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Finding Confidence

February 10, 2010

Despite spending nearly a decade in entertainment finance I came to the realization late last year that it might not be my true calling.  Don’t get me wrong…I don’t regret the choices I’ve made so far because I have learned quite a bit about the industry, I’ve met great people, and I’ve been able to build up my resume.  But the thing is that while I am a numbers person and I love spending hours on an Excel worksheet, I’ve come to the surprising realization that I enjoy something else a whole lot more…writing.  Who would have thought?

I haven’t mentioned this to many people, but I have made several attempts at writing a book.  Two years ago I wrote a 250+ page book but tossed it after I decided it was pretty terrible.  I immediately started another book, and while I was much happier the second time around, I stalled after 150 pages.  Why?  I think I was just too unsure of my writing abilities to move forward and I didn’t believe in myself enough to think people would want to read what I wrote.  No confidence = writer’s block.  I knew that I would never be successful until I gained more confidence in my writing abilities.  The question was how?

So I started this blog.  I figured if my writing was good enough than people would visit and comment.  And they did. Here I am months later with unexpectedly good traffic, great comments, new friends, and much more confidence.  No I haven’t made a single penny from this blog, but the fact that I get emails from people who say they love my honesty, my sarcasm, and my blog?  They really make my day.

I now feel just a bit more qualified to say that my long-term goal is to write a book and have it published.  I am realistic though, and I know that writing can often be a long, difficult road.  That’s why I jumped at the chance to interview Lisa Heidke, author of What Kate Did Next.  I had the opportunity to review her book and was pleased to find out her thoughts on being a writer, the hardships she’s encountered, and her advice to those of us who want to be writers.

I hope you find her answers as helpful as I did. 

An Interview with Lisa Heidke, author of What Kate Did Next

What Kate Did Next addresses the very relatable topic of juggling motherhood and a career.  I know you are a mother and clearly successful as an author but when you signed my copy you mentioned this book is not an autobiography.  Where do you get your ideas from? Does anything/anyone in particular inspire you?

My inspirations for storylines come from everyday conversations with friends, stories I see on the news and read in newspapers and magazines. I write contemporary fiction so my novels usually reference to pop culture and what’s going on in the wider community/world. 

Marian Keyes is one of my favourite authors. When I read Watermelon, her first book, I thought it was fabulous and laugh out loud funny. I was interested to find out more about her life. Then when I read how difficult Keyes journey had been, I felt even more inspired and encouraged to write.

How did you start your writing career?

I wrote for magazines for many years and when I left to have my third child, I decided it was ‘now or never’ about trying to write a novel. I’d been talking for years about writing a book so I sat down at the computer when Mia, now nine, was a month old and started writing. I’d read several ‘how to’ books and decided I could write a Mills & Boon sweet romance. It was as simple as that!

Three months later I had written a 60,000 word sweet romance. The next week when I re-read it, I cried. It was dreadful. I kicked the cat, sulked and refused to wash my hair. But after my temper tantrum I decided that although I wanted to write a novel, I didn’t want to write a M & B. (Mainly because I couldn’t. Hats off to all my M & B friends because they are very hard to write well!)

Many bloggers aspire to publish something.  Do you have any advice for them?

I would encourage anyone who wants to be published whether it’s a novel, short story, poetry or memoir, to go for it but to also keep in mind that it’s a long, hard road. You have to have a real desire and passion to write and keep writing no matter how many rejections you get. Persistence and patience – you need both of these in abundance.

Ask yourself the question, am I writing because I love creating interesting characters and stories or am I writing because I want to get published? If it’s the latter, you may lose your enthusiasm after the first ten rejections.

I’d also advise would-be writers not to write solely for money because unless they’re Stephanie Meyer or James Patterson, it’ll be many years before they break even.

What are some of the common mistakes aspiring writers make?

A common early mistake and certainly one I made, was thinking that my manuscript was good enough to send to publishers after only a couple of drafts. Usually you only get one chance to pitch your manuscript – so make sure it’s the absolute best you have to offer. Write the first draft and then stick it in a cupboard for three months. Absolute torture, I know. But after three months, you’ll have gained much need perspective and distance and be able to read your manuscript with fresh and objective eyes.

Rather than give your manuscript to friends and family who may gush over the fact you’ve written 85,000 words but not honestly tell you what they think of your writing and the story you’ve laboured over for six months, pay a free-lance editor to offer constructive criticism and advice on where to take your manuscript from here.

The other mistake I made was trying to write a story I thought would appeal to publishers, aka the Mills & Boon disaster. In doing so I squashed my own voice. It was only when I threw away my first manuscript and started writing a story I believed in, that my words flowed naturally. Instead of forcing an artificial writing style, I let my inner and natural writing voice take over.

