The Pros and Cons of Group Coaching for Writers


There are so many forms that working with an editor can take. Here’s why a group coaching program might be the perfect fit for you and your writing goals.

Have you ever had an idea that caught hold in your imagination and just would not let go?

You think about it all the time, you brainstorm and plan and it just grows and grows. Maybe you set it aside for a while, but two months or four months or six months later, it bubbles up again. It has you and just won’t let go.

You’re a writer, so I’m confident that’s happened to you before.

And it’s where I am right now. I have an idea I’ve been developing for probably six months or more.

For a while, it wasn’t the right time to put it into action, so I tabled it for a few months. But it just keeps coming up, and I think the time is coming to give it a go.

Here’s my idea: an eight-week workshop where I gather a group of writers and together we master the art of editing amazing scenes.

I think it will be really, really cool, and I’m so excited to test it out with a group of writers this spring.

But while I could spend this whole episode just ranting about all the things I’m excited to try in this workshop, and you know I love some good enthusiastic rants, that’s not really the point of this episode.

Instead, here’s what I want to talk about today:

Why Group Coaching for Writers?

Why group coaching for writers?

Why is this even a thing? What are the advantages? And how could group coaching be helpful to you?

See, when I was getting started as an editor, I had never heard of group coaching for writers. I’m familiar with group coaching in loads of other activities.

For instance, I love to swing dance, and when I go to dance events, I take group classes. And of course, all the classes I took in grade school and college were group learning.

But when it comes to editing a book, I’d always thought of that as a one-on-one experience.

In my mind, it looked like this: A writer writes a manuscript and sends it to their editor. The editor writes feedback and sends it back. The writer takes that feedback and uses it to edit their manuscript.

That’s the classic form of editing. But it is far, far from the only form of editing.

Another format that can be really powerful is a group model.

In this format, a group of writers meet with an editor or book coach to work on their stories together at the same time.

This kind of editing doesn’t necessarily have the same goal as that one-on-one model—it probably doesn’t include getting personalized feedback on your entire manuscript from an editor.

And that’s okay. Group coaching is meant to do something different. Group isn’t better than one-on-one, or vice versa. It’s just different—a different experience that can meet different needs in your writing in a different way.

In fact, you might decide to try both group and one-on-one editing at different points in your writing career. So it’s great to know what your options are!

5 Advantages of Group Coaching for Writers

So let’s talk about it. What are the advantages of group coaching for writers?

I have five advantages I want to share with you.

1. Group coaching costs less than one-on-one services.

Let’s start with the most pragmatic feature of group coaching: the price.

Group coaching is pretty much always going to cost less than working one-on-one with that same editor or book coach.

One-on-one work is always going to be more expensive because you’re getting more access to that expert’s time, thought, and creative energy, all focused only on you and your story.

In a group setting, you can work with that expert, but share the cost among several other writers. So if there’s someone you want to work with, but their one-on-one prices are out of reach for you, see if they offer any group coaching options.

So that’s the first advantage: the price for group coaching is lower than the price for one-on-one work.

2. Group coaching has a built-in leader to provide structure.

Here’s the second advantage:

Group coaching has a built-in leader to provide structure that’s designed to help you thrive.

Thus far, I’ve been comparing group coaching to one-on-one editing services. But it’s also worth talking about how group coaching is similar to—and different from!—your standard writing group or critique group.

Another way that writers seek out feedback besides hiring an editor is by joining or creating critique groups. These are writer-led groups designed to help you get peer feedback from other writers.

But if you’ve ever been involved in a group project in any capacity, you know that one of the big challenges is figuring out who’s going to lead the darn thing.

Groups always need some level of leadership in order to create useful structure. What day do we meet? How long are meetings? What kind of feedback do we give? How do we decide who gets feedback?

Someone has to decide. Someone has to step up and create the structure in which the group can function.

