Welcome back to Alchemy for Authors!
In this episode, I chat with return guest, author, and book coach, Emma Dhesi. To celebrate the release of Emma’s first non-fiction book, Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book, we’ll be talking about all aspects of writing a book, from the physical craft of conjuring an amazing story, to advice, tips and tricks for researching, choosing a style guide, and working with a book coach.
Other things we discuss on this episode include:
· How turning 40 was the catalyst to get Emma to write her first novel.
· The serendipitous circumstances that led Emma to become one of the lead authors for Launch Pad.
· The value of investing in a book coach and why book coaches are not some new-fangled fad.
· How so many authors get the concept of character flaws wrong.
· And how writing a book can have a positive effect on all areas of your life!
Whether you’re a new or experienced author, independently or traditionally published, this episode and the book Launch Pad, are for you!
Visit Emma’s website here: https://emmadhesi.com/
Connect with Emma on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/emmadhesiauthor
Purchase Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book here.
Listen to Episode 4 of Alchemy for Authors – Banishing Imposter Syndrome with Emma Dhesi here.
If you’re ready to level-up your author career by increasing your royalties, gaining more readers, dropping the struggling artist mindset, and embracing a truly abundant author life, then get in quick and grab Millionaire Author Coach Carissa Andrew’s May Abundance Expansion Course Bundle. Carissa is offering her Abundant Author Activation course, Millionaire Author Challenge, and her Abundant Author Alignment course as one amazing bundle for 50% off but only until May 15th, 2023.
Get the May Abundance Expansion Course Bundle here.
* Please Note: This is an affiliate link. I only recommend courses and products I believe in and have invested in myself. Purchases made through this link support me with a small kickback at no extra charge to you.
If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate and review. You can also support the show by buying me a coffee at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/jobuer. Your support helps me keep this podcast going.
Join my Alchemy for Authors newsletter and download your FREE copy of Manifestation for Authors here.
If you enjoy Gothic Suspense, you can join my reader’s newsletter and download a FREE copy of my short story collection, Between the Shadows, here.
Check out my latest book, Between: A Gothic Novella, here: https://books2read.com/BetweenAGothicNovella
Find the full transcript of this episode below.
Episode 53: Writing a Book with Emma Dhesi
Jo: Hello, hello, my friends. Thanks for joining me again for another wonderful episode of Alchemy for Authors, Episode 53, in fact, where I get to chat to repeat guest, and one of my favourite people, Emma Dhesi.
So if you’ve been listening to this podcast from the beginning, you’ll remember Emma from episode four where she talked about banishing imposter syndrome. This episode is a little bit different. To celebrate the release of Emma’s first non-fiction book, Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book, we’ll be talking about all things as you can probably guess, about writing a book. From the physical craft of conjuring an amazing story, to advice, tips and tricks for researching, choosing a style guide, and working with a book coach, for example.
I’m by no means at this stage in my career, an expert at writing books, but between having studied creative writing, teaching it, and of course actually doing it, I’m not a complete newbie either. But there are things in Emma’s book, Launch Pad, that have been absolute game changers for me. Simple things, but things that I just hadn’t thought about.
And so I’m really highly recommending that wherever you are in your writing journey, you check out the links in the show notes after this episode, and go purchase a copy for yourself. You are not going to be disappointed. It is one of those writing reference books that you’re going to want living on your desk.
Now some of the other fun things that we discuss in this episode are:
- How turning 40 was the catalyst to get Emma to write her first novel.
- The serendipitous circumstances that led Emma to become one of the lead authors for Launch Pad.
- The value of investing in a book coach and why book coaches and not some new-fangled fad.
- How so many authors get the concept of character flaws wrong.
- And how writing a book can have a positive effect in all areas of your life. And I can most certainly vouch for that.
So if you’re as excited as I am to dive in and hear again from Emma Dhesi, go grab a drink, find a comfy chair, sit back and enjoy the show.
Hello, my lovelies. Welcome back to another episode of Alchemy for Authors. Today I am chatting with novelist and book coach Emma Dhesi. Emma’s first novel was The Day She Came Home published in 2019. Since then, she’s published a further two novels, most recently, More Than Enough. Emma writes dark suspense novels about women in challenging situations, all with a secret to hide. Her first psychological thriller, Follow Me, is due out later this year. Her first non-fiction book Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book, was published recently in 2023. Emma has appeared on the Overflowing Bookshelves and Writing Away with Kelly podcasts, as well as appearing way back on episode four of Alchemy for Authors. She lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband, three children and three cats. So welcome, Emma. It is so wonderful to have you back on the show.
Emma: Aw. Thank you, Jo. It’s so good to be here. It’s lovely to see you again.
Jo: I know, I was looking back and it’s been almost exactly a year since we chatted last on the podcast, which was really cool. Really cool.
