Jurgen Wolff Interview : Page 2 of 3
Author and Writing Coach Jurgen Wolff
Q: This can be a tough business to break into. Do you have any specific advice for young writers or would-be coaches who would like to make a good living without compromising their creative dreams?
A: The first important thing is to find out which branch of writing best suits you. For example, scriptwriting, especially for TV, is very collaborative, and you have no say, ultimately, over what is done with your work. If you have talented collaborators who make your work look even better, then it's wonderful; if you end up with people who are more intent on feeding their egos than serving the material, it feels terrible. If you write plays, the people who produce them can't change anything without your permission. If you write novels, you may get suggestions from your editor, but again the final decision is yours. If you want to write non-fiction articles, you'll have to work well under deadline pressure. Each kind of writing has its good and bad points, you just need to be clear on those at the start.
Second, I would suggest that you specialize, at least in the beginning. When I started out, I tried to do every kind of writing. It was only when I focused my energy on writing sitcoms that I had a breakthrough. Eventually I was able to branch out into writing drama, TV movies, feature films, and plays and books as well, but it pays to pick one and stick with it until you've had a bit of success.
Q: Can you tell us about some of the challenges you faced early on in your career, and how you handled them?
A: I think the hardest part for everybody is that period before you really break in. It took me about three years of full-time effort before I had my first success (being hired to write an episode of a sitcom). With hindsight, three years doesn't seem so bad. But when you're in the middle of that period, you have no idea when or whether that breakthrough is going to come. You just have to keep writing and have confidence. It really helps if you have some moral support. In the book, I dedicate a chapter to how to find that support that's another topic I don't see covered in other books, and I think it's vital. The great thing is that these days even if you don't have that kind of support from your family and friends, you can get it online.
Q: Can you explain some of the benefits of working with a writing coach? Would you walk us through a typical session, so our readers will know what to expect if they decide to work with you to enhance their writing skills?
A: Actually, I have tried to put as much as possible of that process into the book and the website, and I take on a very limited number of writing clients as a writing coach. When I do work with individuals, it's usually to help them with the big steps. For instance, someone came to me recently who wanted to write a non-fiction book but he had so much material and so many ideas that he couldn't figure out how to organize it into a structure that made sense. I looked over his topics before our meeting and then we had a 90-minute session in which I suggested a structure and we refined it together.
In another case, I was helping someone figure out how to market his novel again, that was a one-time consultation. I've also helped people who have writer's block there's not just one way to handle that, it depends on what's causing the block, but I've been very successful with that, usually with just one or two sessions either in person or via phone.
Q: What is your standard fee for your coaching services, and what does it include?
A: I don't have a set menu, it really depends on what the individual needs. For individual coaching, I charge $500 for the kind of session I just mentioned that would include first finding out (via email or phone) what the person needs, then looking over sample material if that's appropriate, and then having a 60-90 minutes session in person if they happen to live in London or in Southern California (I divide my time between the two), or more typically using the phone and email. It also includes coming back to me for follow-up questions. To be honest, for lower-level kinds of coaching, I'm not the best choice, my specialty is getting people on the road to writing and marketing their writing successfully.
Q: You've had a very successful career. What's in the future for you, Mr. Wolff? Where do you hope to be in ten years? Are there any exciting projects you're involved in, or events coming up that you'd like to tell us about?
A: I've got another book coming out in May 2008, from Pearson Publishing, called "Focus." It's a right-brain approach to time management and goal-achieving for creative people. Most of the materials out there are by and for left-brain people so there's a real gap. As I've done with "Your Writing Coach," I'm going to be using the accompanying website to add a lot of value.
I'm currently writing a screenplay that's a surreal comedy on the topic of global warming very different from anything else I've written before, and in this case I'm working with the director right from the start, which is very helpful. The working title is "Global Beach."
I've also recently finished writing a novel, so in that arena I'm in the same boat as a lot of new writers, looking for the right agent and publisher (my current agents don't handle fiction). There's a lot of starting over in this line of work, but it does keep you engaged and alert to continue learning new things all the time.
I hope that in ten years time we'll be talking about my successful novels, and that I will have found new ways to encourage and nurture people whose dream is to reach others through their writing.