Unpublished Authors’ Mistakes

[A few technical notes before we get into this Monday’s podcast. We are currently offering four ways to get your podcast fix. You can stream the podcast directly here on the blog, you can download the file to your computer (see the little download button on the bottom left of the player), you can read the transcript, or you can subscribe to us on SoundCloud. SoundCloud also offers apps for Android and Apple devices, so if you subscribe to Black Irish Books on SoundCloud new episodes will appear automatically on your phones or tablets. And now on with the show.]

This week’s podcast, “Unpublished Authors’ Mistakes,” question comes from Adrienne Press:

What’s the biggest mistake you see unpublished writers’ making?

We’re going to put the transcript inline on the post this week. If you preferred the PDFs like we had been doing, let us know in the comments.


Steve: Shawn, I have a question for you. This is coming from Adrienne Press. I’d really like to hear the answer to this too. She says “What’s the biggest mistake you see unpublished writers making?”

Shawn: I hate to hit the same point over and over again, but it’s really when you begin reading a novel or even a proposal, there’s no promise. There’s no inciting incident, there’s nothing that grabs your attention. If you do not have something at the very beginning of your story that is so compelling that you just can’t help yourself continuing to read, you’ve got a very big problem. The beginning hook, again if you don’t hook somebody, nobody’s going to want to continue reading the book. And this isn’t about line by line writing either. Some of the best hooks are written by people who aren’t the best pro stylists in the world, but they have an ability to set something up that is just so incredibly fascinating or scary, that you can’t help continuing to read.

And I say this all the time when I’m working with writers on book proposals. A lot of people who want to write non-fiction or a book proposal, there’s this recipe that I have to complete, I’ve got to do the marketing section; but the reality of the proposal today is if you can’t write a great introduction, a great forward preface, maybe 1500, and again this isn’t a long piece of work. It’s 1500 words. You need to put together 1500 words that are just so stunning that by the end of that 1500 words, the editor really wants to start photocopying it and giving it to other colleagues to read because he wants to acquire the book. So the biggest, the very biggest mistake and the one that you can never, ever write yourself out of is the beginning hook.

Steve:   Ahh. Now that’s great. Let me kind of add a little bit to that to define kind of what the hook is or to what Robert McKee calls the inciting incident. Let’s go back to the movie Gravity for a minute because it’s a great opening hook. You’ve got the two astronauts in space, suddenly the space station is blown up by this debris, and there they are floating in space. There’s the hook. If you’re watching that, you’ve got to say “How are they going to get out of it?” So that kind of brilliant propels the story.

Another I thought fantastic inciting incident was in the first movie The Hangover. We have these guys that go to Las Vegas, you know that they’re going to be partying this one night and then so they start on their partying, they toast each other on the roof, they’re about to go out on the town and then cut to the next morning; they’re waking up, there’s a tiger in the room, there’s a little baby in the room, they’ve lost their friend Doug and they can’t remember a thing. Now that is an incredible hook. If you’re watching that, you just go “I’ve got to find out what happened. How did the baby get there? How did the tiger get there?” So those are sort of examples of great inciting incidents that propel the story forward. I agree with you, Shawn. You’ve got to have that.

Shawn: Even the classics of literature. Look at the opening hook of Moby Dick. You’ve got a guy who needs to get a job, and he goes into this famous whaling town and all the people that he meets are talking about this obsessive captain and just how crazy this guy is. And he goes to bunk and there’s this very strange Native American beneath him that has all these weird spears and things. So it’s a very alien world, so you’ve got the outsider entering an alien world, and then you just can’t wait until he gets on that ship. And he gets into the hands of Captain Ahab. It’s just the beginning of that novel just sucks you right in.


Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1


A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.



Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.



Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"



  1. Roland Martinez on December 9, 2013 at 3:14 am

    The best book I’ve read on this topic is Hooked by Les Edgerton.

    • John on April 19, 2024 at 11:18 pm

      Yes, this is the best book I ever read.

  2. Mary on December 9, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Another terrific book on this topic is from Steve’s recommended reading list, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.

    • Gene on December 9, 2013 at 8:06 am

      About ten years ago, I completed my first manuscript. On Steve Pressfield’s advice, I read Lukeman’s “The First Five Pages.” The copy still rests on my bookcase; it is well-worn and needs a break. As soon as I finished that first read ten years ago, I went back and re-wrote that manuscript from scratch, and I did it after I had just completed the seventh draft. I am grateful for Mr. Pressfield’s advice and for Mr. Lukeman’s book. Both are invaluable.

    • Charles Gaukel on December 9, 2013 at 8:13 am

      I completely agree with you Mary. This book sits next to my side when I am writing to remind me of the basics that we sometimes forget. I hope our endorsement (along with Steve) brings more people to this valuable treasure. Thank you gentlemen for another great post.