Emma: So that might mean it was two years ago then that maybe we first met, cuz I remember you were on my show as well and that was maybe a little bit before. So it’s been a while, we’ve known each other.
Jo: I know and time just goes so fast. This is crazy. But it’s so amazing seeing the fantastic things that you are doing and kind of growing in your author career and everything. And so, one of those things that I really wanna talk about today is your new book, Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book, which is out in the world. And you normally write fiction, and here you are putting together a non-fiction book. So I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how that even came about?
Emma: Yeah, of course. So I’ve always known I wanted to put a non-fiction together. Well, since I sort of entered the writing space, I’ve known that I wanted to do that. And I’ve been waiting for the right topic and waiting for just the right moment to kind of delve into that. And I was given an anthology by my mom at Christmas, I think it was, a Christmas before last. It was beautiful anthology on how to write. And it covered different aspects of craft and the writing life more generally as well, and lots of contributing authors to it. And they all brought their own unique voice and their own unique experiences. So some were very much genre fiction writers. Others were literary, some were poets. The anthology also included, you know, illustrators as well. So it was a real mix of different types of creatives, and I really appreciated all those different voices coming in. And obviously, you know, some resonated with me more than others. And the reason I mentioned that is because I think about two weeks after finishing that anthology, my friend Grace Sammon emails me and said, Hey, I wanna put this anthology together on how to write. Do you want to come in and be a lead author with me? And I just thought, oh, that’s serendipity. That’s kind of like the universe saying to me, now is the time to dip your toe in in that water. So I jumped on board that project. And when I was asking Grace, you know, what prompted you to want to do this? She has a podcast, she calls it a radio show, in the States, which is called Launch Pad. And it’s really lovely actually because especially with lockdown, a lot of authors missed out on the opportunity to do their book tours and to let the world know about their books, so she wanted to put together this show that would let writers who had a new book come out over that period of time, a way of kind of sharing with the world about their new book and telling people about it.
And through conversations there she had this idea, well, why don’t I take this a step further and help writers write their books as well? So it was a lovely project to be involved in because you know, as novelists, we’re often on our own, aren’t we? We can chat about things, but when it comes to the writing, we’re very much on our own.
Doing this anthology was great cuz I got to reach out to the people that I knew I wanted to work with and who I’ve been around in their space for a while and I knew that there would be the really good people to ask to be part of this. And also, selfishly I got to sort of include all of the topics that I would want to know if I was back at the beginning starting again. Or, you know, if my career needed just a little bit of a boost cuz we all get to a point I think, where we feel like maybe we’ve plateaued a little bit. So it was also a great way for someone who just needs that reinjection into their writing life, it would help them get their motivation back as well. So it was through a few people that this came to be, but it just was so fortuitous. Seredipity called. The universe called and said, let’s do this. It’s gonna be a fun project. So I like it when people bring things to me and I get to go, yay, that sounds fun. Let’s do it.
Jo: Really is amazing how that happens. And that happens so often I think, for all creatives really, is that you get that burst of inspiration that, Ooh, this is interesting. And then something will just fall into your lap or into your inbox or just to make it a reality, which is really cool. That’s really cool.
Emma: It is really cool. It’s lovely and you suddenly, you’re kind of open to it as well. If I hadn’t read that other anthology then I’m sure I might have let that opportunity pass or not grabbed it and said, yes, let’s do this.
Jo: Yeah, yeah. Now, so who do you think this book is best suited for? Like is it somebody that has written a book or is just starting out and wanting to dip their toes in? Like, who is this, do you think best suited for.
Emma: So I think it is best suited for someone who has been writing for a little while. They’ve maybe not written their first novel yet, but they’ve been on that road to it. There’re probably a few half-finished manuscripts in a drawer somewhere. So they’ve got some experience and they know the sort of basics of what’s required to write a novel. But in the book, I did want to make sure that we covered all the fundamentals, if you like, putting in the foundations for, for a good, good story. And that includes the things that go on around the story as well.
So, for example, we look at doing research, research tools and tips, which is great, not just for historical or kind of procedural books, but uh, even contemporary books, you know, if you’re writing a story that’s set in another city, you might want to have a little look around and see what’s that city like, what can you learn about that city? Or if it’s another country altogether, then you definitely want to do some research, particularly if you’ve not been there or you’ve not been there for a while. So Meredith Stoddard was great. She’s like, she’s not a librarian, but she should be ‘cause she has all these research tools. She just knows how to, not just, you know, go on Google, but actually how to use lots of Google tools as well. So like Google Maps, Street View. But then also how do you search? What are the terms that you put into search and to narrow your search and get specific results that you’re looking for. So that’s, you know, on a practical level that was so useful. And then she also does a little bit of a dive into, um, what does she call it? You know? Having good sources, so verifying your sources and making sure that you are, that you’re not sort of feeding in wrong information into your book, basically.