In a group coaching cohort, there’s a built-in leader who’s already made those decisions so you don’t have to. Better yet, that leader is an expert who is intentionally curating a container that will help you and your writing thrive.

You skip all the stress and misery of organizing a group project and jump straight to the fun and useful part: actually writing and getting feedback.

3. You get to learn from an expert.

Which brings me to the third advantage of group coaching: you get to learn from an expert editor or book coach.

In a writer-led critique group, you’ll get feedback from other writers. And let me first say that it can be helpful to get feedback from your peers, especially if your peers are at your same level or a bit ahead of you.

But there are a few things to watch out for in writer-led critique groups.

First, there’s no guarantee that the other writers in the group know how to give feedback in a way that’s both helpful and not soul-crushing.

Giving effective feedback is an art form of its own, and let’s be honest: not everyone has honed their craft here.

I’ve heard many stories of writers who have received feedback so crushing that it made them want to quit. And at that point, it doesn’t really matter if the feedback is true or not; if it makes you want to quit, it’s not helping you make progress.

The second thing to watch for is whether the feedback you’re getting is relevant and true.

I’ve seen writers focus on critiquing grammar issues when the writing really needs developmental feedback. And I’ve seen writers give advice that’s likely to make the writing worse.

In fact, one of the reasons why I’m such a huge proponent of working with an editor at all, regardless of whether it’s one-on-one or in a group, is simply because I’ve seen so many writers get bad advice from people who, quite frankly, don’t know what they’re talking about.

I don’t want you to waste days or weeks or months or years struggling to implement bad advice. I want you to get trustworthy advice from people who know what it takes to tell a great story and who care about you and want you and your writing to succeed.

And in a group coaching model, you get the support and guidance of an expert who can give you good feedback and spot and save you from bad feedback.

You get to learn alongside your peers from an expert who has invested a lot of time studying and practicing and honing their craft so that they’re equipped to identify what will truly be most helpful for you and your writing.

So that’s the third advantage: you get to learn from an expert.

4. You get to learn from other writers.

And the fourth advantage is this: you get to learn from your peers!

Okay, it’s kind of funny that I just spent a good bit of time explaining all the ways peer feedback can fall short, and now I’m saying that learning from your peers is an advantage.

But it really is! Just not in the way you might think.

I get to work with so many incredible writers. I get to read their stories and give them my best feedback.

And then I watch as they take my feedback, transform it into their own ideas and voice and style, and edit their stories in the way that’s precisely them.

And the cool thing is, I get to see how differently all these writers do that. How I might give two writers very similar feedback, and yet they apply it to their stories in widely different ways.

And so often, I think: wouldn’t it be amazing to get all these writers together, where they can read each other’s writing and hear my feedback on all these different stories, and then see the widely varied ways that each writer interprets that feedback and applies it to their writing?

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could see what I see—how the same story structure principles work across all kinds of different writing styles?

If you could get a glimpse into other writers’ editing processes and steal ideas to apply to your own process?

If you could see how a dozen other writers are finding a dozen different ways to solve the exact same problems you’re facing?

Personally, I think the greatest value you can get from a critiquing experience with other writers is the chance to see the feedback those writers get and the ways they interpret and apply that feedback. You get to see how many more creative ideas are out there beyond the ones you would come up with on your own.

You can learn so much by studying what other writers are doing and seeing what you want to try—and what you don’t want to try—yourself.

This, by the way, is something that one-on-one editing services just can’t offer. I love working with writers one-on-one. It’s what I do with most of my time. But it’s just not possible to get this kind of insight, access to collective knowledge, and inspiration in a one-on-one dynamic.

And this is so incredibly valuable. This is what makes me so excited about my group workshop idea. I get so excited when I think about you having the opportunity to see what I see and learn not only from feedback on your own writing, but also from feedback on other people’s writing, too.

This, I think, is why this idea just won’t let me go.

