commitment to your own writing:

[People] can perform extrinsically motivated actions with resentment, resistance, and disinterest or, alternatively, with an attitude of willingness that reflects an inner acceptance of the value or utility of a task [so that] the extrinsic goal is self-endorsed and thus adopted with a sense of volition.

Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, ‘Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions’ in Contemporary Educational Psychology, Issue 25 (2000)

Extrinsic motivation, as a member of Now Novel’s Group Coaching program puts it in the video below, often ‘gives you a kick in the pants when you need it’.

4. You build writing competence

Every field is full of terms and concepts, codes and norms, and fiction writing is no different.

One of the secondary outcomes of writing coaching is seeing your writing competence improve over time. We don’t always spot our own over-reliance on exclamation marks or ellipses, worn out tropes or stylistic peccadillos.

Just as a good athletics coach understands form and how to approach a task efficiently, a writing coach will help you correct and balance elements of your storytelling over time (while also helping you realize where your greatest natural strengths lie).


Stay accountable, in a structured program with writing sprints, coach Q&As, webinars and feedback in an intimate writing group.

Now Novel group coaching

5. Confidence empowers creativity

Coaching is a learning process that helps you grow more confident both in sharing work with others and receiving critique.

This is essential practice for writing and preparing to release work into the public domain.

When you are confident in your ideas and have a supportive, reliable sounding board for them in your writing coach, it’s easier to pursue them with zeal.

6. You build self-reliance

One of the great values of a coaching process in any discipline is that you equip yourself over time with the skills you need to go it alone.

In various models of psychotherapy, there comes a point in time where the initial treatment phase is complete. The goal the client sought therapy for may have been attained. What’s more, the client has developed the insight and self-awareness to apply lessons learned to familiar (as well as novel) situations. The star athlete must in time test records without their coach holding their hand.

Steven Spielberg on the value of coaching

Working with a writing coach is similar in that you build skills to carry with you and apply independently as you move forward. When you reach your original goal, you may continue the coaching relationship into new projects and creative objectives, if you choose.

7. Communication grows more effective

Writing is communicating. One of the great challenges when starting out is choosing what you want to communicate. Another is knowing if you communicated what you intended.

Reading is a fundamentally ‘open’ process (Roland Barthes wrote about how the author figuratively must ‘die’ – i.e. not be the final, living authority – for the ‘birth of the reader’). To put this simpler, readers may (and will, and perhaps should) have their own interpretations or readings of your text.

A novel writing coach will help you communicate the core intentions behind your work, though (for example, your desire to move people with a funny or intimate romantic story).

Your coach should have the frame of reference (or knack for quick research) and nuanced judgement to make suggestions that enhance your own communication (your use of genre, style, tone, and mood).

8. You develop clarity of purpose

There are many benefits to self-awareness. Knowing your strengths (and areas to work on). Having a clearer sense of purpose.

When you’re in a coaching process, there is a constant purpose in the back of your mind. It may be ‘finish my book in X months’. It may be ‘process a marvelous/painful life experience in story form’.

To achieve writing goals, it’s helpful to have a constant reminder of them, to verbalize them, and to have a clear view of where you are at in your process and what to do next. Working with a writing coach helps you maintain this focus.

Stay accountable and reach your writing goals on a structured, 6-month writing coach led course including writing sprints, coach Q&As, professional feedback and weekly workbooks.

This course set me up for success and got me on a path toward actually completing a first draft. I now have a regular writing routine, a full outline, and am writing my way sequentially through my book.

Now Novel Member Kira, via TrustSpot

By Jordan

Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He received his BA Honours in English Literature and his undergraduate in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town.

3 replies on “How a novel writing coach helps you get better faster”

Great article, Jordan!

Of course, there is no need to underestimate the importance of self-study. That’s what motivates.

However, if there is an opportunity to study with a coach, then why not? After all, you don’t have to complicate things.

Hi Daisy, thank you for sharing your thoughts and reading our blog. Absolutely, a coach is not essential in the sense that you can go it alone, but having the sounding board of someone who’s walked the same path and can offer nuanced insight is a great luxury (for accountability, brainstorming and so forth).

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