And then I’ve got a chapter about working with a book coach. And how that is a part of your research and a part of your team. And we’ll ultimately help you write a better book. So there’s little things like that, critique groups as well. So the, the stuff that goes on around the actual writing. And then in terms of craft, we look at it all really. We look at story structure, vital. We look at scene structure, which I have a personal, I love scene structure. It just transforms my writing. Look at character. We look at point of view, we look at how to create, you know, world building and creating a great setting for your world. We have a fabulous chapter on show and tell. Yeah, which I hope, Yeah, it’s brilliant, I just hope that this will, for our readers, will just put to bed that whole kind of confusion around show don’t tell, which is a bit of a misnomer. What else have we got? Oh, there was a good, how to add suspense to your story. So this is great too. Not just if you’re writing thriller or crime, but every story needs a level of suspense. It needs that conflict in there cuz that’s what keeps it interesting and keeps things moving forward. So, Samantha Skal came in to do that chapter. And there’s another one that’s gone out my head now, but I know that it’s a really good chapter.
But it’s, oh yes, the other one that I insisted that we have, and this was where I got to be very selfish, is, I don’t have the best eye for detail. Grammar and spelling are not my wheelhouse. And so I wanted there to be a chapter in there that was about the key things that a novelist needs if they’re going to, to write. So I don’t need a book. I don’t need to go to Strunk and White and have a whole book on it. I just need a chapter that’s gonna give me what I need. And so, Stacy Juba, who’s, she’s an author as well as an editor. She put together a chapter on the 10 main things that fiction writers need to know about and how to, how to do it properly, basically. And I’ll tell you, as soon as she submitted that chapter, I’ve been looking at it a lot. Using it on a regular basis. I just find it so, so useful. And she’s even incorporated some differentiations between the American styles and the British styles. Yeah. I can’t remember what you use in New Zealand and Australia. Do you use an American style or, yeah, your own?
Jo: No. So I like to be difficult. Most of my books are in British English because in New Zealand we tend to go with the British or UK English. Except for my most recent book that will be out later on this year where I’m like, oh, this is going to be based in America and it’s going to be American English. So that was an interesting, yeah, an interesting change because I was having to do a lot of research as to… you know, we call things different words and that as well. So it’s not just the spelling of the words, but things that we say here in New Zealand, or phrases even are just never said in America.
Emma: I was listening to someone talk about that and, you know, depending on which state you’re setting it in, then they use different words for the same thing as well, like, like soda pop, coke. Yes. Yes. All that kind of thing.
Jo: Yeah. So here in New Zealand. Yeah. Even that here in New Zealand, we say, most often we’re like, oh, fizzy drinks, is what we’d kind of call them. And then I lived in Canada for several years and it was pop. And Canada still has that, uh, UK English, British English, like for spelling and things like that. But we’re still worlds apart with a lot of our words and things like that. And so then I made the jump to, uh, US and you know, did all the Googling. I had in my mind a setting and a place. And yeah.
I’ve had just a bit of a dive into your Launch Pad book and it is brilliant. Like even just one of the first chapters being exactly what you said about how to research and, you know, using Google and that. There were just little tweaks that to help with your search, that I’m like, how did I not know this? Like when I’m searching something, I’m literally just typing in, you know, words, and I’m not thinking about different punctuation that you can use to find out synonyms or Yeah.
Emma: And even like searching specific websites as well from Google. I’m trying to remember now off the top of my head, there’s the pipe. Yes. That changes things as well. And who knew? Who knew?
Jo: I know! So there’s just these little things too that were just so, Yeah, so, so useful to me. And what I like about your book too is that the chapters are relatively short. I haven’t been all the way through it, but I’m, you know, halfway through. The chapters are quite short. They’re easy, easy reads, and then you’ve got the 10 tips or kind of a summary at the end of each chapter too. So, yeah. Can you talk about that?
Emma: Yeah, that was Graces’ brainchild. So, I think it’s a great idea as well. Just so at the end of each chapter, there’s each contributor’s top 10 countdown of what they think is the what you should go and do now that you’ve read the chapter. Cuz we wanted to give some practical steps for readers to take so that, I’m sure you know this yourself. I certainly do this. I read a book, particularly a craft book, and I think I’ve taken it all in and then I get on with my day and kind of forget about a lot of it as well. And I don’t consciously implement what it is I’ve been learning into the next piece that I’m writing. So we wanted to make sure that there was something very tangible, very practical, that readers could then use it and go and implement what they have just learned. So my kind of recommendation to people would be, if you know that there is a part of your craft that you want to improve upon, go to that chapter, read it. I recommend then reading it again. And then go through those top 10, and just implementing them in small scenes or in a current work in progress that you’ve got, you can start practicing it. So that you begin to make it second nature, that you embody it and you don’t have to think about it so often when you go on to write your next piece.