Do you have any advice on how to handle the writing process and how not to get discouraged by (sometimes constant) rejection?
 

Now that I’m published I could say both books were easy to write but that’s definitely not true. There were too many drafts to count, many tears and many times I wanted to give up. Writing is a solitary pursuit and when no-one is encouraging you or interested in what you’re writing it’s easy to feel despondent.

This was especially true when I sent manuscripts or partials (three chapters and a synopsis) to publishers and received rejection form letters back. I think I’ve been rejected by every mainstream Australian publisher and American ones too. When I look back, I can understand why. I was too eager to send my stories out when they weren’t polished.

After each rejection, I’d stomp around the house and tell myself to give up. ‘Why bother?’ This was especially true when my children would tell their friends and their friend’s parents, I loved my computer more than them. (And that’s not true ninety-six percent of the time.)

But after a day or two of feeling sorry for myself, I’d turn on the computer and either rework a manuscript or start something new. I was determined to keep writing and eventually get published so I kept going, though at times it was incredibly difficult to keep my spirits up.

What do you love about being a writer?

I love that I get to create real but flawed characters who often behave appallingly and say and do things I’d never dare to in real life. I have a lot of fun writing and thinking up plot twists and turns. It’s great seeing a story come together. I start with a blank page and think, ‘how am I going to fill this with 85,000 words?’ I love disappearing into a world of make believe. The possibilities…

What do you find the most challenging about being a writer?

One of the greatest challenges I find is forcing myself to be disciplined, and making myself write every day, even when I feel tired or uninspired and don’t know what to write about.

On the other hand, when I’m having a good day and the words are flowing, I hate having to stop because it’s time to pick the kids up from school. On those days I’ll write myself a few notes so that the next day I can pick up from where I left off.

Generally, I write Monday to Friday during the school term. I don’t get a lot of writing done when the kids are around. After they’ve been packed off to school, I’ll check my emails and float around Facebook for an hour or so before I settle down and start writing.

If I’m working on a new manuscript, I try to write about 2,000 words a day, five days a week to get the story moving ahead. I try not to think about spelling, tenses and grammar. My main objective is to write the story. Of course that changes once the first draft is written and I’m editing and re-writing.

What are some of your favorite books of all time?

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. l was captivated by the sweeping melodrama and romance, the highs and lows, and Bronte’s intricate weaving  together of secret lives and private passion –  Jane falling in love with Edward Rochester, then running away, and her ultimate reunion and marriage to him. Yes, indeed! Jane Eyre has it all. I’m a huge Bronte fan but Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) are two of my all-time favourites.

I’ve already mentioned Watermelon by Marian Keyes and it’s one of my favourites because I love Keye’s sense of humour, her take on modern life and her first person confessional tone of writing. I think she is a very funny and clever writer. I also admire her ability not to take herself too seriously.

A must read for all writers is definitely Stephen King’s On Writing. When I read this book which is part memoir, part tutorial, on the craft of writing, it all clicked for me. I’ve always loved story writing but King’s book really opened my eyes to the craft. His anecdotes and personal struggles as well as his practical advice on writing have been invaluable to me. At least once a year, I’ll go back and reread On Writing and I always learn something new. Stephen King is an inspiration. 

What are you working on now?  What are you future plans?

Last November, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) an international writing competition where the aim was to write 50,000 words of brand new material. I did that and am thinking about developing the manuscript further to see where it takes me. The story is set in suburbia and it’s about the secrets people keep and the lies they tell. I am enjoying the process enormously.

Thank you again Lisa, for taking the time to answer my questions!

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2010 10:26 pm

    This is an amazing post. I could write a book, no pun intended. I think you should follow your dreams and passions and if that means writing a book, great. If that means not doing so, great. Whatever works and as mom’s we have to decide what will work, now. And that may be diff that what will work in the future or the past. Great post, Ameena!

  2. February 11, 2010 4:46 am

    Great post!!! As a (trying-to-be) writer myself, I really enjoyed reading this interview. In my creative writing program, they really pounded us with the message that you can’t get too down about rejection– becauase you’re going to get rejected ALL the time. It’s true…I probably get one rejection letter for my poems every two or three weeks! But for every 10 rejections, one of the letters is an acception!

    Thanks for posting Ameena, and good luck! I’d love to “talk writing” with you any time! What kind of book do you see yourself writing?

    • February 11, 2010 6:49 am

      Anna, I would love to talk writing with you!

      I have been writing fiction but I think that I may be more better at something based more on reality. I keep going back and forth which is part of my problem. I need to come up with an idea and stick with it!

  3. February 11, 2010 4:55 am

    Go for your dreams girl! If you know that’s what you want to do and you have a passion for it, do what makes you happy. I’ll buy your book. What are you planning on writing?