  3. Jim Payne on December 9, 2013 at 6:24 am

    Thank you so much for the entire series. I enjoy the podcasts but I have gone back to the pdf of each of the first two over and over again. Please keep them ALL coming. I have spent a lot of money on a lot of useless books over the past few years, looking for anything that would kick me in the ass and inspire me to actually put pen to paper. Nada. Steven, you and your cohorts are the first to cut through the crap and make me look forward to facing the blank page. Thank you for bringing it all down to earth, for letting us all in on the fact that we aren’t alone in our battles against the Resistance.
    Jim Payne

  4. Stacy on December 9, 2013 at 11:30 am

    I really appreciate your making transcripts available. I don’t hear well, and the transcripts are SUCH a valuable resource for me. I don’t particularly care how you supply them as long as you supply them, but I think ultimately the PDFs work a little better since they can be downloaded and organized. But seriously, I’m just grateful you provide them at all.

  5. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt on December 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Transcripts, please – either on the blog or as a pdf.

    I cannot stand to let video and audio clips randomly reach into my life and suck out chunks of time. Written material I can skim. If iffy, I read the end, and then decide if I should read the rest. But linear formats – not yours in particular, but especially the ones from TV – are padded at the beginning and end, and infuriating because of how they are trained to give you only a tiny bit of actual information.

    Besides, your advice is well worth re-reading – and nobody is going to go back and listen again very often.


  6. Nik B on December 10, 2013 at 4:29 am

    I love The Hangover, juvenile humor and all. What’s impressive is they managed to do it twice. I haven’t seen the third installment yet, but the scene of the gang waking up in Bangkok made me lose it, which few movies can do.

    My own $0.02 for this discussion is the inciting incident doesn’t have to include violence or mortal danger. Mystery works just as well — look at how Lost kept millions of viewers on the edge of their seats for an entire year with a simple hatch. A hatch in the middle of a wild jungle, with a few strange markings etched into the outer metal. What was that, 2004 or 2005? I remember all summer, every TV conversation invariably turned to — what’s in the damned hatch? I wanna know!

    Likewise — and I’m revealing my own inner geek here — there was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “The Royale” in 1989. The set-up: Picard and his crew find debris from an old American/NASA ship in orbit around a strange alien planet. An away team — Riker, Data and Worf — beam down to find a vast expanse of nothing, except for a single bright, rotating hotel door. They enter the door and find…an old hotel/casino bustling with AI characters playing craps and poker. Who the hell made this thing? Why did they make it? And what’s with the ruined NASA ship in orbit? Those were the central mysteries of a classic episode of Star Trek, and for all the crap we Trek fans get, that series was exceptional at using mystery as a hook.

    Thanks for the podcast and the transcript! Good food for thought.

  7. Robert Storms on December 10, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I’m new here but I’ve read Steve’s books and find them awesome and inspiring. I like the transcripts because I can focus better. I use the closed captioning on my tv for the same reason.

  8. Ellen on December 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I would appreciate the transcript in pdf. Agree with Alicia about audio and video files taking too much time. Thanks!

  9. Metro Shoes on February 15, 2023 at 2:26 am

    Metro shoes offer their customers the highest quality loafers and loafer shoes. Get only the best available loafers shoes in Pakistan, today. So, buy the best loafer shoes online from Metro shoes. We bring you only the highest quality loafers for women.

  10. PinsStep Women's Shoes on March 28, 2023 at 9:21 am

    Luxury Women’s Designer shoes online shopping in Pakistan PinsStep  provides a hassle-free e-shopping experience and ensures unmatchable Women Shoes Price. Our main focus is to satisfy customers by providing them authentic and genuine products. From Big to Small available all Sizes: 35,36 to 42,43,44,45 (Customize – Made to Order)

  11. Scent Essential on April 1, 2023 at 2:20 am

    If you are looking for the  Buy Online Best perfumes and Fragrances in Pakistan . Scent Essential is the perfect place to go. So come to Scent Essential online store and get the best Perfumes and Fragrances  in all over Pakistan at reasonable prices with fast delivery. Scent Essential provides wide range of fragrances online in Pakistan.✓ Long Lasting, ✓ Pure ✓ Long Lasting, ✓ Pure ➤ Shop Now!

Leave a Comment

Patronu aradığında sürekli hasta olduğunu söyleyerek iş yerine yalan söylüyor porno hikaye Patronu artık bu kadarının gerçek olamayacağını ve rapor görmek istediğini dile getirip telefonu kapatıyor türbanlı Olgun kadın hemen bilgisayarının başına geçip özel bir doktor buluyor ve onu arayarak evine davet ediyor porno Muayene için eve gelen doktor olgun kadını muayene ediyor ve hiç bir sıkıntı olmadığını söylüyor brazzers porno Sarışın ablamız ise iş yerine rapor götürmesi gerektiğini bu yüzden rapor yazmasını istiyor brazzers porno fakat doktor bunun pek mümkün olmadığını dile getiriyor sex hikayeleri Daha sonra evli olan bu kahpe doktora iş atarak ona yavşıyor ve istediğini alana kadar durmuyor Porno İzle Karılarını takas etmek isteyen elemanlar hep birlikte evde buluşuyor türkçe porno Güzel vakit geçirdikten sonra kızlara isteklerini iletiyorlar ve hatunlarda kocalarının bu isteklerini kabul ediyorlar seks hikayeleri Hemen ellerine telefonları alan elemanlar karılarına video eşliğinde sakso çektiriyorlar porno izle Hiç beklemeden sikişe geçen elemanlar hatunları değiştire değiştire sikmeye başlıyorlar.