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  • Writer's pictureStuart Wakefield

Misconceptions Writers Have (And How a Book Coach Can Help)

Writers are rotten to the core.

There, I said it.

The thing is, they're rotten to themselves, telling themselves how worthless they are and letting their inner critics run wild. To make things worse, they kid themselves about what writing—and living as a writer—involves.

Why? Because it's easier to believe that than get out there and get the facts. (I'm looking at you, conspiracy theorists.)

This is where an Author Accelerator Certified book coach steps in, armed with a blend of wisdom and experience (we spend at least nine months training and we have to turn in a tonne of practical work that's reviewed by three—yes, three!—people), and practical advice to help writers get a handle on the truth about writing back on the right path.

Here are the top misconceptions I've encountered during my coaching career and how a book coach can help debunk them.

(NOTE: This isn't going to be a long-winded advert for book coaches. There's plenty of stuff in here that you can reflect on in your own time.)

Waiting for Inspiration to Strike

Waiting for inspiration to strike is everywhere, and the reality is that it causes swathes of unproductive waiting and creative stagnation. The myth of grand inspiration leads writers to believe that great ideas and the urge to write come solely from sudden, almost divine moments of clarity and insight. Sure, it romanticises the idea of the writing process, painting it as a purely spontaneous act that occurs only under the perfect conditions or when a muse deems it time to bestow inspiration upon the writer. But it's a waiting game, and a game that leads to frustration, self-doubt, and the mistaken belief that you're simply not cut out for writing if these moments of inspiration are rare.

Enter the book coach, who has deadlines for writers. Deadlines, people!

I'm currently working with a client who recently confessed that they wouldn't even be writing unless they knew I was waiting for their pages.

A book coach understands that inspiration is far from being a rare gift bestowed at whim. It can be cultivated through discipline, routine, and a variety of creative exercises. Book coaches can work with writers to establish a structured routine that prioritises writing as a regular part of the day/week/month, not an activity contingent upon seven women hanging out on Mount Parnassus*. A structured approach proves that progress is possible through consistent effort rather than sporadic bursts of creativity.

By changing the perception of inspiration from something that passively happens to something that can be actively pursued, writers begin to see themselves as the architects of their own creative path. They can take control of their writing process.

A book coach does not merely wait for inspiration to strike their clients; they equip them with the tools and techniques to chase after inspiration, to lure it out from its hiding places, and to harness it in service of their stories. Writers learn that a muse is not an external force but an internal flame that can be stoked through dedication, practice, and the right approach.

(Indiana Jones and) The Quest for a Perfect First Draft

The quest for a perfect first draft is an insurmountable obstacle. Entranced by the idea of crafting a masterpiece in a single stroke (of a pen, key, or fluffy white cat) they pressure themselves to produce work that's flawless from the outset.

Ain't gonna happen.

This pressure stifles creativity, hinders the flow of ideas, and, ironically, gets in the way of writing a really cool story. Believing that the first draft must be perfect is a misconception that ignores the nature and purpose of drafting: exploration and discovery. Try sticking to your outline, obviously. (And you do have an outline, right? Riiight?)

Book coaches play a crucial role in changing this belief. They guide writers to "blueprint" their book as best as possible, pinning down the golden thread of their story whilst still giving them room to play with the other, colourful stuff.

Blueprinting gives writers a recognisably-shaped chunk of marble from which the final masterpiece is carved. It’s a playground where ideas are allowed to run wild, where narrative structures are built, and where characters can evolve, and all without leaving you with an 80,000 word ramble that has to be unravelled.

Book coaches help writers learn to appreciate the process of revision not as a chore but as an opportunity to refine and polish their work. Revision is where the true craft of writing comes into play, and if you already have a draft, many book coaches offer Manuscript Evaluations and 3D Manuscript Revision, helping their writers to sculpt their sprawling ideas into a coherent story with momentum and meaning.

A book coach might introduce techniques for self-editing, such as encouraging writers to read the manuscript aloud, and they offer a constructive feedback loop, where their input improves a manuscript. They encourage writers to see revision not as a step away from a mistaken past but as a step closer to a polished, compelling story, and in doing so, they shift the focus from the impossible quest for initial perfection to the achievable goal of continual improvement, highlighting that the journey towards perfection is, indeed, a journey of transformation and growth.

Solo Editing Mastery

Solo editing mastery is a concept many writers hold on to like the idea of wearing stilettos to a marathon. Sure, you’ll feel fabulous, but you’re not going to enjoy the journey, and you'll probably trip over (or skewer someone) a few times before you accept those shoes were never meant for running.

