Writing, Critique Partnerships and Other Stories

From a community of writers, critique partners and beta readers.

Aug 20, 2020

Author Interview Series: Emma Dhesi

CritiqueMatch: A warm welcome to writer and writing coach Emma Dhesi! Thanks for joining us on our blog. Let’s start off with your background. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you decided to become a writing coach.
Emma: I’ve been writing, on and off, since I was a child. Over the years I’ve attended lots of workshops, evening classes and seminars. I’ve read the books and watched the YouTube videos. I’ve poured over author interviews looking for that secret formula, but it wasn’t until I was in my forties I discovered the secret! 
When I did, it is no exaggeration to say my life changed immeasurably! I finally understood that if I was consistent and wrote a little each week, I would write a full-length novel. A first draft. 
In the space of a few months I went from doubting every word I wrote, worried I was wasting my time and feeling guilty for wanting this time to myself, to someone who had fulfilled a lifelong dream. If I could write a novel, what else could I do? 
At that time I was a stay at home mum and had lost all sense of my own identity outwith the home and my children. I couldn’t remember the woman I had been. Writing a novel changed all of that. 
I want other women to experience the same thing. The second half of life can be a time for reflection and an opportunity to pivot and time for you to invest in things that are important to you. And for you, that’s writing.
I became a writing coach because I wanted to help other women in the same situation fulfil their dreams and remember there is more to you than just a wife, mother, daughter, employee or employer. You are also imaginative and creative; you have aspirations. 
Rekindling your creative life will open up opportunities you never dreamed of, from proving to yourself you’ve got what it takes to tell a great story, to finding a new community of like-minded creatives. 
   
      CM: Can you tell us what a writing coach does and at what stage of the writing journey should writers use one?
Emma: The role of a writing coach is varied. It includes helping you formulate your premise and storyline, providing accountability and deadlines, offering a shoulder to cry on and someone to celebrate with. Some coaches also offer editing services. Some will also help you put your query package together, if you choose the traditional route. 
You can employ a writing coach at any time. I have students who are at the very beginning of their book, still figuring out what the structure will be and doing their research. I have other students who need help staying motivated and getting beyond the halfway point. I have other students who have so many ideas they need help focusing on one project at a time! 
I don’t offer an editing service.  My expertise is helping you manage your time, work out your priorities, give you deadlines and keep you accountable. I’ll also steer you away from the latest shiny object! 
In short, I keep you motivated and ensure you write your first draft. 

      CM: You have been quite busy with your podcast, newsletter, Facebook group and as a writing coach. What’s next in your career? 
Emma: Yes, the last few years have been very busy! Further down the line, I want to help students develop their author platform and publish their work independently. But that’s a few years off yet! 

CM: The pandemic has reshaped our lives and added a new layer of stress and anxiety. What activities do you recommend to our fellow writers to help them stay focused and keep pursuing their dreams? 
Emma: The most important thing you can do to stay focused and on track is to keep writing. It sounds so simple, I know. But when you have a disrupted routine, you’re home-schooling kids or competing with your partner for the best workspace because you’re both working from home, it’s hard to stay on track with your writing. 
One of the first things I teach my students is to schedule your writing time. If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to get done. That doesn’t change in lockdown. 
Your mental health is just as important as your child’s or your partner’s, so you must make it a priority. Schedule in one or two writing slots each week. It might not be as much time as you’re used to, but it will keep you pushing your manuscript forward. 
It will help you feel you still have some control over your life! Those regular writing slots will keep your book top of mind and when that happens it's harder to get side-tracked by work and family. You don’t need to write for hours at a time, 20 or 30 minutes will do. Those extra few paragraphs will move you closer to your dream. 
I recommend you schedule at least two writing sessions a week and stick to them. Because you are a writer and writing is what you keeps you sane, it is a fabulous way of reducing the stress and anxiety you are experiencing at the moment, and ensuring you finish your book.