    • February 11, 2010 6:46 am

      I want to continue my 2nd book to see if I can get any further…but I am contemplating starting all over again. Sometimes a new idea is easier than brainstorming on an old one!

      I am excited that I have at least one person who will buy my book. 🙂 Thank you!

  4. February 11, 2010 5:05 am

    Ameena, this is a fantastic post! I love it when your wrote “no confidence = writer’s block” this is so true!!

    I loved reading the interview.

    Best of luck with your writing dreams! They WILL come true!

  5. February 11, 2010 5:06 am

    “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”

    You go girl!

  6. February 11, 2010 5:18 am

    You can accomplish anything with faith, dedication, and desire. I think you would do great! 🙂

  7. Danielle permalink
    February 11, 2010 5:33 am

    Great interview! It made me realize that I really haven’t read in a while 😳

    I’m glad to hear you’ve been working on a book because you ARE a really good writer. I’d pick up a copy and you’d take me out of my reading-rut!

  8. February 11, 2010 6:17 am

    I would read your book in a heartbeat! I love the interview too. Thats really great that you got to interview her.

  9. February 11, 2010 7:10 am

    I found it interesting that she said if you’re writing because you want to get published you may lose your enthusiasm after the first ten rejections.
    I wonder how many rejections it takes to get published. I don’t want to be a writer, but many people do and I admire that persistence.

    Keep persistent and motivated! Good Luck!

  10. erintakescontrol permalink
    February 11, 2010 7:29 am

    Great post with a great interview, Ameena! You are an amazing writer and when you get published, I’ll be buying! 🙂

  11. February 11, 2010 7:30 am

    Oh, Ameeena. I wish you didn’t live on the other side of the world. (OK, country.) I think we could be good friends and talk about writing. I also dream of writing a novel, but my lack of confidence has held me back. In my day job, I write nonfiction articles, which is very different. Recently, though, writing a novel has been on my mind nonstop–and this story idea won’t leave me alone.

    I agree with Heidke: Stephen King’s On Writing is wonderful and real and so helpful.

  12. Stef @ moretolifethanlettuce permalink
    February 11, 2010 8:15 am

    i loved this post, such a great interview and she sounds like a fabulous author!

    ameena i KNOW you will accomplish that goal! you’re already a writer, blogging is just a fun way for you to warm up for your stellar career as a book author :). i freakin love your style, and you can bet i’ll be first in line to get your book!

  13. February 11, 2010 8:18 am

    Ameena, do it! I started out ‘Mitzy’s Friends’ on my blog thinking I’d finish it in one post. But writing is so difficult and it’s more like a weekly now. 😦 But I’ve put it on a public domain and don’t dare ask anyone what they think. I’d like to think I’m brave. 😀

  14. February 11, 2010 8:45 am

    I hope you had kept your previous writings in case you wanted to edit and re-write. Just based on what I have read so far of your blog, I believe you WILL reach your goals. You are more determined and disciplined than you realized. My career is based on number crunching as well and I’d say I can relate to what you said. I am sure you can capitalize on your experiences and bring all that into your writing. You have me as your fan already!

  15. February 11, 2010 9:37 am

    This is very cool to read. I’m a fiction writer in my free time. I went to USC for my Master’s in Professional Writing and met some awesome people there. I ended the program thinking it would be a piece of cake to publish one of my novels. Then I learned that it really IS a long, hard road. There are the overnight sensations, but that’s rare. In my experience, it’s about being persistent and sticking with what you like to write, without getting stuck in worrying about what your agent/publisher/audience will think. That always stops me dead in my tracks if I get too wrapped up in that. It’s strange that the writing industry is so brutal and writers are, notoriously, very sensitive. It’s a business though, and you have to separate yourself from that and just enjoy your stories as you write them. Have you read Stephen King’s “On Writing”? I think it’s one of the best books out there about being a writer. The beginning part (the autobiographical part) is rather dull, but his tips and tools for writing are right on. Keep at it! I love your writing style and have no doubt you would be a wonderful novelist.

  16. February 11, 2010 10:01 am

    Wow those are some amazing tips and insights!!! And I think your goal is awesome girl! It takes GUTS to go after your dreams. And I really think that you could could be successful at it. I love your blog because you just have a way with words… You have a skill that a lot of people don’t have. I say, go for it!

  17. February 11, 2010 10:41 am

    I read Stephen King’s On Writing. TBH I wasn’t that impressed. But then I’m a cynical old literary snob.

  18. whydeprive permalink
    February 11, 2010 11:27 am

    I would buy your book!! I love reading your blog – and I have no doubt that any book you put out would be amazing.

    Great interview, thanks for posting it!!

  19. February 11, 2010 12:35 pm

    i could definitely see you writing a successful book! i think you have a great tone.

    i loved the interview as well. so interesting! i think being a published author would be such a great job, but honestly, so hard!