And then when you feel you’ve kind of got that you can move on to the next thing that you want to improve upon. Cuz there’s always something. And I’ve certainly learned from my own experience that, you know, I got a base level of competency with craft, with writing craft. And now, uh, different elements of the craft is when I get to upgrade and up level. So it’s not all going to happen at once, but I need to go in and be intentional about what it is I want to learn now and improve on now. And I think this book will really help people do that, particularly with those top 10 countdowns.
Jo: Yeah. Yeah. I really do think though, that it is a book that you do need to read cover to cover, even if you think you know everything there is to know about a certain topic. Like there are just some absolute gems in there. So good.
Emma: Yeah, and I think that’s one of the wonderful things about bringing in the contributing authors is because they’ve all got different perspectives on things. They’ve all learned from other people, and they’re bringing their experience and what they’ve learned to the page here in this book. And so there are always gonna be people that you resonate with and they’ll help you see things in a different way. You know, I do love craft books, but when they are written by the one person then you’re only getting that one perspective. And it’s nice to have variety and have somebody explain things in a way that you might not have heard before. And helps you see things with a fresh eye, I guess.
Jo: Yeah. Yeah. I really like that. Something else that really intrigued me about this book that I thought was so cleverly done is, I think in the introduction you’ve said something about how each chapter, each contributing author has written it using the style guide of their choice. So it’s not all, what is it, the Chicago Style Guide? Or it’s not all formatted in that same way with punctuation and everything like that. So I personally love that. I absolutely love that. But what made you decide to go with that?
Emma: We did um and ah about this quite a bit. We sort of went to and fro with it cuz we were thinking, well, you know, we’ve got a chapter in here that is giving some guidelines on how to format a page, but the different chapters are done differently. In the end, we decided to let that contributor have the way that they do things and just show, let that be an example, that there are different ways of doing things even within America, there’s lots of different types of style guides. Britain has its own and I would imagine as well that Australia and New Zealand have their own. Canada’s got theirs. Yeah. So every country will have a variety of them. And Stacy’s one is based on the Chicago Manual Style, but she has adapted hers over the years to kind of fit what works for her and for her clients. And she’s brought that to our book and that’s what she shares in her chapter.
But you know, she, when I was asking her about it, she said the key thing is just to be consistent, and whatever style you opt for, there’s no right or wrong exactly. But just make sure that you are consistent with how you do it, particularly in one piece of writing. So if you adopt one style in chapter one, make sure it’s continuous. So she would give examples of the ellipses, you know? When do you put the spaces? When do you not? Using dash, is it a dash, an em-dash? Yeah. All of those little things. So nothing is set in stone. But just consistency is the key.
So yeah, so we thought it was a nice way of just letting the contributors share their voice and express the way that they like to do it, and sort of being a good example to people that we’ve given you this guide and it’s a very good, clear guide. But if you find that you tweak things a little bit as you become more experienced and find your preferences, that is okay too.
Jo: Excellent. Ooh, I love that. I just love that diversity. Yeah. I just think that is so wonderful. Absolutely. So as a book coach yourself, was there a part of this book, reading other contributing authors pieces and that, that was a real aha moment for you? That has helped you with your own writing as well, or helped or given you something that you can bring to your own clients? Was there something that stood out?
Emma: Nothing really stood out, I have to admit. But I did notice that, cuz some of our writers are very, very experienced and still there are things that perhaps I would change. It’s difficult to kind of compare it to say the coaching that I do with which is with fiction writers. It’s not absolutely comparable. But one thing I did notice, again, around the sort of style that people brought to it was some people, probably me in this way, were very kind of factual. Maybe a bit more journalistic perhaps in putting out the facts. But then other people were much more memoirish in how they wrote. Much more casual and relaxed and friendly, I would say. Or informal is perhaps a good word. So just seeing how different people come to nonfiction and how even within that, that’s very varied as well, just as varied as our fiction is. And how people explain things, it’s interesting too. And, I could tell who were teachers and who were not. There are a few of our authors who have been teachers in a past life, and you can see from the way that they explain things that they are very practiced in explaining things to an audience and putting, um, being very clear about the way they articulate things, both on the page as well as in person as well.
So that was really interesting. But because it wasn’t storytelling and we weren’t delving into character and that kind of thing, then it wasn’t, I wasn’t able to make that kind of comparison. But it was nice to know that other people need help just as much as I do, just as much as my first-time writers do. It’s always reassuring to know that no matter what level you get to, there’s always a little bit of room for improvement and we always keep learning.
Jo: That’s right. There’s always so much to learn on this journey. It’s fantastic. It’s one of the things that I love about it, love about writing.
Emma: Being a creative is a joy. It’s just there’s no upper limit. If you are someone who is a lifelong learner, who enjoys that kind of gentle challenge, then yeah. I think this is a great profession to be in.
