I’m delighted to have recently been appointed a coaching Mentor for Jericho Writers, alongside my regular freelance editing and coaching work. I’m a huge fan of mentoring/coaching, because it turned me from an aspiring novelist into a mainstream published author. I hate to think how much longer it might’ve taken me to complete a saleable debut novel, without the light but firm guidance of my original mentor, the poet Sarah Corbett.
It’s frighteningly easy to overlook simple things like sentence rhythm, vivid characterisation, and the show-don’t-tell rule. Coaching or mentoring looks at all these things but crucially, for many clients, takes a bigger overview too. Plot and genre define the essence of a novel, and all too often, clients have read like sponges without truly internalising effective plot structure or understanding why genres have certain codes which need to be fulfilled. A writer with natural talent can almost be ‘tapped’ back into place (Sarah described this as being like a chiropractor using the tiniest of movements to reposition the bones of the story). With light-touch tuition, the quality of that writer’s prose then increases so much; prose springs off the page, plots hang together, and characters become more vivid.
Of course, this all takes time, and plenty of practice, which is why working through a client’s prose over weeks, months, or even years is ideal. My journey was almost ten years long, via MA to PhD (part time), because way back when I needed a coach, the on-line options available today just didn’t exist. I’m truly excited to be part of this growing tradition of mentoring creative writers on their journey.