How Beyoncé made it through an entire concert in high heels baffled me until I read this quote from Sandra Choi, creative director at Jimmy Choo:

"There’s lots of things we did especially for Beyoncé to make sure that the footwear works for her on stage."

Okay, back to writers.

Solitary review won't catch every plot hole, pacing issues and questionable character arc. Some writers believe that no one could possibly understand or refine their manuscript better than they can. While self-editing is a great skill, relying solely on it can be disastrous. Writers, no matter how meticulous, are too close to their work to see its flaws. They may miss errors and fill in missing information automatically because it's in their head and not on the page.

A book coach embodies the importance of external editing, proving that another pair of eyes can uncover what the writer has glossed over. They prove that external editing doesn't detract from the writer’s skill—it complements it, making sure that the manuscript can become the best possible version of itself.

Book coaches provide objective feedback that writers might miss. This feedback can range from narrative drive and POV to dialogue and pace. A book coach can assess the manuscript’s overall clarity and coherence, ensuring that the story's point is not only on the page, but engaging to readers.

Even better, a book coach helps writers to cultivate a mindset of openness to critique and improvement. They help writers overcome the fear of criticism and the attachment to their original story and appreciate that feedback is an opportunity for development rather than a takedown of their abilities.

Book coaches teach writers to learn to view their work through a broader lens, appreciating the collaborative nature of crafting a compelling, coherent, and polished piece. Writers are equipped with the tools and knowledge to refine their craft, elevate their work, and embrace the editing process as a crucial step towards achieving their publication goals.

The Dream of Universal Acclaim

The dream of universal acclaim captures the hearts of many writers who aspire to write a story that resonates with every reader, crossing cultural, age, and genre boundaries. Wanting widespread adoration and acknowledgment can lead authors to chase an elusive ideal, often at the expense of their story being twisted until it's almost unrecognisable. In and attempt to appeal to everyone, there's an inevitable watering down of the story, stripping away what gave the story its soul and alienating the readers who would've been captivated by the original vision.

With their experience and perspective, a book coach provides valuable guidance in navigating these complexities. They reinforce the critical importance of embracing and targeting an ideal (or 'niche') reader—someone who will buy their book, not might buy their book. This approach not only enhances the book's chances of making an impact but also allows the author to write with authenticity and purpose.

The concept of a niche audience doesn't mean limiting the book’s appeal. Instead, it's about understanding and connecting with the core readership whose interests align with what the book offers. By focusing on a niche, writers can tailor their storytelling, marketing efforts, and engagement strategies to resonate with a specific group, building a passionate, dedicated fan base.

A book coach can show writers how to leverage their unique perspective to enrich their narrative and speak directly to the hearts of their intended audience, and this level of authenticity is diluted when writers aim to please everyone. Not everyone wants a generic product that lacks the depth and resonance found in more focused works.

Targeting a niche doesn't mean excluding readers outside of a group. Instead, it creates a strong foundation from which a book can organically grow its readership.

Hello, Harry Potter! A well-crafted, authentic story has the power to transcend its initial target audience through word-of-mouth, recommendations, and the universal appeal of its themes and emotions. A book coach helps authors see that by concentrating their efforts on appealing to a specific audience, they can achieve a broader impact over time.

Denying Writer’s Block

In my experience, denying writer's block lead to feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Any creative inevitably encounters periods of stagnation, as the natural ebb and flow of creativity is often misconstrued as personal failure.

A book coach understands the complexities of the creative process, and acknowledges writer’s block as a genuine challenge. Rather than dismissing it, they help writers navigate and overcome creative obstacles, and acknowledging writer’s block as part of the writing journey is crucial in developing a healthy approach to creativity and productivity.

In the blueprinting stage, a book coach helps writers understand the function of their story—why they're writing it, who it's for, and the point they're trying to make—and it's often the lack of this understanding that's the underlying cause of their block. This could range from a lack of true inspiration or motivation to deeper issues such as fear of failure, perfectionism, or external pressures. By identifying the root cause, writers can address the problem more effectively with targeted strategies.

A book coach might ask questions to jumpstart creativity or recommend breaking the work into smaller, manageable tasks to reduce overwhelm, then setting achievable goals to build momentum.

I always emphasise the importance of self-compassion and patience, encouraging writers to give themselves permission to write poorly as a pathway to writing well.

