Episode 13: Melanie's First Book Coaching Experience

In this episode 

In this episode, Jennie reads Melanie Parish her welcome letter to the Blueprint program and gives initial critiques on her submission.

Some highlights (or lowlights, if you’re Melanie!):

  • People often make the same mistakes, so the book coaches at Author Accelerator often say the same things to the authors they are coaching.  You’re not alone in facing the problems you face with your work.  

  • Being honest with yourself, and with your coach, is key.

  • Context:  We have to know what is happening, and where we are in time/space.  

  • Dialogue - make sure it is in context, both in time and space.

  • Character: Don’t make the reader guess on what your character is thinking and feeling.

  • Physical reactions are NOT internal reactions!  Don’t make the mistake of adding in too many physical reactions and leave out what is going on in your character’s head.

  • Again, don’t make your reader guess about information!  Give them as much to go on as possible.

  • Be careful about chronology - don’t confuse the reader.  Be very clear about what is happening, when, and why.

  • The big action needs to happen on stage, where we can watch it unfold.

  • Understanding the structure of a scene is key - what happens, and what drives the next scene, is important to remember as you’re writing.

Melanie wasn’t especially surprised at the criticisms Jennie had for her.  Jennie says that writers need to trust that feeling when something isn’t right- that’s the muscle that needs to be built and exercised.  Your instinct can be honed and trained to avoid these pitfalls.  

Melanie highlights the problems of making big changes after you’ve written a large chunk of your manuscript.  As we learn, getting help from a book coach or editor after you’ve written so much is challenging and it’s important to remember that you don’t need to hold onto your work so tightly.  If the words aren’t serving you, you’ll know it, and real writers know when they need to throw stuff out.  In weeks 4-5 of the Blueprint program, Melanie and Abby will get lots of practice in “throwing things out.”

Your words can’t be precious.  The words you write have to serve the story.  If they don’t, you have to be able to throw them out.
— Jennie Nash


Jennie gives suggestions on taking your old manuscript and making an entirely new document that helps you process what you decide to keep and what you decide to trash.  What passes the test and meets the criteria that allows those words to come over the wall?  Only the things that are working for your story, that serve the story, get to come over the wall.    

What’s a fatal flaw to a manuscript?  According to Jennie, sometimes it can be endless descriptions of physical things.  Physical aspects like weather, details of rooms, abstract tangents on things that don’t relate or make logical sense - in small doses they can add to the story, but humans are much more interesting and they’re what your reader wants to read.  Don’t let your story go off the rails on tangents that don’t serve your character’s purpose and your point in writing the story.  Don’t let your characters be puppets on a stage - let them connect to your readers over the things that are universal to everyone.  Tell your readers who your characters are and why they matter, and why they do the things they do.  

Jennie, Mel, and Abby discuss how you decide what to keep in your story, and what to throw away, and the hard questions you have to ask yourself when you’re trying to decide what in your story is worth fighting for.  Jennie describes the process of habitual, deadline-oriented accountability that Mel and Abby will experience in the Author Accelerator Blueprint program, and how it can help them finish their novels while getting the fundamental foundations right.  

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