CM: It’s interesting to read how your novel “The Day She Came Home” got started as a healing process from your Post Natal Depression. We love how committed you are on helping other women. Can you tell us more about the book and how writing it helped you? 
Emma: The day she came home started as a series of journal entries, combined with a writing prompt. 
I was struggling with Post Natal Depression at the time and journalled daily. It was a way of venting my frustrations and an attempt to put my emotions in some sort of order. 
If you’ve ever experienced PND, you may also have had the desire to pack a bag and leave because you feel sure your family would be better off without you. That’s how I felt back in 2015. 
I’m pleased to say I never left, but that didn’t stop me wondering what it would be like. That curiosity led me to imagine what might happen if a mum did walk out, and so Nicola (my protagonist) was born. 
The opening scene of the book came from a writing prompt I’d written many years before and had hung on to. From there the novel grew into The Day She Came Home. It was a hugely therapeutic experience and helped make sense of some of the complicated emotions Nicola experienced in the book. 

CM: You mention you wanted to be an author since your early age, but actually got to it seriously much later in life. What’s your advice to the young aspiring writers out there? 
Emma: The first bit of advice I have is to read Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear. The book examines the complexities and hardships (as well as the joys) of living a creative life. 
Gilbert encourages you to see writing as a lifelong learning curve, and I agree. Don't expect, or even desire, success immediately. Instead, be playful and curious about your writing. Try lots of different styles and genres, fiction and non-fiction. 
Make lots of mistakes as fast as you can. You’ve probably been told making mistakes is something to be embarrassed about, but take it from someone who’s learned the hard way, mistakes are how you learn. The faster you get it wrong, the faster you’ll get it right. 
Think of your first years as an apprenticeship, whereby you learn your craft out of the public eye and in the privacy of your own notebook. The second piece of advice I have for young writers is to get into a habit with your writing as soon as you can. Set aside at least one hour a week that’s for your writing and nothing else.
Life is for living, especially when you’re young, and it's hard to maintain the discipline needed to write a book. I certainly struggled! If you train yourself now, you will develop lifelong habits that will serve you well and ensure success. Don't strive to be the next big name, strive to be a great storyteller. I believe there is an audience for every writer. If you keep writing great stories your audience will find you and love your work. 
At the same time as enjoying student life, the world of work, or travelling the globe, set aside some time to learn your craft whether that be journal writing, short stories or poetry. You won’t regret it. 

CM: You have lived and travelled to several countries; how have different cultures shaped you as a writer? 
Emma: Living abroad helped me see the world with a new set of eyes. I saw how people from different cultures can come to the same situation but view it and respond to it in different ways. 
A simple example might be how Europeans and Asians tend to raise their children very differently. European school children tend to be in bed early so they can be up early for school and down early so their parents can have some quiet time. 
On the whole, Hong Kong families are happy to let their school age children nap after school so they can stay up later and enjoy family time in the evenings. 
I met a lot of expats while living abroad and there are noticeable cultural differences between the Brits and the Americans, The South Africans and the Australians. 
In amongst all these differences, however, is one constant – people need people. 
It doesn’t matter what our background is, we all need to be part of a ‘tribe’, and when we are, life is sweeter. 
My fiction revolves around the complexities of relationships. We need secure relationships to make us whole, to help us understand who we are, but that doesn’t make them easy! 
Travel has taught me that despite all our cultural differences, at heart we all want the same thing – we want to belong and to feel valued. 

CM: With your free guide you provide 30+ tips for finding more time to write your book. How can writers keep the passion and creativity alive even after their first or second novel? 
Emma: When you finish a novel you may feel you never want to do it again. You’re completely burned out. That’s natural. 
You’ve given your all to this piece of work. It’s taken up months, or even years of your life, and now you’re depleted. 
Enjoy that feeling because it shows that you have done the best job you can. It proves you’ve grown as a writer and as an individual. That is something to be proud of. 
Now it’s time to take a break. Now is your chance to, as Joanna Penn calls it, refill the creative well. This is just as important as the writing itself. 
Take a break, do something else, take a holiday and switch off. Do it while you can because creativity is like a drug. Once you've experienced the highs of making something from nothing, it's hard to cut it off at the source. 
Eventually you’ll fall off the ‘no writing’ wagon and you’ll stagger back to the page, ready to begin again. 

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About the Author: Emma Dhesi
Emma Dhesi writes women’s fiction. She began writing seriously while a stay at home mum with 3 pre-school children.
By changing her mindset, being consistent and developing confidence, Emma has gone from having a collection of handwritten notes to a fully written, edited and published novel.
Having experienced first-hand how writing changes lives, Emma now helps beginner writers find the time and confidence to write their first novel. 
Also, checkout her website: www.emmadhesi.com.