But there’s one more advantage I don’t want to miss. It’s the one that in my experience, we all value least, but we all need most. Here it is:

5. You connect with a community of writers.

When you’re in a group coaching cohort, you get to connect with a community of writers. You get to build relationships with other writers.

And not just any writers, but writers who are at the same stage as you. Experiencing the same challenges as you. Pursuing the same goals as you. And because you’re in a structured group together, they’re learning the same material as you and building the same shared language as you.

The connections you make in a group coaching cohort can last long after the structured program ends.

I mention this because in my experience, we never join something just because we could make friends there.

We join a writing program because we want to write a book. We take dance classes because we want to dance. We join a gym because we want to be healthy.

But so often, the best thing we get from joining those groups are the people. It’s a cheesy meme, but it’s true: the real treasure is the friends we make along the way.

Don’t get me wrong—if you want to make friends, there are so many ways to do that that don’t involve also subjecting yourself to the grueling process of writing and editing a book.

But if you’re already writing a book, and you’d like to surround yourself with people who get it, a group coaching program is a wonderful way to do that.

3 Cons of Group Coaching

Now, there are a couple of caveats I want to mention to help you determine whether group coaching is right for you and help you make the most out of it.

We can call these the “cons” of group coaching—although I don’t think they’re cons so much as the potential for disappointment via mismatched expectations.

1. There’s less flexibility for customization to a specific writer’s needs.

The first caveat is this:

Because group coaching is designed to serve a group, there’s less flexibility for customization based on the needs of a single writer. So if you’re thinking of joining a group coaching program, be sure to look at the goal of the program and make sure that it’s something you want.

This applies to literally any editing service you ever purchase. But it’s especially important to keep in mind when you’re looking at a group program.

When you’re working one-on-one with an editor, the only people who get to define the success of your work together are you and your editor.

That means that anytime you decide together that something isn’t quite working or something else might be a better fit, you get to pivot. You can customize all the work that you do together to meet your specific needs.

In a group dynamic, the people who define the success of the group are you and your coach and everyone else in the group.

Ideally, the coach will build in some flexibility to be able to adjust and meet everyone’s needs. But it will be a lot more effective for you to get your needs met if you make sure at the outset that the goal of the group is a goal that you have for your own writing.

If the group program’s goal is one that you’re not interested in for your own writing, well, the group probably won’t be able to pivot to something completely different in order to be a better fit for you.

So before you join a group coaching program—or really, before you invest in any editing service or writing training—ask yourself:

  • What do you need?
  • Where are you struggling?
  • What would be most helpful to you in your writing and editing process right now?

And then look for the opportunities that match your needs.

2. Group coaching allows for less (though not zero!) one-on-one attention.

And the second caveat is this:

Group coaching allows for less one-on-one attention from your editor or book coach than you’d receive if you were to spend the same amount of time in a one-on-one setting.

Or, to be more blunt:

You’re probably not going to get detailed feedback on your entire manuscript when you’re in a group coaching program.

That’s typically outside the scope of what an editor can do in a group setting. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll be more satisfied with one-on-one editing services.

In a group coaching program, you’ll likely get feedback on specific pieces of your manuscript that will be predetermined by the coach.

The coach might ask everyone to share a scene of their novel. Or specifically the opening scene of their novel. Or the outline or synopsis of their novel. Or maybe their query letter.

They’re probably not going to ask everyone to share their full manuscript for feedback, because that’s a lot.

Again, this is why it’s worth being really intentional about choosing a group program that’s going to meet a need that you have. Because if you need feedback on your scenes, and you join a group coaching program that’s focused on scenes, that’s a great fit! But if you’re expecting feedback on your full manuscript, you might be disappointed.

And ultimately, no one wants that! You want to finish your group coaching program absolutely delighted with the experience. The leader of the program wants that. I want that for you, too!

So ask yourself what you really need in your writing right now.

Then, check the outcomes that a group coaching program is designed to help you achieve. And check the type and amount of feedback you can expect to get in the program so that you can join the program with clear expectations and everyone is set up for success.

