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In 2004, we lost our daughter in stillbirth.

I was completely broken. Broken in a way I’d never experienced before. I’d lost people, mostly aging relatives, so I understood the grief of losing a loved one. But this was different. I was grieving something — someone — physical, but also the loss of an idea of her and the way I’d envisioned the future.

Writing had always been a sanctuary, a safe space to vent my emotions in whatever form they came out, whether in tiny neat letters or in rage-filled scribbles. But when she died and my world imploded, I couldn’t. …

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Photo by Yan from Pexels

Dear Writer,

I don’t know about you, but there is a lot of self-talk going on up in my head that is not altogether…good.

Sure, there are the positive mantras we learned along the way, being the seekers for answers that we writers intuitively are.
I can do hard things!
I believe in myself!

Unfortunately, as soon as things get challenging (and they do get challenging), these get drowned out pretty quickly with self-deprecating thoughts.
Who do you think you are?
No one is going to care about this.

At least that’s how it goes for me.

The trick is, of course, to notice that we are having those thoughts, acknowledge where they are coming from (fear), and change the narrative.
Yes, this is hard. But it is worth it.
It is okay to be afraid. …

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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

When I was a senior in high school, I had to take Physics as a graduation requirement. By this point in my school career, I was leaning heavily toward the humanities and wanted nothing more to do with math or science. I walked into that classroom believing I was doomed to fail.

What I didn’t know was that the teacher, a dear grandfatherly man with bad jokes and even worse personal style, went far beyond the call of duty to make sure that his students understood the science he was so passionate about. Whether we were hanging on by a rope or a thread, he would check in with each of us regularly, spending hours after school and even hosting meetups at the local pizza shop, where we could come and sit for as long as it took for us to understand the problems of trains leaving stations and baseball trajectories. …

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Photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

There’s been a lot of uncertainty around here of late. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can handle much more. The good news is that if you are feeling uncertain about your book project or idea — is it good enough? am I good enough? — there is a quick exercise that can give you enough clarity to write another day.

A lot of the uncertainty we feel about our writing comes from not fully understanding why we are writing this particular piece, whether it’s a book or a blog post or an article or a email. And the bigger the project, the more important this why becomes. …

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Photo by Nadir sYzYgY on Unsplash

Book coaching is a lesser-known industry and one that many writers don’t even realize exists. Most of us know about editors (I talk about the difference between coaches and editors here.) We know about agents and publishers. But book coaches?

A book coach can work with writers in a number of different ways and on everything from idea to pitching. The primary characteristic that is common throughout all forms of book coaching is the one-on-one, individualized approach that the coach tailors specifically to your needs and your project. …

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Photo by Daniel Gonzalez on Unsplash

I’ve always been a Pantser.

(You know, a Pantser. Someone who writes by the seat of my pants. This is commonly said in opposition to a Plotter who, well … plots.)

Which is weird, because I like planning other things. I like to know what’s happening in a day and at what time. I like to know what we’re having for dinner this week. And I like having daily routines.

But I’ve always been someone who jumped into projects without any planning. Sure, I had a general idea in my mind, but writing an outline or sketching out the plot points? Not for me. I felt like doing so would stifle my creativity. …

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Photo by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash

New ideas aren’t always helpful for writers.

Of course new ideas are good in general. The more ideas, the better to draw from when starting a new project. Without ideas, we will stare blankly at the page, trying to squeeze stories out of nothing. Of course we want a pool of good (hopefully good!) ideas.

But if we are already working on something, new ideas can become shiny objects that distract us from our work-in-progress.

I have files and files of incomplete pieces of writing. This “shiny object syndrome” is a big part of why they are incomplete. I used to jump from project to project like a frog on lily pads, and none of them ever got finished. Each new idea felt exciting. …

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image courtesy of @bongkam thankyakij

During the past seven months, our world has been rocked. And one thing I know for sure is that many of us are having trouble doing creative work. Perhaps it is a why-bother feeling. Perhaps it’s a who-will-care thought. Perhaps it’s just…everything.

That said, I believe that for those of us so inclined, writing can be an act of radical self-care, especially during challenging times. After leaving my new middle-grade novel work-in-progress to languish for several months, I decided to get back to work. …

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Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

This is a really common question, so let’s take just a moment to explore it.

First, this: it is not one or the other. Writers benefit from both services. In fact, many book coaches (myself included) offer editorial services as part of or in addition to their coaching packages.

What I want to do today is clarify the difference for those of you asking, what is a book coach, anyway?

An edit happens after a manuscript is completed. The editor will look at the entire manuscript and give feedback based on the type of service you hired her for. (There are several different types of editing. Here is a good article about the options. …


Stephanie Dethlefs

Stephanie Dethlefs is a writer, book coach, podcast host, and fan of the perfect grilled cheese. Unstick Your Story with Stephanie at

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