Creative Writing for health, well-being and fun!

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Friday, 20 November 2009

Seven Ways to use your writing coach!

Many things can cause an otherwise worthwhile writing project to founder. Your writing coach will keep your project, your writing career and your writing ambitions safe. Your writing coach can help you:
Set clear goals and deadlines
Organise your life as a writer
Identify training needs in the genre of your choosing
Organise your research
Start writing and keep going to the end of the first draft
Handle feed-back, edit and re-write
Publish, broadcast or share in other ways

1. Set clear goals
Where do you hope to go with your writing project? Following your nose can work. But sometimes planning can help you arrive where you want to be more quickly and with better results. So, some writers start work, bristling with diaries, ‘road maps’ and post-it notes – lending a writing project the air of a military offensive. If you favour this style – and many do - your writing goals may benefit from the strong-minded application of management principles. Your writing coach can guide you here.
The SMART formula is currently popular. Adopt this and consider:
1) Is your writing goal Specific? (What form(s) of writing do you want to work on? A novel? A radio play? An academic treatise? The ultimate letter of complaint? )
2) How will you Measure your success? (Do you, for example, want to hold your published book in your hand by the second August Bank Holiday?)
3) Are you Able to produce this piece of writing? (Or do you need more training?)
4) Does this piece of writing Relate well to who you are and what you want from your life? (And does writing mesh well with your other hopes and aspirations at this time?)
5) What is your Time-line for this goal? (Deadlines work wonders for some.)

Meeting your own promises – Commitment
Once you’ve shaped your writing goal, of course, you must then consciously to commit to the process. According to the American Society of Training and Development, conscious commitment enhances your chances of success in any project. And the probability of success, it is said, ranges from 25% - if you decide to do something - to 50% if you plan how you will do it, to 95% if you ‘have a specific accountability appointment’ with an independent person. A writing coach, perhaps?
Being accountable to a coach is powerful. Knowing you’ll have to explain yourself can override your natural instinct for, say, making the family porridge or walking the dog. Imagine how you’ll feel when your coach asks you ‘Where is Chapter 3?’ and you have to reply ‘I haven’t done it.’
According to a 2002 survey, 81% of adult Americans wanted to write a book – and feel they should have done - but only 2% of these did. With your coach’s support, and your commitment, you should be able to join the 2%. At least, if you don’t, with coaching, you’ll understand the reasons why.

2. Organise your working life as a writer
Your working style contributes to the success or failure of your project so you may need to identify the best working style for you. If you hope to be a writer, words – and books – probably suit you. But do you ever feel that you work better with music in the background? Or that people telling you their stories is preferable to spending time in the library with psychological treatises? Or pictures inspire your writing? Different approaches – or a blend of these – may work better for you than keeping office hours at your desk. But, for some writers, office hours work best. Discussions with your coach will help you strategise to optimise your working style
You’ll also benefit from considering life-style issues which can influence your project’s outcome. These include:
Work/Life Balance and relationships
Wellness for writers
De-cluttering your working space and your mind
Time management and productivity
Handling rejection and starting again.
And much more.

3. Identify your training needs and develop writing skills
The important issue may be whether your words on the page say what you want them to say. But publishers aren’t noted for their patience in wading through poor presentation to discover this. You may also lack confidence regarding your grammar, punctuation or your choice of words and, if you do wish to publish, you could need an intensive programme in these skills. With practical exercises and recommendations for further reading, your coach can customise a programme to help you with the nuts and bolts of writing as well as the grander requirements of structure, theme and consistency. Writing training of this calibre will make you a professional.

4. Organise your research
Having too little material is rarely the problem. Having too much is more usual. And, as you move more deeply into the project, the goal-posts may shift. In a novel, for instance, as characters take on their own life, the ensuing structural changes can be seismic. And, during this process of seismic change, your coach will hold your agenda, calm your panic attacks, and help you understand what information from your research the reader needs to know and what information is merely distracting – especially apt for historical fiction writers! Your coach will work with you to develop a flowing chapter block-out – outlining chapter contents and arranging them in the most effective way. This will also be useful when you come to write a synopsis for potential publishers.