Book coaches help writers see writer’s block not as an insurmountable obstacle or a sign of failure but as a natural, navigable part of the creative process. This holistic approach fosters a healthier relationship with writing, where periods of stagnation are seen as opportunities for growth and rejuvenation, allowing writers to return to their work with renewed energy and perspective.

The Myth That Writing Is a Lonely Journey

Like the Borg, the myth that writing is a lonely journey pervades the collective, painting the writer as a solitary figure, hunched over a desk in a dimly lit room, cut off from the world—of the writer as a lone genius, battling against the odds to produce a work of art through individual effort alone. While writing does require periods of solitude to focus and reflect, believing that it has to be be a wholly isolated endeavour ignores the value that community, collaboration, and feedback bring to the creative process.

Book coaches understand that writing, far from being a path a writer walks alone, is enriched through interaction and exchange.

Many book coach have writing communities, usually online, and these communities offer support, understanding, and a sense of belonging—a space where writers can share their challenges and triumphs. Within community, writers find not only camaraderie but also opportunities for learning and growth through workshops, writing groups, and critique sessions.

Recently, I had a client use an hour's call to talk about writing in general and not the feedback I'd sent a few days before because "I don't know any other writers". Naturally, I encouraged him to either find a community of writers or start his own.

Collaboration is a key element that book coaches embody.

By working with writers whether through coaching calls to work through feedback or collaborative brainstorming sessions, writers can explore new ideas, perspectives, and techniques in a safe environment, and this relationship can lead to unexpected discoveries and innovation in a writer's work, pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved on their own. I'm a book coach, and I use a book coach for my own writing.

Feedback plays a crucial role in the development of any manuscript, and a book coach will constructively engage with the material, and it's this highly-trained, external input that's invaluable for gaining insight into identifying strengths to build upon, and pinpointing areas for improvement.

Plus, there's someone in your corner, cheering you on.

Equating Length with Quality (Snigger)

Equating length with quality snags a lot of writers, particularly when they're at the beginning of their journey, who believe that higher word count equals a more substantial, impactful story. This lead to bloated manuscripts filled with too much detail, plot lines a bunny would struggle to follow, and longwinded descriptions that do nothing to lift the story or deepen engagement. The essence of great writing is not found in the quantity of words but in the ability to convey the writer's ideas and emotions with clarity and brevity.

A book coach guides writers to appreciate and master the art of precision in their storytelling. They emphasise that every word, sentence, and paragraph should serve a purpose, whether it's to advance the plot, deepen character development, or enhance the thematic resonance of the work.

The goal is to grip readers, stir up emotions, and provoke thought, without banging on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

See what I did there?

Like I said earlier, book coaches helps writers develop the skill of identifying and eliminating extraneous content. Through coaching, they teach writers to review and revise drafts with a critical eye, encouraging them to ask themselves whether each element of the manuscript contributes to the overall story. This process of continuous refinement makes sure that the final product is tight, engaging, and impactful.

Furthermore, a book coach underscores the value of clarity in writing. They demonstrate how clear, straightforward language can often convey meaning and emotion more powerfully than complex, flowery prose. This focus on clarity extends to the structure of the narrative, with a book coach guiding writers in crafting well-organised threads that readers can follow without unnecessary confusion or distraction.

By challenging the equation of length with quality, a book coach empowers writers to prioritise substance over volume. They teach that a succinct, well-crafted story holds more power and resonance. Through the cultivation of precision, conciseness, and clarity, writers distil their stories to their essence, making sure that every word counts and contributes to a compelling, memorable story.

Postponing Genre Decisions

This one's less common, and these misconceptions aren't in any particular order, but postponing genre decisions is a common approach for "discovery writers" who dive into their manuscripts with a sense of exploration, believing that the genre will naturally emerge as the story unfolds. While this offers an unbridled sense of creative freedom, it usually leads to confusion, both for the writer during the drafting process and for agents and commissioning editors trying to understand the book's place in the literary landscape. Without a clear genre, a manuscript lacks direction in both its narrative structure and focus. Plus, the absence of genre awareness significantly hinders marketing efforts, making it a challenge to reach the right audience. Remember this ideal readers? If you don't know who they are, you'll never find where they hang out, and if you don't know where they hang out, you can't hang out with them, and if you can't hang out with them, they'll never know about your book.

Book coaches understand that writers have to know their genre from the outset (hello, blueprinting!). They highlight how genre awareness can serve as a guiding light, offering a framework within which writers can craft stories with purpose and direction. Genre influences narrative decisions, character development, pacing, and thematic depth. Every element of the manuscript should align with its genre expectations.