  20. February 11, 2010 1:25 pm

    Ameena, thanks so much for this post and the interview. I absolutely adore writing and have ever since I was little. People encouraged me to go for a career in writing but I’ve always been afraid because, as you pointed out, I lack confidence… I’m afraid of not being able to handle rejection or my work being criticized. But I suppose one has to be determined when following a true passion…

    I think you would make a great writer 🙂 Your posts are always a pleasure to read.

  21. louisianagrown permalink
    February 11, 2010 2:13 pm

    What a great interview. I would love nothing more than to write something amazing, and I’m always wracking my brain for good story ideas. It’s always good to hear what successful writers have to say about the process.

    Good luck to you on your writing journey. You’d sell at least one copy with me. 🙂

  22. Amanda permalink
    February 11, 2010 2:29 pm

    Hi Ameena,
    I’ve been reading your blog for over a month now, and I look forward to reading it everyday. The way you make everyday occurrences interesting and entertaining makes me come back for more! I love your accounts of parenting and the mild struggles that come with it. Your stories actually make me look forward to being a parent! For what it’s worth, I really enjoy your writing and I would definitely read any book of yours.

    • February 11, 2010 3:47 pm

      Thank you so much for your nice words…the fact that I haven’t scared you off from having children is amazing! 🙂 Seriously though, I really appreciate the fact that you read my blog, so thank you!

  23. February 11, 2010 2:32 pm

    i love this post! i enjoyed reading the interview as well.

    i like to read your blogs. as ive read when i stumbled across your blog the other day, i thought i had to link your site so i can visit you everyday and read more updates. so it’s probably a good idea to pursue your dreams. goodluck. i’ll definitely read your book if ever you published one. 🙂

  24. February 11, 2010 2:53 pm

    I love the way you write. I bet your work is fantastic!

  25. February 11, 2010 4:30 pm

    As I writer myself, I loved this post!

    Haha, there is such a big gap between fiction and nonfiction writing. I like both, but I find that I can only do one at a time. If I’m working at a newspaper, I really don’t like writing poetry or short stories. If I’m working on a short story, I stay away from essays and features.

    The important thing is not to get burned out.

  26. February 11, 2010 5:16 pm

    Amazing post. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.

    Here is what someone told me about writing.
    You MUST write because you WANT to…because you LOVE it. NOt to be published.

    If the goal is to be published….u might get a huge blow 🙂 One author stated in an interview that she is currently living with her parents again and working as a waitress …and she has one book published.

    It is kind of like the acting industry, dont u think…some remain waiters…some become Tom Cruise.

    Plus: Paulo Altheo (wrote The Alchemist) he was not published until he was 40 years old…took him over a decade to be noticed.

    but yes…i have NO confidence and that is not good. truly. YOU have a great blog…u have potential here…i fear i am on the “wrong” track with my blog…i procrastinate and i just have no “ideas” but i want to write…but i know it cant be forced…so if an idea comes, i will try it…if not…then oh well…i might be 60 before anything actually is written 🙂

    but it is a process!

  27. February 11, 2010 5:26 pm

    I think you should ABSOLUTELY pursue your dreams and write! I love your writing style and I definitely think you can publish a book.

    Speaking of books, I have a fun new one to read! It’s been a while since I’ve had a fun book to read. Can’t wait. I have a perfect long weekend to relax and get started!
    xoxo

    have a wonderful weekend. Get crackin’ lady! 🙂

  28. February 11, 2010 6:10 pm

    WOW, I can’t believe you have already written THAT MANY PAGES! You are a very disciplined and dedicated person, so I have no doubt you will publish a book. Most likely sooner than later too!

  29. February 11, 2010 7:21 pm

    I think you should write a book and publish it.. I really enjoy your blog and your writing style.. honest truth.. I was about to comment on one last blog before I went to bed and though… well I see what Ameena is up today.

    I will be keeping my eyes open for your book(s).

  30. February 11, 2010 8:01 pm

    I would definitely buy your book! 🙂

    I love your tone, sarcasm and personality. I really hope that “the book thing” falls into place for you. It’s good to realize what you want to do… I can’t say that I’ve figured it out yet!

  31. February 11, 2010 9:00 pm

    You will make an excellent writer!! You have such great energy in your blog. Go for it!! And thanks for posting your interview. I do love writing also and think a lot about what kind of book I would write someday (given the chance). Well keep us updated. 🙂

  32. February 12, 2010 5:04 am

    Awesome post, Ameena!

    I was drawn to your writing from the first time I read your blog — I have no doubt you will succeed at your goal.

    Once upon a time, I used to write and write and write, just for the fun of it. But then once I got the idea in my head that I wanted something to be published, I’ve had this mental block and I can never finish anything I start now.

    Keep on writing, I look forward to your posts! 🙂

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