5. Motivation – start writing and keep going
Your coach will help you to deepen your commitment to your writing and become aware of those values you hold both as a person and as a writer. You will then understand what motivates you and how you can use this not only to start your writing project but also to keep it going. Writing a novel, for example, is a long haul, possibly using up two years of your life. You need to have the clearest idea of your motivation before you start.
You’ll also avoid procrastination. All working writers have tricks to help them keep writing and minimise displacement activities – such as the washing up. For some, for example, the electricity bill can be a major motivator. But, you may need something more subtle. Work with your coach to find out what motivates you to write and anchor this.
This done, when you wake in the morning, the first thing on your mind will be making use of the insights which came to you in the night. International creativity guru Eric Maisel calls this journey to your workplace from your bed the most important and the most dangerous walk of your day! Distractions abound. But it is also, he says, the walk that gives your life its meaning.

A Word on Writers’ Blocks
More serious than daily displacement activities, the writer’s block can make your project founder. It presents as fear – a rabbit in the headlights moment - in face of the blank page. You may be afraid of starting, of rejection, of the perceived imperfections of your writing, your inadequacies as a writer, even success (and what happens next). Your fears may be a very mixed bag.
A real block may need some effort to remove but the constant support of your coach will help you regain control of your project. And your coach will keep hold of your agenda even when you lose sight of it and be able to suggest strategies such as free writing; or modelling yourself on other blocked writers who’ve successfully moved forward. Or a laser coaching session. Ten minutes on the phone can do the trick!

6. Handle feed-back, edit and re-write
At the end of the first draft, you may feel you’ve done enough. Unfortunately, not. Editing is an essential part of the process and re-writing happens as often as needed to make the manuscript as perfect as possible. There is no escaping this and feed-back is a useful guide. Avoid friends who will just rubber-stamp your brilliance. This is when you need to ask for honest feedback, not just to assess the viability of the project – you should already be convinced of that – but to iron out inconsistency, flag up inaccuracy, and identify absolute nonsense. You may choose whether or not to integrate suggested changes but those who make them are invaluable in your process. Receiving feedback – the when of it, the who of it and the what to do with it now of it – is only the start of the sixth phase.

7. Move on to publication
This is the sharing bit of the process. Communication demands someone to receive what you have to say. None of us works entirely in a vacuum - even though you may feel that writing for yourself alone is enough. Or you may want to be published or broadcast and need the support of a coach to move out of the cocoon of your writing life and into an industry which like any other exists to make a profit.
Your coach will help you when you need to consider:
Preparing your manuscript for submission
Covering letters
Writing a proposal for a publisher or editor
Marketing for writers
Beginning the next book.

Good Luck!
©Lizzie Gates@Lonely Furrow Company 2009

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Book Proposal Workshop!


Presents a Series of 10 weekly workshops on


Facilitated by published writer and writing coach Lizzie Gates, these workshops will help you write a professional book proposal. Whatever your writing project – from self-help book to memoir - you will have the opportunity to look at issues such as titling, chapter block-outs, outlines, marketing options, query letters and much more. At the end of the series you will have a book proposal ready to send out to a publisher.
Cost: £10 per person per workshop (Places restricted to 10)

Come and join us!
Series starts on January 20th 2010
1.00pm - 3.00pm
The Conservatory, Thornthwaite, 28 Park West, Heswall, Wirral, CH60 9JF

Telephone 0151 342 3877 or 0796 961 8890 or email
for further information.

Short Story Workshops




A series of 10 weekly workshops on

The Short Story

Facilitated by professional writer and writing coach Lizzie Gates, these workshops will look at technical issues such as character, plot, theme, setting and style as well as issues such as wellness for writers, time management, managing your creative life, what to do with feedback, competitions and markets and much more!

Cost: £10 per person per workshop

Come and join us!
Series starts Thursday 21st January 2010 7pm - 9pm
The Conservatory, Thornthwaite, 28 Park West, Heswall, Wirral, CH60 9JF

Telephone: 0151 342 3877 or 0796 961 8890 or email for further information

Saturday, 14 November 2009

This week's workshops

Hello, everyone!