Jo: Absolutely. Yes. Yes. And so again, going back to the fact that you are a book coach, and you coach authors and that, you’ve got a chapter in this book that specifically deals with that, and who might need a book coach and what a book coach does, and that. Can you, without giving away everything in the book, but can you like summarize a little bit about that? Who might need a book coach? Who might need to go a step further than just reading Launch Pad and maybe have, yeah, a book coach as well?
Emma: Mm-hmm. I think everybody, yeah, I would say that. Okay. Maybe not everybody actually. In fairness, there are, I think if you’re right at the beginning and you’re just really just, maybe in the first year or two of writing, and you’re still learning a lot of the basics and still piecing together maybe kind of short stories, learning to write scenes, that kind of thing. That’s probably not the best investment for you because it, it certainly is an investment of time and money. So in those early days, I think, doing the online courses, doing weekend workshops, something at your local college, I think those are really great so, so useful, not just for your learning those basic kind of craft elements, but also starting to build a little community of fellow writers as well. Yeah. So if you can get out and in with people at the beginning, that’s always a great thing to do too.
But I really do think that, and I wish I’d known about coaching when I first started writing my first novel. I think it is something that everybody can benefit from. I know you work with an editor and your editor does developmental and helps you work kind of through your stories as well. And that was my experience with my editors to start off with. But when I switched over to working with a coach, I have to say it was really, really different because the coach was coming in and working through the manuscript with me. Not at the end when I’d written it and made it the best I could be, and then they got to come in and say, okay, this is working or this is not. But actually, with my coach, she was there at the beginning with, made me work through it chapter by chapter by chapter. And having someone there, not just for the moral support, but I have to say that was hugely an enjoyable part of the process, was kind of sharing that. But also, the craft level too, you know, when they’re asking, cuz they’re professionals, so when they’re asking pertinent questions and understanding what’s missing, and prompting me as the creator to come up with the ideas and problem solve and deepen my characters as well. By default, you then up level your skill and your craft. So I do honestly think that if you are writing, if you know that you’re writing a novel and it’s maybe your first or second, I think this is invaluable. You will learn so, so much more. You’ll fast track everything that you would take 10 years to learn by going to all of those classes. Yeah. So by all means, do those classes at the beginning, but I do think there’s a lot to be said for working one-on-one with someone. And if you’ve worked with a coach in any other area of your life, you’ll know the benefits of having them.
So, but I would say just to kind of put it into context, coaching, into context, it’s something that has been there from day one. This isn’t a new-fangled profession that’s just been made up. It has always been there, but it was within the remit of an agent or within the remit of an in-house editor. So, someone I always cite is VS Niapaul, who was, I read the biography of his editor, Diana Athill, and it’s a book called Stet. And she talks about how she discovered this young VS Niapaul when he was a new writer and he was still learning a lot and he was, you know, she would say, he was fuzzy around the edges. He was, he wasn’t yet the master storyteller that he became. But she was a guiding light and that and helping to shape him and helping to keep him going. I think he was quite difficult to work with as well. So just managing that element of him too, which amused me. But it’s without having somebody by his side, he possibly wouldn’t have become the writer that he became.
So back in, this would’ve been the fifties I think it was, the publishing industry and the publishing landscape was very, very different. As everything was, life was slower. Yeah. There was more space. There was no email to make sure we had to do everything immediately. And also budgets were bigger, you know, there was more money around at that time for the arts. And so agents and editors had this, they had the space and they had the margins with which to nurture somebody new that they believed in and thought had it, had real potential. That just doesn’t happen anymore. Everything has sped up exponentially and the majority of agents, the majority of editors do not work with their writers that way. And that’s why publishing houses now, they know they’re not gonna get a perfect product that comes to them from, well, particularly from a debut novelist, but by any writer. But they’re looking for as close to that as they can possibly get. So for those of your listeners who do want to traditionally publish, just know that when you do get your agent and you do sell the book to a publisher, there will be more work to do. Yeah. So just know that. Yeah. Yeah. But that role of doing that nurturing is no longer there and giving you that space and giving you two or three years to come up with this new novel and maybe ditch a novel and start a new one, that’s not always there. You’re very lucky if you do get that.
And so that role that was once held by editors and agents has now moved into the kind of independent consulting sphere, if you like. And that’s happened as well because a lot of in-house editors that have, have, you know, they’ve been made redundant and they’ve had to go freelance. And so they’re looking for new ways that they can use their existing skills and still stay within that profession.
So, all that to say, it’s not something new that’s been made up, it has been around for a long time, but as the book industry has changed, like so many things, you can hire those services independently. So you and I know as indie authors, we can go and find someone to write our blurb for us, to do our ads for us, to do our book cover for us, to format the book for us. There are all of these services that are available if we don’t have the time to learn how to do it ourselves. Yeah. Or what’s not in our wheelhouse. So I think it’s vital. So whether you’re indie and you know that you don’t want to go down the traditional route, that you want to publish straight to Amazon or any of the others. You wanna make your book the best it can be, so that your readers love it, and they’re the ones who are gonna give you the five star reviews and say they really enjoyed it and tell their friends about it. That’s why you want to kind of make sure that you’re doing the best that you can. If you are going the traditional route, then for the reasons I’ve stated above, you wanna make sure that this is the best product that you can create. Because with each book you write, you get one shot. So yeah, that’s so you wanna make it count.
