Thursday, June 30, 2022

Where Do I Start?

 Erica here with you today. Not on my normal 4th Monday of the month, because our darling Pepper had a book release on Monday, and I was coming home from a writing retreat and would have been scrambling to get a post up. 

Also, the idea for the post didn't come until Tuesday. :) So there's that.

Today's post is the most basic of basics. It's for those folks who are thinking of writing a novel, but haven't put a word to paper just yet. 

Earlier this week, I had a friend from church say she had an idea for a novel, and she was seeing scenes in her head and having ideas for her story, but she didn't know where to start.

Which gave me pause. It's been a minute since I was in that position, ready to write my first story. How did one start?

There are a couple of angles from which you can attack writing your first fiction, and it depends upon what type of person you are.

1. Dive in. Start writing, telling the story that you see in your head. Fingerpaint and play, words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters, with all the joy in the world.


2. Study. Learn. Take classes, read books, examine characterization and story structure, pace, theme, point of view, subtext, goals, motives, conflicts, and more. Dissect story to learn story.

I fell into camp #1, mostly because I didn't know camp #2 existed. I thought you just wrote what you wanted and it became a story. (Yeah, I know. But I didn't know what I didn't know.) It wasn't until I got my first contest entry critique that I realized I didn't know what I was doing and would need to study and improve. 

If you're like me, and you're in Camp #1, here is my advice:

1. Get your writing critiqued by someone who knows what they're doing. Join a critique group, enter a contest, pay an editor to look at your first chapter. You want to learn what will improve your writing, and this is a quick way to get to the nitty gritty.

2. Set aside some time to work on the mechanics of writing. Read great writing, evaluate and break down stories that resonate with you, learn how story works, and embrace the new vocabulary of story structure.

3. Consider attending a conference, a retreat, an online workshop. Try different methods of learning about how to write, finding the one that resonates best with you. 

4. Understand that writing is a skill as much as an art, and you can always improve your skills. If you want your writing to shine and be loved by readers and noticed by editors, polish it!

If you're going to follow the Camp #2 approach, I recommend the following:

1. A select few writing books that cover the basics. For me these are: Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, Goal, Motivation, & Conflict, by Debra Dixon, and Heroes and Heroines -16 Master Archetypes by Cowden, LeFever, and Viders. These will get you started without giving you too many voices in your head all bossing you around. 

2. The Seekerville archives are your friend. There are hundreds...yes, hundreds! of articles on the mechanics of writing a book. If you're curious about a particular subject, check the archives. They're searchable! And better yet, FREE!

3. Consider attending a conference, or an online class, or a writing retreat. This is an expense, but you do have to invest in your career if you want to have a career. There are lots of Seekerville posts on the benefits and expectations and how to go to a writer's conference. Check them out.

4. Write. Write. Write. Eventually, you have to put the manuals and classes down and actually write. 

There is no wrong approach. You do you. But remember, that eventually, you will do both. You will study, but you can't get bogged down in the study. Even the most intelligent and apt student will eventually have to sit down and write the story. You will write, but you will need to learn to write. Even the most naturally gifted writer in the world gets better through editing and practice.

You don't have to know anything when you first start writing. Experience the joy of splashing words on the page, living an intensely vivid life that you're putting into words. Or, if you're more of a student, study and prepare for writing, analyze to your heart's content, and then practice and execute what you've learned.

Which do you consider your leaning? Write first, or learn first? I'd love to hear how you first got started writing!

Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series

Newly returned from finishing school, Lady Juliette Thorndike is ready to debut in London society. Due to her years away, she hasn't spent much time with her parents, and sees them only as the flighty, dilettante couple the other nobles love. But when they disappear, she discovers she never really knew them at all. They've been living double lives as government spies--and they're only the latest in a long history of espionage that is the family's legacy.

Now Lady Juliette is determined to continue their work. Mentored by her uncle, she plunges into the dangerous world of spy craft. From the glittering ballrooms of London to the fox hunts, regattas, and soirees of country high society, she must chase down hidden clues, solve the mysterious code her parents left behind, and stay out of danger. All the while, she has to keep her endeavors a secret from her best friend and her suitors--not to mention nosy, irritatingly handsome Bow Street runner Daniel Swann, who suspects her of a daring theft.

