#WriterlyAdvice: Coaching with Donna Alward
So Donna Alward's talking all about the importance of having support, and how she discovered her love for coaching!
I wear a lot of different hats. I’m a writer. I’m a small business owner (as all authors really are). I’m a wife, and a mom, and as my dad used to say, the Chief, Cook, and Bottle-washer (I do have a joint-chief in my husband). I’m a freelance editor and I’m also a writing coach with The Red Pen Coach.
Coaching is one of my favorite things (and way above cleaning toilets or washing dishes). I have a small roster of coaching clients, in various stages of their writing journeys, and each one has very different needs. This is something I really enjoy. For one, I was a recipient of informal “coaching” back when I was trying to sell my first book. I had a critique partner (Michelle Styles) who didn’t let me away with anything. I spent a lot of time on Harlequin’s forums, particularly in Subcare, where pubbed authors would offer advice. Liz Fielding, Trish Wylie, Kate Walker, and others also offered words of encouragement and even offered to read some stuff and give me some tips. That’s what the Romance community is like. We help each other out. There’s room for everyone at the table.
So after I’d sold and got a few books under my belt, I started a Perfect Pitch contest that I ran for several years. The winner, who would have submitted a pitch and then writing samples, got to pick my brain as their mentor for the remainder of that year. Every single winner I had went on to sell. I critiqued chapters, helped with synopses and queries, brainstormed new stories, and offered insight on where stories might belong – either within HQ lines or other publishers.
When I joined The Red Pen Coach a few years ago, coaching was one area I was really keen on, and so I took on my first coaching clients. Sometimes the match isn’t perfect, but other times it’s like it’s meant to be. I’ll look at material, help plot, offer feedback on the industry… basically, whatever I’ve learned over the last 11 years and nearly 50 books is at my clients’ disposal. Sometimes it’s something as simple as finding time to write and accountability. Other times it’s forming a strategy for submitting stories or going indie. It might be advice on marketing or setting up a website or social media platform. And always, always handholding if required. Particularly after a rejection, or if something just isn’t going their way.
One of my clients, Charlee James, showed some raw talent from the beginning. She’s worked hard, she’s written three…maybe four? stories since we’ve been working together, and just keeps getting better. I’m not the only one who thinks so – she just made her first sale to Tule Publishing and there are more great things ahead for her. Other clients are finishing books, planning new ones, their writing’s getting stronger, and so is their confidence. How awesome is that?
What do I get out of it? Well, it’s my job. But it’s also the kind of job where I get to help people, the same way people helped me. It helps me connect to the client, and seriously, contributes to the wonderful sense of community that romance writers have. I get to celebrate their victories. And I’m reminded each day of how the journey was challenging but how wonderful all those firsts feel. It gives me gratitude and lots of warm fuzzies.
And warm fuzzies are not to be underestimated.
You can check me out at www.theredpencoach.com and see what I, and the rest of the editors and coaches, have to offer.