Jo: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that’s so good. And I think we are so lucky that just in the day and age that we live in, book coaches and people that can help us in all those different realms are so much more accessible, which is really cool. We don’t have to hunt far or search far to find somebody who really knows what they’re doing, which is really great. Yeah.
Emma: And I’d say that every coach I know loves books, loves story, loves working with authors. You know, this is, we are lucky to be doing what we love. You know? It’s not, yeah, it’s not just to pay the bills. It’s not because it’s a job that enables us to do other things, but actually it’s a passion. It’s something that we all really enjoy and we care about. And so if you are writing fantasy, you will be able to find a coach who works specifically with fantasy writers, because that’s the genre that they love and understand. You’ll find others who work with literary writers or with thriller writers, with young adults and children’s as well, even children’s picture books. There are people to help you kind of, cuz that’s, I think, you know, harder than people might imagine.
Jo: Yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
Emma: So there’s a real, uh, plethora of different coaches out there, and I work across genres and I work with first time novelists. It’s one of my visions and my mission is to help 1000 authors write their first book. So I work across genres as long as it’s your, your first story. But then there are other coaches, so if you are, if you’re listening and you’re like, well, you know, I’m three or four books in, how can someone help me? You maybe feel that you’ve reached a level or a plateau. There are coaches who specifically wanna work with writers who are more experienced and further down the line so that they can boost that author’s chances of, you know, hitting the best seller list, not just publishing your book, but getting a book that’s gonna hit the best sellers. And their level of experience is beyond mine, it has to be said. So they are working with, and they’ve usually had, you know, they’ve worked in the publishing industry before, they’ve then become a coach. So there is someone for everybody at all levels. And in non-fiction as well. I don’t know if you have non-fiction listeners, but there is lots of, lots of people out there who will help you write either a memoir, or if you’ve got a business and you’re looking to write a business book, or a how to book, there are people who can help you do that as well.
Jo: So amazing. That’s so great. That’s so great. And so with your first time authors that you work with, is there like a commonality of what their biggest struggle is? Or the thing that they’re struggling the most with when they come to you?
Emma: Yes, there is. So I’d say the biggest, the biggest, I’ll be honest here and say people come to me when they’ve hit a brick wall. I know I’m often a last resort for people. They’ve been going around in circles with the same story sometimes for decades. And they just want it done now. This is something that has to be done. And so what I find is with a lot of people, they’ve got some amazing ideas, but there’s a lot of ideas because they’ve been thinking about it so intensely for the last however many years. And so a big part of my job with them is to kind of weed out what’s not needed, and what is needed. What’s really working well in the plot line, what can we take out? So something I might see is that there are like three or four subplots and they don’t, only one of them actually adds anything to the story. So it’s about kind of, okay, how do we either take those out or amalgamate them? And so it fits in with the story and they’ve not just been added in to make the story more complex. Sometimes there’s too many characters and you know, the writer loves all of the characters and wants to keep them all in. But we might find actually that two or three characters are playing the same role. Yeah. And so we, you can amalgamate them or remove one or two of those.
So character can be a big one as well. Characters um, it’s… I think what newer writers struggle with the most is the character flaw. And it is a hard one, I think, to kind of get to grips with at the beginning. It’s not about having a short temper or a shorter attention span, or being a bit grumpy in the morning. So that’s not the kind of flaw that we’re talking about. But we’re talking about a flaw about how they see the world. And what their past experiences have taught them about the world, and now how they move about and act in that world that is not serving them. That is not helping them get what it is that they want or what they need. And that is quite a big missing component, I think, to newer writers and what they’re trying to do with their book. And if we can get under the, the hood of that and investigate, well, what is, what is wrong with the way that they’re seeing the world? How is it impacting them? How did it start? How did they get that view of the world? And then how do we want to change that over the course of the book? Because that’s what the book is about. Any novel is not about the plot points. It’s about how that character changes from the beginning to the end. And we want to see that evolution on the page.
So the character development is certainly one thing that I would say that every writer actually, not just new writers, but every writer needs help with. And the more experienced and skilful you get, the more nuanced you can become with that character development.