3. You might encounter some unpleasant group members.

And the final caveat is this:

Group coaching happens . . . in a group. And if you’ve ever been in a group of people before, you know that people are messy, and sometimes someone causes problems.

This might look like a group member not showing up to sessions or participating in the group.

Worse, it might look like a group member being mean or antagonistic towards other writers. We need antagonists in our stories. We don’t need them in our critique groups.

You can’t control who else joins a group coaching program.

But I believe that the responsibility for curating a safe and productive group falls on the leader, on the coach who’s created the program and is managing the space.

And you can watch to see whether the leader of a program is someone you trust.

Do they hold values that you share? These might be values about methods of communicating feedback, or they might be more fundamental values about respecting and honoring all human beings.

Do they have good testimonials? Especially if the specific group coaching program has been around for a while, you can look for testimonials about other writers’ experiences.

Have you worked with the leader before? If you know the leader personally or you’ve worked with them before, you might have a sense of whether they’ll manage and protect the group coaching space.

And of course, if you have any concerns or hesitations, you can always ask them directly. They may even have a code of conduct outlining the procedures they’ll take if the group runs into a problem.

The 5 Pros and 3 Cons of Group Coaching for Writers

So there you have it: five advantages of group coaching. Five reasons why a group coaching program might be a good fit for you, right now or at any point in your writing career.

And three cons, or really, caveats to keep in mind as you explore group programs that might be a good fit for you.

Here they are again.


  1. Group coaching costs less than one-on-one services.
  2. Group coaching has a built-in leader to provide structure.
  3. You get to learn from an expert.
  4. You get to learn from other writers.
  5. You’ll connect with a community of writers.


  1. There’s less flexibility for customization to a specific writer’s needs, so make sure the program is designed to meet a need that you have.
  2. Group coaching allows for less (though not zero!) one-on-one attention (so don’t expect your coach to read your entire manuscript unless they specifically say they will).
  3. You might encounter some unpleasant group members (because people are people, and sometimes there are bad actors).

Sneak Peek: My Scene Mastery Workshop

And of course, I can’t leave you without giving you a sneak peek at this idea I’m so excited about, the group coaching program I have in the works!

It’s called the Scene Mastery Workshop, and it’s an 8-week writing workshop to help you master writing and editing amazing scenes.

After all, great novels are made of great scenes. So scene editing is an essential writing skill. And if you’ve listened to this podcast for a while, you know that I LOVE digging into scenes.

Here’s how the workshop will work:

  • I’ll gather a group of 8 writers.
  • We’ll meet on Zoom together once a week for probably 8 weeks. I might change this to 9 weeks because I just keep coming up with ideas.
  • Each week, we’ll study a scene of a published novel.
  • Then, I’ll workshop a scene written by one of the writers in our group.

Throughout the workshop, each writer will get personalized feedback on their scene and learn from the feedback on every writer’s scene.

By the end of the eight weeks, you’ll . . .

  • Revise a scene of your novel based on my feedback.
  • Understand the fundamental structure that makes scenes work, plus how you can adapt it to a variety of genres and writing styles.
  • Be equipped with scene editing tools you can use to revise ALL your scenes. (These are the tools I use with my one-on-one editing clients!)

I am really excited about this idea. I’ve designed this workshop to make the most of all five advantages of group coaching—and especially the fact that you’ll get to learn from other writers’ scenes.

But this only works if eight writers also think this is a really useful idea and decide to join. So I would love to hear from you!

If the Scene Mastery Workshop sounds like something you’d be interested in, fill out the form below and add your name to the waitlist.

All right, that’s all I’ve got for you today. If you take just one thing from this episode, let it be this: there are so many forms that working with an editor can take. And sometimes, a group coaching program is the perfect fit for you and your writing goals.

And if my Scene Mastery Workshop sounds exciting to you, fill out the form and let me know!

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