Top 10 Things a Writing Coach Doesn’t Want to Hear

10. This session didn’t count, right?

9. I’m going to warn you up front that I don’t take criticism well.

8. How many books should I expect to sell in the first week?

7. I’m not looking to hire a writing coach, I just wanted to send my manuscript to you to get your feedback.

6. I never realized how effective semi-colons are.

5. My writing group thinks you’re wrong.

4. How many copies of my book are you planning on buying for your friends?

3. What are your rates for writing college research papers?

2. Can you help me get my fan-fiction into Barnes and Nobles?

1. I’ve got the cover image done, now I just need to write the book.

Can you think of any more? Leave a comment below.

Interviewing Aaron Volner

This week I’m doing something new. My good friend and fellow fantasy author Aaron Volner has just published his first novel, and I’ve invited him to my blog for a little interview. So, without further ado…

Hello Aaron! Welcome to my website. Are you ready for some hard-hitting, no-nonsense questions about your first novel?

Aaron Volner
Absolutely! I can’t promise the answers will be totally nonsense free, but I’m excited to talk about the book! Thanks so much for taking the time and space on your site to talk about it.

Ok, here’s my first question:
True or False – Is your book called Chronicles of the Roc Rider: Book One?

Aaron Volner
True! My book IS called “Chronicles of the Roc Rider: Book One”. Phew! They say the first question is always the hardest.

Perfect. Where did the idea for this story first come from?

Aaron Volner
I’ve always had a fascination with birds of prey, so it naturally followed that I loved the myth of the roc as well. In real world mythology the roc was a legendary elephant hunting bird that supposedly showed up when there were great storms. A while back I realized there weren’t as many rocs in fantasy as I would like and decided to do something about that. I started musing about how rocs would fit into a fantasy world, what their relation to humans would be, and the rest as they say is history.

So it isn’t because you have an irrational dislike for dragons?

Aaron Volner
That depends, does having an irrational dislike for dragons make me eccentric enough to be more marketable? Just kidding. I love dragons too. I’m a sucker for most mythological and fantasy creatures, really.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Aaron Volner
I really loved writing the relationship between my main human character, Tanin Stormrush, and his roc, Zera. Tanin has suffered a big loss when we first meet him. His wife and his original roc partner have both passed on. Zera is, at this point, the most, in not only, meaningful relationship he has left. Trying to work in moments for Zera to have her own personality and not just be a horse or dog with wings, in ways that would illuminate Tanin as a character, was an invigorating challenge.

How long did it take you to write this book?

Aaron Volner
When I first started writing Roc Rider, I was working on several other big writing projects at the same time. So I made very slow progress for a few years. I finally decided that I needed to get down to just one project, so I could get something finished, and decided on Roc Rider as the project I’d focus on. Once I made that decision it went pretty quickly.

The fact that it says “Book One” in the title seems a subtle hint that there might be more of these. How many are you planning on writing for the series?

Aaron Volner
There will be at least three books in the Roc Rider series. It is possible, depending on how I choose to end the third book, that the series may extend beyond that. I’m not making any promises beyond three though, for now.

When will the next book come out?

Aaron Volner
I’m already working on the second book and my goal is to have it out sometime in 2018. I don’t want to say precisely when yet, but I’m confident we’ll have book two out next year.

Would it come out any sooner if you had 100,000 sales in the first week?

Aaron Volner
I’d like to say yes, that if I got 100,000 sales the first week I’d use the money to build a time machine, travel forward to my future self who’s already written the book, take it back to now and publish it super early. But plans involving time travel rarely work out the way you expect them too. Who knows? I might create a timeline where I never have the fun of writing the book, and that would be terrible! Still, if that many sales do happen the first week I’ll have plenty of motivation to get the book done in a timely fashion.

Do you have any other projects in the works?

Aaron Volner
I have several other novels set in a different fantasy universes that I intend to pursue, including an urban fantasy series set in Wyoming. My next project I intend to finish after Roc Rider is one of the projects I was originally working on alongside it. This one follows a woman bounty hunter, Shara Fordell, who undertakes a job for the emperor, only to find herself enchanted by the object she’s sent to retrieve. Suddenly able to change bodies like the enslaved shape shifters, but unable to control the ability, she’s forced to go on the run or risk being captured. Things get more complicated when a plan is unveiled to resurrect a long-dead god…all they need, is Shara’s blood. I also have a text-based choose your path adventure game I’m working on for my website, although that project hit a technical snag and is currently in development limbo while I decide how to proceed. Interested readers can play a demo of the game on my website.

Last question: If I gave you fifty words or less for some shameless self-promotion, what would you say?

Aaron Volner
If you enjoy Lindsay Schopfer’s books (and really, who doesn’t) you should read mine. If you enjoy my book (and gosh, I hope you do) you should read Lindsay Schopfer’s books. Perhaps not the most shameless self-promotion in the world, but hey, both our books are awesome. So why not?

I won’t complain. Thanks for your time, Aaron, and good luck with your first published novel!

Click here to check out The Roc Rider: Book One

Click here to check out Aaron’s author blog

Some of my Favorite Quotes about Writers

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.
– Richard Bach

A hack is on the constant hunt for ‘ideas’ for his plots or ‘new angles.’ The real writer is haunted by a plot which he must write out of inner necessity. He is impervious to suggestions.
– Edmund Bergler

However great a man’s natural talent may be, the art of writing cannot be learned all at once.
– Jean Jacques Rousseau

Everyone who works in the domain of fiction is a bit crazy. The problem is to render this craziness interesting.
– Francois Truffaut

Any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others.
– Marianne Moore

How can you write if you can’t cry?
-Ring Lardner

Tips for Handling Writer Blindness

Have you become blind to the mistakes in your manuscript? Are you in that limbo of eternal editing without really getting anything done? Here are a few tips to break you out of that ongoing cycle.

Change Your Font, Color, and Text Size

Oftentimes, we become blind to the errors in our stories because we’ve seen this vast collections of sentences so many times that we mentally fill-in what a section should say, rather than actually looking at the words in front of you. One way to deal with this is to make your story harder to read. Changing things like the color of the page or the font will force your brain to focus on the words in front of you and snap you out of that editing reverie.

Listen to Mildly Distracting Music

This can be tricky, as you run the risk of becoming so distracted that you can’t work. But if you can find the right combination of volume level and genre, you can achieve the same kind of results as the previous tip without additional eye strain.

Read it Out Loud

This is an old tip, but it works. Reading your story out loud can help with the flow of the narrative and the believability of the dialogue, among other things. Be careful of reading the story too fast however, as you can run the risk of seeing one thing but saying something else out loud.

Read it Backwards

This method is best for when you’re trying to proofread your own work. If you read the story from back to front, it’s impossible to fall into the natural rhythm of the narrative, keeping you focused only on the words in front of you. I recommend taking it in paragraph-sized chunks, as anything smaller gets really tricky when going backwards.

Get Help

Whether it’s an editor, a beta reader, or just a friend looking over the manuscript, a second set of eyes may be your best way of dealing with your writer blindness. Just don’t rely solely on someone else to find and fix all your mistakes. This is your story, after all, and you should have the final stamp of approval on every line of it.


These tips come from part four of my writing course “A Novel in Four Drafts”. If you’re interested in taking this class, registration is currently open to the public through the continuing education program at South Puget Sound Community College. The course begins June 22, so be sure to register soon.

Click here to learn more