And then in terms of plots, so yeah, as I was saying, just sometimes too many things are going on. I sometimes see what we would call plot convenience. So a character gets into a tricky situation and the author panics and thinks, oh my God, okay, let’s just throw in this and see what, Yeah, and move them on. And it doesn’t serve their story at all. By contrast, the other thing that I see very often is that nothing happens. And so, you’ve got a number of scenes where characters are sitting and thinking, and they might have a little chit-chat about something, but there’s no action in the story. And when I say action, I mean there’s no conflict. Nobody’s having a difficult time. Everything’s moving along nicely. And often this is because people love their characters and they don’t want to put their characters in difficult situations. So I get that quite a lot. So then I’ve got to encourage the writer to, um, you gotta get mean. Yeah. Start being mean to your character so that, you know, they can have this lovely ending where they redeem themselves and the world is put to rights again. So those are some of the, the most common things that I see in in newer writers.
Jo: Yeah. That’s so, so interesting. I think that evolution of character is yeah, a really big one. So you have got, and it kind of relates to this I guess, but there’s an evolution of the author as well when we write a book, and you wrote a beautiful quote, I think at the beginning of Launch Pad, which is: “Writing a novel is not just about the words on the page, but about who you become in the process.” Can you talk a little bit about that? Because I think that is just magic. I love that.
Emma: Well, my little bit of alchemy for the podcast…
Jo: Yeah. Well, there we are…
Emma: It’s so true. When I started writing all those years ago now, and I was thinking about writing this first book, I was focused very much on the plot. It’s all about the plot. I’ve got to get the plot down. I’ve gotta move this character from A to B to C. What I didn’t realize was that at the same time I was moving myself from A to B to C. I am someone who had always said to themselves, you’re not a finisher. You’ll never manage to do this. If you were meant to be a writer, you would’ve done it in your twenties. If you were meant to be a writer, this would be really easy. If you were a writer, you’d stop giving yourself excuses not to do it. So I had all these things going on in my head. And when I, the first sort of challenge that I gave to myself, I got to 40 and I was like, Emma, you’ve got this itch again. We’ve been through this a million times. You either write this darn story or let it go, move on. So I made the decision, okay, I’m going to write a first draft. Doesn’t matter how bad it is, but for the first time in my life, I’m gonna get to the end of the story and then I can go from there and see did I enjoy that process like I hoped I would, or was it painful and horrible and I never want to go through it again?
So I discovered, I discovered I actually did enjoy the pain and I enjoyed the puzzling and putting the pieces together. It did something to my brain and it gave me a lot of joy. So then the next challenge was, okay, let’s revise this and see where we can go from here. And then that’s when I started thinking, well, okay, maybe there could be, maybe this, I could publish this at some stage.
But when I look back at that, I see that that was an evolution of taking things one step at a time. You know, from the very basics of doing one scene at a time, one conversation that my characters have, and then one draft at a time. And now that I’m further along, it’s one book at a time. And what happened for me was when I finished that book, that first draft, I was like, wow, I can do it. If I can, if I can finish this draft, if I can complete something and sort of commit to myself. And because it took me a long time to write, I had three preschool kids at that time, so it took a long time. But if I can commit to something for that length of time and still be engaged in it and still be, you know, excited by it. Then what else can I do? And that then started to open up other things.
Okay, so if I can write this first draft, can I revise it? Yes, I can revise. Okay, well, could I find an agent? Possibly. In the end I decided no, but I can publish it and that’s what I want to do. So then like we are doing now, it’s like, well, okay, I’ve really enjoyed doing this. Can I write another one? Can I write another one? Can I write another one? Can I start a podcast? Would that be something I’d like to do? Could I chat to people on the other side of the world and, and learn from them? Could I then share what I’ve been learning all these years with other people who are sort of coming up behind me and, and pay it forward to them?
And so yes, it’s just little bits. Little bits, little bits. I never would be doing what I’m doing now. I never would’ve become an authorpreneur as we call ourselves, yeah, if I hadn’t written that first book. And funnily enough, it’s, for me, then rippled out into other areas of my life. And I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but I just became more confident in myself. I was a woman in the second half of life. You know, I wasn’t a spring chicken anymore, but now I felt I had this new lease. I kind of had this new focus, this new career that I could have. So it, it gave me a confidence that then rippled out into, you know, even into my marriage. Even into how I mothered my children. And feeling that confidence that, oh, I’m being a really good example to them that if they, particularly to my daughters, that they can, if they’re persistent and they’re keen enough and they, they don’t give up, then they can achieve what they want as well. And I take that now and I’m able to kind of pass that out into with my clients and with my students and hope that they then get that confidence and they start to change how they see themselves as well. And then hopefully in the future they too will pass it on to the next people coming up behind them. But it just changed my concept of who I was and what I was capable of. And that was massive for me.
Jo: Yeah. Yeah. I totally resonate with everything you said there because it was exactly the same for me. Really, really life changing and just being able to finish a big project like that. And there is no way I would’ve ever have had the confidence to start a podcast. This is completely out of my comfort zone, and yeah, had I not written my first book and yeah. Yeah, there, there really is something to be said about that sense of accomplishment for getting your words on paper, whether you publish it or not, but just having completed that, can be really life altering for sure. Yeah.
