Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Writing Coaches and Mentors: Do you need one?

I've been writing for about 9 years now. I gauge it by my oldest son's birthdays. He was 9 months old when I decided "I could write better picture books than I was reading to him." Turns out, I can't. But, I am pretty darn good at dialogue, and action scenes. Now, to put it all together in a novel and get it published...well, I'm still learning.

I have 1 novel done and revised many times over. I have a second one almost finished, working on it's last two chapters now. And, I have a third. The idea hit me hard, and I have about 4 chapters done.

After I finished my first novel, REDWOOD BLOOD. I shopped it around at a few retreats. I read the first chapter at Big Sur 2011, and one of the agents told me to send it to her. It got rejected a few weeks later.

I shopped it around at Tahoe's SCBWI Ellen Hopkins mentor retreat. I was again asked by an agent to send it. I was again rejected after a few weeks. 

Both rejections were personal, and helpful. But, I shelved the project. I got down. I got nervous. What if I couldn't pull it off? I started writing my second novel, THE LINK, ....nothing to do with the first one.

I shopped it at the Big Sur 2012 writer's retreat. And, I again have been asked, once it's finished, to send it....and I will, but at this point in my writing career. I need help. I need professional help. I'm getting nibbles, but not the bite. 

I know sending my work out to only two agents is not going to get me anywhere, but I've decided I want a portfolio of work before I jump in with both feet and send to fifty.

I've been doing okay writing alone, and using my SCBWI critique group to help me when I get stuck, but now, I need someone in the business above me and my colleagues. I need a mentor, or a writing coach.

Luckily, I met such an author at the Big Sur retreat in December. His name is Lewis Buzbee. He's been teaching writing for 19 years at the master's degree level. He's also a published writer many times over, and an award winning author. And, the best part, he believes in my work. 

We started our coaching just last week in January 2013. I'm marking it on my calendars, because in 6 months time I do believe that my novels will be polished and really, really ready to be sent out to agents and publishing houses.

I'll keep you all posted as the months go by. 
But for now, here's how it's set up:

  • 50 pages will be critiqued per month by Lewis
  • once a month we will meet, along with 3 other writers at the same level and we will discuss our manuscripts
  • Lewis will give talks, and guidance on a personal level, as well as a group level
  • When needed, there will be phone conversations to help propel my ms forward
  • I can email him anytime with a question
  • this is paid coaching / we discussed fees and all 4 writers agreed on pricing
  • the meetings will be scheduled so that all of us can make them / no one will be left out
  • At the end of 6 months, Lewis will help us decide on who is the best match for our work and help with query letters
  • We can also decide then if we want to continue with a new project

Suggestions to you:

If you are a seasoned writer, and you have at least one novel completed and revised, look into hiring a mentor or writing coach.

Today, most writers, who get published, have paid an editor to help them. Competition is high, and agents don't have the time to read 50 pages of your work to see if there's something there. They may read 10, usually they read the query and the 1st page. There's no way they can see what a writer is capable of, but the facts are the facts.

Check out your local colleges for writing teachers. You may also find someone through writer's associations, like SCBWI or Mystery Writers. See if any of them have personal websites, and send a message. Also, check the going rates in your area for mentors and coaches. 

And, if you thrive on a critique group setting, see if any of your writing friends want to get coached as a group. The rates will drop, and you just might all get published together. 

Good Luck!
And as always,


  1. Wow. OK what a wonderful idea. Angie, where are you located? This is very interesting.

  2. Great piece and awesome suggestion. Good luck!

  3. Hey Pen and Ink: I'm in San Francisco :)