This week's workshops - Weds 18th @1pm and Thursday 19th @ 7pm - take 'A Sense of Place' as their theme. Participants are preparing a short piece (poetry, prose, drama) on places that mean something to them. The idea is to evoke the place so vividly that we, the audience, feel we know it and that we know why it means so much to you. A by-product is the craftsman's pleasure in honing and polishing - a different experience from the free-writing we've done so far.

Join us!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Creative Writing Coaching Workshops - success leads to new series!

Creative Writing Coaching Workshops go for a second series!

This Autumn’s Creative Writing Coaching Workshops have been so successful a second series is planned for early 2010.

Starting on Wednesday 20th January, Group 1 will now meet weekly at The Conservatory, 28 Park West, Heswall, Wirral, UK CH60 9JF. As usual, the cost will be £10 per session or £95 per 10 sessions, booked in advance.

Dates for Group 1 second series sessions will be:

January 20th 2010 1pm - 3pm
“ 27th 2010 “
February03rd 2010 “
“ 10th 2010 “
“ 17th 2010 “
Half-term (no class)
March 03rd 2010 “
“ 07th 2010 “
“ 17th 2010 “
“ 24th 2010 “
“ 31st 2010 “

Group 2 will continue fortnightly from January 21st 7 -9 pm at the same venue. The cost again will be £10 per session or £57.00p for a block of six, booked in advance.

Dates for Group 2 second series sessions will be:

January 21st 2010 7pm – 9pm
February04th2010 “
“ 18th2010 “
March 04th2010 “
“ 18th2010 “
April 01st2010 “

As with the Autumn series, each workshop is standalone and participants who miss one of their own chosen groups’ workshops may come to a workshop listed for the other group.

Topics so far have included memoir and autobiography, creative non-fiction, journaling, creative fiction, value systems, goal-setting, characterisation, plotting, scene-setting. In the new series, these will be re-visited with new exercises and approaches. And more topics will be announced on these pages in due course.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

How your values impact on what you write!

As a writer, the search for a value system may not seem relevant to you but it is - and not just ‘relevant’, ‘central’. Even if you’re surprised you have any values, the first step as always is to identify them. Let’s see what comes up.

Go with your first responses to the following questions:
1. Do you have a personal belief/philosophy about writing as a public service? What is this?
2. Who does the written word help? When is writing useful? Where can it help? Why does it help? In what forms can it help?
3. Is there any clash between your personal belief about writing and your writing up to this point? What is this?
4. If someone reads/hears what you’ve written, what do you think they would believe your personal writing belief to be?
5. What do you believe to be OK in writing? What do you believe to be not OK in writing? (NB Is this a matter of your taste or a matter of your values?)
6. How much meaning/significance does writing have in your life?
7. What is the value you attach to yourself as a writer?
8. What sort of writer are you? Commercial, Professional, Hobbyist, writing for personal or professional development?
9. Why do you want to engage with an audience in this way?
10. Do you have any spiritual/ethical guidelines or frameworks which influence the way you write?

By now, you will begin to understand what values currently form the building blocks of your own writing philosophy. None of this relates to technical matters. This is all about the essential ‘you’ as a writer.

Now for an exercise on some moral considerations. In the light of what you've just been thinking about:

1. Write down 10 values you know apply to your writing
2. Prioritise 5
3. Prioritise 3
4. Draw a coat of arms using symbols (animals, shapes, objects, anything which represents your three ‘values’ etc) identifying these three and providing yourself with a motto which over-arches your writing activity. (Search in a Book of Quotations or make up your own)
5. If you’d find it useful, look at this whenever you settle down to a writing session.

A word about fiction writing!

In non-fiction writing, your theme is explored through your knowledge, experience and your value system. But, even more apparent, in fiction, the way your characters explore the situation you have presented them with will reflect your values. Character is plot and your character's reactions result in change but any change described in a story you are writing is the result of your character’s reactions within the thematic framework of your values. This is the true purpose of your writing. Even opposing value systems, as expressed by antagonists, serve this end. You are answering your own questions.