If the romantic lead snuffs it at the end of a 'romance' novel, that's not a happily ever after, and romance readers will tear writers apart if they don't get their happily ever after. Be warned.

Moreover, a book coach understands the nuances and subgenres within their chosen field—many book coaches 'niche down' to specific genres—and provide insights into current market trends, reader expectations, and the conventions of each genre or subgenre. This understanding means that writers can position their work more precisely, finding a niche that aligns with their voice and story, while also offering something fresh to the genre. Expect a book coach to ask you what your book's "adding to the conversation".

A book coach also addresses the creative concerns that might arise from defining a genre early in the writing process. Some writers are scared that genre might limit their creativity or force their narrative into a predetermined mould, but a book coach can demonstrate how genre can actually enhance creativity. By understanding the rules and conventions of their genre, writers can play within these boundaries, subvert expectations, and innovate in ways that surprise and delight their readers.

A clear genre identification from the start is not a constraint but a tool for clarity, coherence, and connection with readers—and stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Relying Solely on Motivation

Relying solely on motivation to write is like waiting for a unicorn to give you a ride to the coffee shop. It sounds magical, but you're probably just going to end up late and caffeine-deprived, standing on the pavement in your pyjamas, wondering where your life went wrong.

And that's all I have to say on the matter.

(Okay, okay, so book coaches help with deadlines and help writers understand the 'why' of their story and lots of other cool stuff, but see 'Waiting for Inspiration to Strike' for all the magical, unicorn-ey ways a book coach can help—they're pretty much the same.)

In short, bum + seat = finished manuscript.

Now that's all I have to say on the matter.

Final Thoughts (At Last!)

Man/Woman/Person/Other, that was a long article.

In the grand saga that is writing, book coaches emerges not just as a guide but as the Gandalf to a writer's Frodo, steering you through the Mordor of misplaced modifiers and the Fangorn Forest of plot holes. They're the lighthouse illuminating the treacherous waters of creativity, where the Kraken of writer's block lurks beneath the waves, ready to drag down the unwary. With a book coach at the helm, you're not just navigating these waters; you're charting a course to the Isle of Published Works, armed with nothing but your wit and a sturdy keyboard.

By debunking myths such as the Parnassus-Dwelling Muse—who, let’s be honest, has a worse attendance record than an A-Level two weeks before graduation—book coaches know that waiting for her is like waiting for a printer to work when you’re already late for a meeting: a test of patience and sanity. And then there’s the Quest for the Holy Grail of Perfect First Drafts, a mythical object that, much like my gym membership, is talked about more often than it’s actually seen.

The solo editing process, too, is exposed for the myth it is. Expecting to catch all your own errors is like expecting to tickle yourself—it’s technically possible, but it’s not going to work the way you think. And let’s not forget the ambition to pen a book that pleases everyone, an endeavour about as easy as teaching a cat to fetch. Spoiler alert: You’re going to need a lot of treats, and even then, success is not guaranteed.

Book coaches challenge the belief that writing is a solitary journey. Thinking you have to write alone is like believing you need to be a hermit to enjoy meditation. Sure, solitude can be part of it, but have you ever tried meditating with someone else? There’s strength in numbers.

As for equating length with quality, well, we all know that's like assuming the length of a YouTube video determines its value. We've all fallen down that rabbit hole and emerged hours later, wondering why we now know so much about the dietary habits of a rare parrot.

And oh, the delay in deciding on a genre? That’s akin to putting off deciding what you’re hungry for until you’re already in the drive-thru line with a line of cars behind you. (Decision paralysis, meet external threat!)

Relying solely on motivation to write is like expecting to win the lottery without buying a ticket. It’s a lovely thought, but you’re probably going to need a more reliable game plan. And believing everyone is your audience is like trying to make a single dish at Christmas that everyone will like—good luck when Creepy Uncle Malcolm 'likes things spicy', Grandma prefers bland, and your weird cousin from Wigan is suddenly vegan.

In the end, a book coach doesn’t just shine a light; they are the entire fireworks display.

They gently remind writers that while the path to publication might be fraught with mythical beasts and daunting challenges, it’s also paved with learning and the occasional snack break. With a book coach’s wisdom (and their arsenal of dad jokes—or is that just me?) writers can write forward with confidence, knowing that while perfection might be a myth, the perfect writing partner isn’t.

And remember, in the world of writing, beauty—and hilarity—lies in the eye of the beholder, or, in this case, at the tip of the pen (or cursor) of the writer.



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