Story Coaching

What is Story Coaching?

Story Coaching is a process in which a writer meets via Zoom or in person with a coach (or two coaches, depending on need) to brainstorm and then plan a series or an individual work of fiction. Our sessions usually last two to three hours, and many writers only need a single session to fully plot a book. 

How is Story Coaching different from editing?

Story Coaches do not read your manuscript. Instead we ask specific, targeted questions about the story you have envisioned. With this information, we help you figure out the story you are trying to tell, and then help brainstorm a plot that will tell your story in a compelling, emotionally resonant way.

Who is Story Coaching for?

Story Coaching is for writers who deeply know the story they would like to tell but are stuck in the writing of that story. If you feel unsure what happens next in the plot, have been told that your pacing is off, or aren’t sure how to finish your book, Story Coaching is for you.

Story Coaching is for plotters and pantsers, and everyone in between. We will never pressure you to become one or the other, nor will we ask you to go further than you feel comfortable in your story.

Story Coaching is for writers who aren’t married to what they have already written. It is for folks who know their book has one or more problems and that the solution(s) might require reimagining much of the work. We will never pressure you to make changes, but it is hard to un-see problems once they have been pointed out.

Story Coaching is for writers who have considered a developmental edit for character arc or plot but are unable to afford the high cost of this service. 

How much of my book do I need to have written/how much of my plot do I need to know before coaching?

Because we do not read your manuscript, you do not need to have written any part of the book. We do suggest, however, that you have thought extensively about your characters and plot before meeting with a Story Coach. We will ask detailed questions about your motivations for writing this story; your main character’s wound, emotional arc, and backstory; your secondary characters’ backstories and connection to the main character; and your ideas for what happens in the story. You do not need a detailed plot—we will help with that—but for best results you should come in with a lot of knowledge about the story and characters. 

The Process

After contacting us about availability, we will work with you to find a date with the coach/coaches of your choice. After pre-payment for the first hour ($150 for one coach, $250 for two coaches), we will send a calendar invite with the Zoom invitation. Approximately one week before the session, we will send an informational form to fill out about your story. We ask that you complete this form at least 24 hours in advance of your coaching session. You may receive follow up emails from your coach/es asking for more information, so completing the form as early as possible is very helpful. 

The Session
After introductions, Sarah and/or Mary Jane will discuss their overall impressions of the information that you provided in your form. They will then ask follow-up questions to help them fully understand the story that you intend to tell. Once you and the coaches feel that you have found the emotional heart of the story, many clients will then work with their coach/es to brainstorm a plot that supports the emotional arc. The session can end at any point that the client feels that they have enough information to write their book(s) or if they feel this process isn’t a good match for their needs. 

You will receive a second invoice via email for any time past the first hour. If you have questions for your coach, you are welcome to ask them via email after the session. However, for further plotting or brainstorming, we ask that you book a follow up session with your coach.

Meet the Coaches

Sarah Clawson Willis

Sarah is an experienced writer and educator who enjoys working with writers in all stages of their careers. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Sarah writes in multiple age ranges, genres, and formats. Current projects include middle grade and young adult contemporary novels, historical fantasy novels, and contemporary graphic novels. She particularly enjoys coaching authors working in kid lit, romance, speculative fiction, and women’s fiction.

Mary Jane Nirdlinger

Mary Jane writes books and works in local government. She leads workshops on tapping into your inner writer, plotting, and plain language.  She received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2020. Non-writing obsessions include sewing, yoga, baking, and (as always) reading. She’s currently writing historical-fiction mysteries. She lives with her husband and scaredy-cat dog named Felix in North Carolina.


(There is a 1-hour minimum charge for all initial sessions)

Sarah: $150.00 per hour 
Mary Jane: $150.00 per hour 
Plot Party (Sarah and Mary Jane): $250.00 per hour

Ready to get started? Contact us here!