Can Lady Juliette outwit her enemies and complete her parents' last mission? Or will it lead her to a terrible end?

Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she is married to her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at where she spends way too much time!


  1. Erica, this is all so true. I was in Camp 1 for, well, years and learned everything the hard way. But at least I learned it. I had a wonderful critique partner at one point who was really strong in structure, and she drilled me till I got it right.
    One thing that trips up beginners is the "dictation" theory. Seriously. Newbies often think every word comes from God and they're reluctant to change anything. Christian writing is really a partnership between us and God. We have to do the work. Lots of it.
    This is really good for a last-minute post. Hey, you could of fooled me.
    I am having lunch with my critique partner, so this is a good day.
    Talk to you soon,
    Kathy Bailey
    Your Kaybee
    Doing the work in New Hampsihre

    1. Hi, Kaybee! Have a great time with your crit partner! And you're right, this writing things is a partnership between us and God, with Him being in charge! :)

  2. This is a great post, Erica!!!
    I fell into Camp #1 for a short time. My dad recently gave me the rolled up manila paper pages of a story I wrote in first grade. Plot and structure? Nonexistent. But the illustrations were...interesting.
    By the time I reached college I was still blissfully ignorant of what made a story a story - and that particular college didn't help at all.
    But years of reading told me that I was missing something and that's when I realized I needed to study. So I slid into Camp #2.

    I definitely agree that a writer needs to be in both camps, maybe even concurrently. But it all comes down to getting those words down.

    Speaking of which, I need to get some words down this morning. Have a wonderful day!

    1. Hi, Jan! Happy writing today! No matter what camp you're in, you still have to do the work, don't you?

  3. I started in camp #1. It took 2.1 seconds to realize I needed help ha. I moved over to camp #2 because I wanted to save myself some time, needless work along with heartache. For me, camp # 2 is taking forever because of time constraints ( along with everyone else) but is oh so worth it. I hope everyone has a great Thursday!

    1. Hi, Pat! Starting in Camp #2 can save you a lot of time on gutting and rewriting later, can't it? Happy Thursday!

  4. I have been writing for a long time with short stories and articles. When I was in 3rd grade, a story I wrote for school was displayed at the county fair. I still have it. It is pretty hilarious to read. My first published story came when I was a senior in high school. It won $25 in the World-Herald short story contest for students. My idea for a novel developed over time and I am still working on it way longer than I should. I have also spent lots of time on craft and study. So I guess I fall into both camps.

    1. Congrats on starting your journey so young! I didn't write down my first story until I was in 9th grade! What did you use the $25 for?

    2. Erica, I don't remember what I used the money for. Probably bought clothes.

  5. Hi Erica. I was definitely in Camp 1! I submitted a chapter to Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write contest back in 2013, and I learned so much from the feedback. I didn't even know such things as conferences and critique groups existed at the time!

    1. I didn't either! I was so green back in the day! Yay for learning curves!

  6. Erica....

    Oh, Erica....

    I was BRILLIANT and I knew it... I walked into an RWA chapter meeting and proceeded to read them a FULL CHAPTER of telling... no dialogue, no snappy Ruthy repartee, no back-and-forth.... Just boring descriptors that I was sure rocked the biggest kahuna ever!!!! It was so bad..... Now I laugh about it, but that was a rugged day, my friend.

    Really Rugged. :)

    The trick is this: Don't quit. Keep working. Keep playing. Stay strong. And ... don't quit!!!

    1. You had quite the hand in pulling back the curtain on Camp #2, as you gave me one of my first contest critiques ever! <3

  7. So have all of you read these craft books? I am still new kind of. Are there articles for finishing a first draft?
    I try reading craft books but guess I fall into camp one. I did both when I first got started I guess. I got very overwhelmed. Most were either telling me to outline or saying I needed to analyze books like science experiments.

  8. Also, would Seekerville ever make a Facebook group for writers or no?


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