Save Thyme & Avoid Common Mistakes — The Beginning

In my first article, Save Thyme and Avoid Common Mistakes, I discussed the importance of attending writers’ conferences and a common newbie mistake — pitching a book that was not written. This next article will focus on the beginning — the beginning of your book, your writing career, and essential tools of the trade.

Save Thyme & Avoid Common Mistakes — The Beginning

If you don’t take into consideration the two years my story brewed in my mind, this first writers conference was my beginning. If you can get into a clinic at a writers’ conference, I highly recommend it. It’s intense, and you get one-on-one assistance with an experienced writer, agent, editor… . This input is invaluable.

Because your application for a clinic typically includes the first 15 pages, you want to make sure those 15 pages are the absolute best they can be. Write, rewrite, and write again. Have others read it and see if you have a writer friend who can also give you input (more on writers’ groups and critique groups later). When you think it’s there, set it aside for as long as possible (I prefer a week) so that you see it with fresh eyes, and read it out loud. It’s amazing what your ears catch that your eyes miss.

CCWC: Estes Rock Banner 2016

Although my manuscript was not written, I did write the first 15 pages to apply to a beginners fiction clinic that was team taught by two well-known authors. The beginning is always critical to capture your audience, whether it’s an agent, publisher or your reader. I realized during this particular clinic that I was chosen not because of my story (the first 15 pages did not reveal much), but because of the mistakes I made in the beginning. Nothing I had grabbed my reader — not the title nor the first sentence, first paragraph, or first page. Nada.

supernatural, fog, night, writing, publishing, story, fiction, novel, mistakes, writing mistakes, Thyme for Writers, journey, Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, agents, editors, craft, skills, writers conference, tools, titles
The Supernatural – Fact or Fiction? Night Fog …

This first clinic got my act together. At the start of this clinic, we went around the room reading our first sentences. The rule — NEVER begin a book with the weather. Most of us did. Think about how you choose a book, whether it’s your next library choice or book to buy.

Most people:
  • Check the title. Does it sound interesting?
  • Read the back cover copy. Still interested?
  • Open the book to the first page and read the first sentence. Still interested?
  • Read the first paragraph, and maybe even the first page. Getting it?
Writers’ Tools
writing, publishing, story, fiction, novel, mistakes, writing mistakes, Thyme for Writers, journey, Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, agents, editors, craft, skills, writers conference, tools, titles
The Author Toolbox

 

This first conference also gave me a glimpse into what type of tools of the trade would make my life easier. Instead of sharing what I learned here, I recommend a more comprehensive source that’s tried and true — The Author Toolbox by Candee Fick.

 

 

The Title
Hidden Bloodlines, romantic suspense, Colorado Rockies, Karen Van Den Heuvel
Hidden Bloodlines

 

I needed a catchy and unique title. First, I brainstormed a list of 10 titles. Next, I did the research necessary to assure none of those titles were already taken in previously published works. I created survey sheets and waited outside each service at my church one weekend and asked people to choose and rank their top 3 titles. An overwhelming majority chose Hidden Bloodlines as their top choice.

 

I threw out my first chapter and started over. My first sentence went from the weather to:  “Victoria prosecuted the wrong man.”

What captures your interest?

Save Thyme and Avoid Common Mistakes

So many mistakes … so much time wasted. Save Thyme and Avoid Common Mistakes is the first in the Common Mistakes Series geared to help you save precious time getting that book published. I have first hand experience on making most if not all of them. With this new year upon us, my goal is to share my journey to make yours smoother and easier with quicker positive results.

The Story
writing, publishing, story, fiction, novel, mistakes, writing mistakes, Thyme for Writers, journey, Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, agents, editors, craft, skills, writers conference
Save Thyme and Avoid Common Mistakes

As I mentioned in my article, Never Give Up!, I am a writer by profession. Although I have more than 100 published articles (most of which were ghost written), my heart’s desire was in the story. I yearned to write that novel and see it published. Even though I was an experienced writer, I quickly learned that fiction writing was a totally different “animal” and I set out to garner the necessary skills.

Hidden Bloodlines, romantic suspense, Colorado Rockies, Karen Van Den Heuvel
Hidden Bloodlines

Hidden Bloodlines started as a story triggered by a stay at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. After this story brewed in my mind for two years, I decided that the time was now and I attended my first writers conference.

A Conference Mistake

I successfully pitched my story to agents and publishers during that first conference, but made my first mistake as an conference newbie — I pitched a story that wasn’t written. It was in my head, but not on paper. Every single one of the editors and agents I pitched to, wanted to see a manuscript that did not exist. By the time I wrote it, revised it (I can’t remember how many times) and had it ready, 5 years had passed. Oops — a little late for that group of agents and editors who were either with different publishing houses or made career changes.

Colorado Christian Writers Conference

During those 5 years I worked on learning the craft and developing my skills as a fiction writer — essential if you want to be taken seriously and get published. I highly recommend attending writers conferences even if that story is not written. There are workshops and sessions geared toward honing your skills. Appointments are usually available with not just editors and agents, but writers, and other writing professionals. If you want to pitch a story idea, let the agents and editors know that it’s not written yet, then get on the horn and write it. They may be interested now, but not a year from now.

Do you have a story brewing?

If Writing Is Your Passion – Never Give Up!

If writing is your passion, never give up! So many things may get in the way — time or the lack of it, discouragement, the need to earn a living, life …. The list goes on and on, especially if your goal is to be published by a traditional publisher.

Resources
The Author Toolbox

Candee Fick talked about the time issue in her article, So Little Time to Conquer this Mountain where she shares her tips and strategies in her busy life and offers a very helpful tool, The Author Toolbox. This article is about perseverance —  keeping that goal in sight so that we never give up.

 

 

The Journey

As writers, we all deal with discouragement whether we are trying to get published, or are already successfully published. Our journeys may be different, but the difficulties are similar if not the same. In today’s publishing industry, the age of the ebook and ease at which someone can get published independently has changed the course of the industry.

Hidden Bloodlines, romantic suspense, Colorado Rockies, Karen Van Den Heuvel
Hidden Bloodlines

Why do we write? For me, it’s a passion for story. There is a story I can’t get out of my mind until I put it on paper. That’s how Hidden Bloodlines started — it was a story that perpetuated itself for two years before I attended my first writers conference in Estes Park, Colorado.

As an attorney and dietitian with multiple articles and one published nonfiction book, writing was my life, but my passion was fiction — a story to share. However, I quickly learned that writing fiction is a totally different “animal” than nonfiction. It is a different art and it was important that I learn the craft. Future articles will talk about this craft and how to achieve the necessary skills for success.

writing, perseverance, journey, publishing, author, mistakes, writers conferences, fiction, nonfiction, craft of writing, traditional publisher, indy publishing
Thyme for Writers
The Journey

For those interested in becoming published by a traditional publishing house, the road may be long and bumpy with uncertain forks. If you are not interested in the years usually involved with a traditional publisher, you may want to go the Indy way. Regardless of which avenue you choose, when you reach that publication goal , it doesn’t end. There are millions of books out there and you may ask:

  • “How will anyone find me?”
  • “Can I make a living writing?”
  • “How successful can I be?”
  • “Is it even worth it?”

Thyme for Writers will help you discern the path that’s right for you. It will hopefully answer your many questions and help you avoid time consuming mistakes. I for one made mistakes that cost me years. Keep your eyes open for future posts that will steer you clear of these mistakes and make your road smoother.