6 Questions With Writing Coach Maartje Cooijman: The Letter Review Interview

Maartje Cooijman is an experienced writing coach. You can learn all about her work here.

1. What exactly does a writing coach do?

That is a great question. There are many writing coaches, so there will be many different approaches.

For me, it is helping somebody declutter their thoughts.

Writing can be a bit like a ball of yarn sometimes. There will be parts where you get tangled up in the story.

It is my mission to help writers to untie the knots.

What I do depends on the person who hires me.

Some writers love to brainstorm about the story, others like to talk about the structure, and some want to flesh out their characters. My job is fairly easy. I mainly listen.

Many authors work out the kinks in their stories when they talk about them.

When they get stuck or sound unsure, I ask them questions.

In very rare situations, somebody really does not know how to proceed. When they hit that wall and cannot think of any solutions, I offer them possibilities. Questions like ‘what would happen if…’, and ‘but if they did this there, could they not do this here…’ can evoke a lot of resistance or relief.

Both are good, in my opinion.

When an author offers resistance, it is interesting to dive into their arguments. The answer to how to continue is often hidden in there. When there is a sigh of relief, well… I do not have to explain that one.

2. Who can be a writing coach?

The cold truth is that anybody can call themselves a writing coach. If you want to work for a company, you often need some writing-related degree, but that does not say anything about your skills.

I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism, minored in creative writing, and am currently working on my NLP- degree. That sounds marvellous on paper, but my real value lies in my experience.

I have written several books, am a published author in my home country (The Netherlands), and participated (and won) several writing competitions.

Because I write anything from short stories to novels, I have valuable insights into the writing process.

A story arc works differently for each type of story.

There are different places where you might lose suspense or have too much of it, and you do not introduce the characters in the same way either.

You only know that if you have that experience.

Somebody with a degree on paper but no real experience only has theoretical knowledge.

Life tends to swerve in different directions, however, so in my opinion, a piece of paper alone is not enough.

3. How can someone become a writing coach?

It is just putting yourself out there.

You might already be coaching without realizing it when your writing friends come to you to get feedback on their work, ask you questions on how to fix it, and love brainstorming with you.

Becoming a writing coach is like any other entrepreneurial adventure. It has to come from the heart to be successful.

If you are doing it for the money, you have the wrong mentality.

Do not get me wrong, you deserve to get paid well for what you do and get paid well. As long as you offer something of value.

You need to have a strong drive and passion for helping people perform at their best. You cannot be afraid of competition.

You need to see it as a reward when your client gets a publishing deal or wins a contest.

I feel that every writer has a unique voice, and I revel when I can help it to come out. Maybe that is why I started my blog with writing advice.

Some techniques, like writing about sight or adding relatable character flaws, might be a no-brainer for me but it might be the answer another author is looking for. Why not share that?

4. What are the top reasons people should hire a writing coach?

It depends on the person themselves, and the question they have. There are so many diverse writing coaches out there, that there is a solution for all your problems and an answer to all your questions, as long as you find the right one.

I can help people with plotting their stories, brainstorming, strategizing, and polishing their stories. If people struggle with anything in their creative process, I am often able to help.

But when people ask me to help them with grammar, spelling, doing all the thinking for them, or even writing the story, then I have to pass. I am not the right coach for that.

There are no top five reasons to hire a writing coach in my opinion, but if you want an extra set of (unbiased) eyes on your work, or fire off ideas on somebody that understands the process, then a coach is a good idea.

5. When should people hire a writing coach?

Again, this depends on the struggles and the questions of the writer. This is such a personal question that there is no one right answer. You can hire a writing coach before you start working on your next story, while you are working on it, and even after you finished it.

It all depends on your wants and needs.

6. What do you enjoy most about being a writing coach?

My favorite part is by far brainstorming on a good plot. A strong story has several elements that come together, and the plot is one of those.

In my writing, I love to play with the reader. Placing some red herrings, do a twist as late as possible, and go for that gasping reaction.

The reader must be able to relate if you want to have an engaging story. The plot plays an important part in that.

It is not just about what happens but also how and when. And no matter how gruesome the situation, there is always something more happing in the background.

The so-called a-b-c- storylines. You can read more about that in my article on how to layer your stories.

Thanks Maartje!

You can find Maartje’s website here: https://www.maartjecooijman.com

Maartje’s blog: https://maartjecooijman.com/blog/

Maartje’s writing group FB: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mcswritingnook/

Maartje’s general FB: https://www.facebook.com/mcooijman

Maartje’s general IG: https://www.instagram.com/mcooijman/