This week on the blog, I have the pleasure of interviewing writer and writing coach Madeline Bartson. Her new 1:1 coaching programme, The Story Soul Intensive, is now live, and can be accessed here. In this interview, Madeline introduces herself, the programme, and gives advice for new writers.
Let’s begin with an introduction. Tell us about yourself and where your writing journey began.
Hi! I’m Madeline, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love stories. I wrote my first “book” in kindergarten while the rest of my classmates were still learning how to read. It was a story about me and Snow White fighting over who would take the prince to the ball before decided we didn’t need men and we’d just go together.
Just before I started high school in 2011 I participated in my first NaNoWriMo, and ever since then, I’ve been pursuing my dream of becoming a published author.
The moment I took writing seriously is also the moment everything fell apart. As soon as I started writing to be published instead of writing because it was super fun, I became miserable. I fell into constant writing ruts, I couldn’t finish anything, and I was always frustrated with how little progress I was making. Eventually I was so overcome by imposter syndrome that I quit writing for a year. It wasn’t until I picked writing back up again “just for fun” that everything started to change. Since then, I’ve been writing every day because I love to write and I love who I am when I’m writing. If I become published along the way? Awesome! I have no doubt that will happen. But I will also keep writing for the rest of my life, even if I’m the only one reading my work.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m revising a YA contemporary! It was inspired by the song Silver Springs by Fleetwood Mac and was my NaNo project last year. It was also the first time I, a formerly devout plotter, had ever pantsed. It was sort of the most magical writing process of my entire life. Since then, this story has really taught me a lot about who I am as a writer and how my creative process works, so it’s been really fun. It turns out as a character-driven writer, plotting just doesn’t work for me. Trying to force my character through the hoops of four-act structure just isn’t my thing, so letting my character run the show for this book has been really liberating.
Who are your favourite authors? Who inspires you the most?
I grew up reading a lot of Sarah Dessen, and she will always be one of my favorites. I also love Katrina Leno and Maggie Stiefvater, I love their blend of real life and magic.
But more than anything, I’m inspired by music. I’m big on “vibes” — like the mood and aesthetic of ideas. Being able to hear and feel the “vibe” I want to create within a book is very big for me. I take my writing playlists very seriously lol. Since my current project has a road trip, I’m listening to a lot of Janis Joplin and Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. And of course, Fleetwood Mac.
Now, onto the Story Soul Intensive. Tell us about that.
In a nutshell, the Story Soul Intensive is a three-month 1:1 coaching program for writers who want to cultivate a consistent and fulfilling writing practice.
What made you decide to become a writing coach?
It makes me so sad to see so many writers who are miserable with their writing life. I think as writers, we’ve sort of normalized hating our writing. We see everyone hitting their heads off the walls, we see everyone cursing out their main characters, we see everyone talking crap about their writing, we see everyone talking about how they haven’t written for 300 years…and we assume it’s normal. And it is normal, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Once I made passion and growth the priorities in my writing life (instead of publication) everything changed. I used to hate writing, but now I love it and I write every day without even a second thought. It’s just become so ingrained in my life, and it’s made my life so much better. The process to get to this place is what I want to guide other writers through as a coach. Because writing is hard, but it doesn’t have to suck.
What can writers expect to gain from the Story Soul Intensive?
The Story Soul Intensive teaches writers how to conquer their self doubt, tap into their own writing process, and write consistently. Most of all, you get accountability. Not even accountability, but commitment. Once you say “okay, I’m ready to grow as a writer,” that’s when the real magic happens. I’ve helped clients build and keep a writing schedule, find their unique creative process, and write three times more — all of which are amazing things.
How can writers book onto the course?
The first step is booking a call with me (https://madelinebartson.lpages.co/story-soul-intensive) where we’ll talk about whether we’d be a good fit together. We’ll talk about where you are with your writing right now and where you want to be, then we’ll see if working together would be a good way for you to bridge that gap. At the least, we’ll talk about writing for 30 minutes and you’ll walk away with some clarity on the next steps in your writing journey.
What advice would you give to new writers who are nervous about starting?
Don’t worry about getting it right, just worry about having fun. Let publication be a byproduct of your passion. Follow your big author dreams, of course! But when you’re scared or nervous or feel like giving up, ask yourself this: “If I knew I would never be published, would I still be writing?” If the answer to that question is yes, good. Write from that place.