Emma: Yeah, yeah. And even if, you know listeners kind of, they write that book and then they do decide, actually this wasn’t what I wanted, thought it was going to be. But it will give you that confidence to go in and try something else that might be the right thing.
Jo: So amazing. Thank you so much. I am hoping then that you can let our listeners know where they can find your books and find Launch Pad, where they can grab that. And how they can connect with you as well.
Emma: Yeah, absolutely. So Launch Pad, if you go to emmadhesi.com/launchpad, you’ll find details there cuz this is the first of three books. So Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book. The second one coming out in April is publishing your book. And then the third one will be about marketing your book. So there’s lots of good stuff to come. But obviously it’s also available in all the usual places online. And then if you want to connect with me, https://emmadhesi.com is my website. I’m old school, so I’m still on Facebook, and you’ll find me @emmadhesiauthor there.
Jo: Wonderful. And just lastly too, like, what’s next for you? You’ve gone from your fiction and you’re doing this wonderful three book trilogy of non-fiction to help other authors. So what is next for you? What are you up to next?
Emma: So, hopefully, not hopefully, I do have my first thriller coming out later this year. It’s at those final stages. I’ve just got to keep going with it. You know, cuz I’ve sometimes hit a plateau as well and I think, ah, can I keep going? I’m fed up with this. So I’ve just gotta keep going and get that out in the world. And then I have a new idea for a new novel, which I’m quite excited about, around plant medicine and what plant medicine can do, and how I can incorporate that into a thriller. And then I’m also working on my own non-fiction book. Not an anthology this time, but looking more at, rather than the craft of writing, I want to look at what goes on around the writing life and what’s involved in order to get to that point where you feel emotionally resilient enough to actually write the book, let it be read by other people and put it out into the world. Cause a lot of the blocks I see people struggling with basically are confidence levels and time management levels, and sometimes people can feel like they are out, those are out of their control, and I want to help people see that they are within their control and they can, they can take charge of those things. So that’s coming up for later this year.
Jo: Ooh, that’s exciting. I can’t wait to hear all about that one. We’ll have to have you back on for that one because, yeah, that’s important. That mindset and that, yeah, it’s so important. Yeah. That’s amazing. Well, thank you so much for coming back on the show. It has been such a blast having you back and chatting with you and seeing where you are at a year after we last spoke, so this is really cool. Thank you.
Emma: Oh, thank you, Jo. Thank you.
Jo: Some takeaways from today’s show.
1. Be intentional about what you want to learn and improve on, and implement your new skills as you go until they become second nature.
2. When choosing a style guide for formatting your punctuation, for example, stay consistent. Consistency in your work is key.
3. No matter your experience with writing, there’s always room for improvement and learning.
4. At the beginning of your writing career, invest in online courses and weekend workshops, and learn the basics of craft, and begin building your community of fellow writers.
5. Coaching is something everyone can benefit from. Whether you’re writing your first novel or have a few under your belt already. It’s invaluable, whether you plan on publishing traditionally or independently.
6. A novel is not about the plot points, but how the character changes from the beginning of the story to the end.
7. Character flaw is not about a short temper or being grumpy in the morning. A character flaw determines how a character sees the world, and what their past experiences have taught them about the world.
8. Don’t be afraid to be mean to your character. Put them in difficult situations. It makes the ending of your story more impactful when they redeem themselves or save the world.
9. The sense of accomplishment that occurs from writing a book can create a ripple effect across all areas of your life.
10. In Emma’s words, writing a novel is not just about the words on the page, but about who you become in the process.
So that was just so much fun chatting with Emma on the show again, and I hope you really enjoyed it too. I will be putting all the links in the show notes for you to check out Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book. And if you’re maybe still on the fence about taking the leap and writing your first book, then consider visiting Emma’s website, https://emmadhesi.com, to find out how you can work with her. Emma’s goal, as she mentioned in this episode, is to help 1000 authors write their first book. Maybe you’re one of them.
On a different note, my friend, bestselling author, and Millionaire Author Coach, Carissa Andrews, has created a wonderful course bundle that I really didn’t want you to miss out on. So this course bundle is for those of you who are maybe looking for more royalties, readers, or recognition of your work. And who are intent on wanting to create an abundant author career and dropping the struggling artist mindset, and living more abundantly.
Carissa is offering her Abundant Author Activation course, Millionaire Author Challenge, and her Abundant Author Alignment course as one amazing bundle. If you get in quick, you can get it for 50% off. Lifetime access, my friends, for 50% off. But only until May 15th, 2023.
And if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you know that I stand by Carissa’s courses. In fact, I invest in them myself. So if you believe your mindset impacts upon your success, then you need to go check them out. I will, of course leave the link in the show notes, but do make sure you get in quick. 50% off is only until 15th of May.
All right, my lovelies. So as usual, I am wishing you a wonderful, joyful, prolific, and of course, an abundant writing week ahead. Until next time. Bye.