Jan 11, 2010

Writing Through the Malaise! By Lisa Heidke

Writing Through the Malaise!

There are days when I’d rather jog ten kilometres than sit at my computer and write. (And I hate jogging!) On those days I really have to force myself to focus. I do the usual – check emails, Facebook, twitter and online news. But I give myself a half hour limit (or forty-five minutes if I’m feeling generous) and then I’ll start or continue writing a scene which I think will be easy. In other words, when I’m feeling lazy or uninspired, I’ll go for the easiest option to get my word count up for the day. I’ll write new scenes or perhaps research a character.

When I am writing a first draft I have a daily word count of 2000 words that I try to stick to, five days a week. That way I find the momentum builds and an interesting plot and complex characters develop (hopefully) and I find I get into a rhythm and pace I’m comfortable with.

I tell myself that when I’m finished for the day, I can read the next chapter from a book I’m currently reading. I also offer myself treats like a chocolate croissant or glass of wine...basically I bribe myself.

And I keep telling myself, I don’t care what you write, just write something! As the saying goes, you can’t edit a blank page.

I have just completed Nanowrimo (November 2009) and found it a great exercise in discipline and motivation. Every day during November I forced myself to write 1700 words. The motivation was the desire to win the competition and produce 50,000 words (all different) at the end.

I think when you’re feeling uninspired, it’s a good idea to look at your long term objectives as well as the short term treats like a shower and sleep. I keep saying to myself, once I have completed my first draft of 80,000 I will have written a whole novel.

Then the fun really begins with the re-reading and editing. It’s a huge sense of achievement.

I work from home during school hours, during the school term. Nanowrimo was so good for me because I knew it would be the last burst of extended creativity before my children started summer holidays. When they’re at home I still check my emails and update my website and blog etc but I’ve made a deal with them that I won’t lock myself away for hours in my office and ignore them. Sometimes it’s a hard promise to keep, so no matter where I am I keep a notebook and pen handy just in case I have a brilliant idea (Rarely happens.).

In the first draft, I think it’s important to enjoy the process, to understand that you are in control of a completely make-believe world...you alone control the characters and what they look like, how they speak and what they do. It’s a fascinating journey and I love not knowing what’s going to happen to my characters next. Writing is a great adventure.

Lisa Heidke


After growing up in Brisbane, I ran away to Sydney, via London, and worked in book and magazine publishing. After many years living in the inner west, I was surprised one morning to wake up and find myself married with three children and living on the North Shore.

I’m not one of those people who’ve always wanted to write a novel...okay, I am one of those people. But it wasn’t until a few years ago I seriously challenged myself to do something about it. In fact, it was during an alcohol fuelled New Year’s Eve party where friends had been discussing the merits of a newly published novel.

‘I could write that,’ I blurted to anyone who’d listen. I’ve long forgotten the title of the book from that night, but the idea of writing my own novel, quickly became my New Year’s resolution. The next morning my husband poked me in the ribs, force fed me two Nurofen + and pointed me in the direction of the computer. I also have a vague recollection of him quietly sniggering.

I thought it would be easy. Why not? I had some ideas, so set myself up with several ‘how to’ books, a corner of an overcrowded spare room I could call my own - and was filled with great enthusiasm—confident that at the following New Year’s Eve do, I’d be one of the very few who’d managed to keep their resolution. I'd have written my first novel and would be well on my way to publication.

In my dreams! That was eight long years ago.

Along the way, This Wife’s Life was short listed for the Varuna/HarperCollins Manuscript Awards in 2005, and then in 2006, Lucy Springer’s Story was short listed. With a hell of a lot more writing, rewriting, editing, and several buckets of tears, Lucy Springer’s Story morphed into what is now Lucy Springer Gets Even. LSGE is available at your local bookshop now.

Meanwhile, This Wife's Life has been rewritten to become What Kate did Next. What Kate did Next will be available in book shops from late December 2009.


  1. Love bribery- hey whatever gets you there :)
    It's hard to juggle kids and writing isn't it- I find people just dont look at writing the same as if you were working full time- I'm left feeling guilty no matter what I do- stay up late and feel like a zombie the next day- do it after kids are in bed- then hubby is getting ignored- do it through the day- the house work doesn't do itself!!!! sigh... so I get up at five am and I hate early mornings- but at least no one else is up to judge me and my selfish writing habits!!! :)

  2. Hey girl- just came here from the FB link. Am at beach house again (FORTY FOUR in Melbourne today so damn glad I was) and have v. limited PC time but wanted to say (a) great blog and (b) started Kate today and am really enjoying it- it is making me want to read on, which is a great sign. Plus I have a fondness for main characters named Kate! See you soon :)

  3. Hi Lisa. Congrats on completing NaNo. I did this myself for the first time this year - and it's such a great motivator. I now have 51,000 plus words waiting to be edited, which wouldn't be more than a few thousand words, if it wasn't for NaNo. I agree about writing being an adventure, it's fantastic when your characters do unexpected things or the villain turns out not to be who you thought it was! Very interesting blogpost, thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi Lisa, loved your post - and loved What Kate Did Next! Had the luxury of enough spare time to read it in one sitting and it was fabulous.

    I've done Nanowrimo for the last three years and it's a fantastic motivator. My 50,000 words in two of those years formed the basis for the books Hachette ultimately bought. Something about locking myself away from all temptation and just writing works for me.

    It is one big adventure which can end up anywhere - checked my notes for the latest WIP and realised I'd set up a totally different relationship for two of the minor characters. They had other ideas...

  5. Hi All,
    Thanks for the great comments. I'm thrilled you enjoyed the blog.
    Helene, thanks for reading Kate - and in one sitting, too! I know how precious time is, so for you to spare a few hours of your life is very much appreciated. And Kylie, I hope you continue to want to turn the pages...
    Lisa xx

  6. Lis - Was the book that REALLY got you started one we talked about when I was there years ago..the Nikki somebody book where she started crying in an interview on the John Laws show?