Tag Archives: writing resources

Review: As the Ink Flows

As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers and SpeakersAs the Ink Flows, by Glenda Dekkema, Melony Teague, Carol Ford, Claudia Loopstra, and Marguerite Cummings (Judson Press, 2016)

As the Ink Flows is a collection of ninety devotions from five Canadian writers and speakers. The contents are divided by topic: “the craft, inspiration, know yourself, well-being, personalities, and faithfulness.”

The devotional component of each entry is the standard Scripture quote, devotional thought, and prayer, but what sets these devotions apart is the application portion. Each one includes a question for reflection and a writing prompt for the day.

This is an approachable resource that will encourage Christians who work with words, while encouraging them to build from a foundation of faith. It’s useful for writers and speakers in both the Christian and the general market.

Working through the reflections and writing prompts will enrich writing projects already in progress, and will inspire new ones. As the Ink Flows is suitable for individuals and small groups.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Creating Character Arcs, by K.M. Weiland

Creating Character Arcs, by K.M. WeilandCreating Character Arcs, by K.M. Weiland (PenForASword Publishing, 2016)

Often writing-craft books focus on one element in isolation. Not this time. Creating Character Arcs intertwines character change with story structure and theme.

The author asserts that “the Change Arc is all about the Lie Your Character Believes.” Through the plot, and interactions with other characters, the character will discover and ultimately accept or reject the truth that counters the particular lie. (Except in the flat arc, where he/she has a good grip on the truth in question and instead effects change in those around him or her.)

The book delves into different types of arcs: positive change, flat, and negative change. I appreciate the point-by-point way the author walks through the stages of each arc, with illustrations from well-known books and movies, and then asks specific questions to help writers discern what those points can look like in their current projects.

Later chapters address deciding which type of arc is right for your story, the importance of “impact characters,” how many characters should actually have arcs, and character arcs over the course of a series.

My copy of the book is heavily highlighted. The questions and illustrations helped deepen my understanding of my current work in progress, and I plan to work through the relevant sections for future projects.

K.M. Weiland’s popular website, Helping Writers Become Authors, is a rich resource for writers. She’s also the author of historical and speculative fiction, including the dieselpunk adventure, Storming.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Scrivener for Dummies, by Gwen Hernandez

Scrivener for Dummies, by Gwen HernandezScrivener for Dummies, by Gwen Hernandez (John Wiley and Sons, 2012)

This is probably the only reference book I have ever read cover-to-cover. It’s definitely the only one that’s ever caused me to cheer.

I’m posting a photo of my own copy, complete with page markers, instead of the standard cover shot, to show how many important things I want to be able to easily find. (The index will take me to the proper page, but will I find the specific line that I need?)

Most users would follow the expected method of looking up their immediate question in the index and reading only the relevant sections. I did that a bit when I first bought the book, but didn’t find it as helpful as I’d hoped even though that’s what it’s designed for. I think I wasn’t very good at defining my need well enough to search for the solution.

Scrivener is considered by many writers to be the best thing since the word processor. Now, after using the program for a few years, having worked through the tutorial, learned from some excellent free webinars and one of Gwen Hernandez’ paid courses, I decided to read Scrivener for Dummies to pick up some advanced knowledge – and to refresh myself on some of the basics I’d missed along the way.

Honestly, the cheering? That was for the discoveries about some of the program’s features. But I found the author’s explanations very easy to understand. She’s funny, too, which definitely helps anyone reading very far.

This is an approachable resource, intelligently laid out and with clear examples and screen-shots. Each section is self-contained, pointing to other sections where needed, for the person who dips in for a specific answer instead of reading straight through.

The book covers both the Mac and Windows versions, and while Scrivener has made some changes since 2012, enough of the material is the same. If you find something in the book that you want to do but your version of Scrivener handles it differently, if you can’t figure it out by poking around in the program, either the Literature and Latte forum or a Google search will find you the answer.

Gwen Hernandez is a romantic suspense novelist and Scrivener teacher, offering interactive online courses. I found her Compile course very helpful, and she was patient to answer our many questions. For more about the author, visit gwenhernandez.com. For more about her Scrivener classes, visit scrivenerclasses.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Guest Post: 12 Ways to Make the Write Resolution

12 Ways to Make the Write Resolution

by Steph Beth Nickel

The New Year is rapidly approaching and many of us will soon be setting our goals (aka resolutions) for 2016. Where is writing on your list?

If it’s close to the top, here are a dozen writing and writing-related goals you may want to include and tips on how to do so:

  1. Be on the lookout for inspiration.

Some people record ideas, snippets of conversation, random words and phrases, etc. in a notebook or on their electronic device. Make it a habit to do so. Don’t simply trust your memory; it’s amazing how quickly “that perfect idea” can vanish.

  1. Set up your writer’s nook.

What do you need around you when you write? Pictures of your family? A shelf of skills development books? A cozy corner with a comfortable chair, your journal, and a stash of gel pens? A clutter-free desk with only your laptop and a cup of your favorite beverage? The busyness of a crowded coffee shop? Create your perfect space and if at all possible, don’t do anything besides writing and writing-related tasks there.

  1. Enlist your support system.

If others take your writing seriously, you are more likely to as well. Explain to your family that you are going to set aside time every day (at least Monday through Friday) to write. Ask them to give you your space, only interrupting if it’s something that legitimately can’t wait. And from your end of things, don’t answer emails, the telephone, or the door during your writing time.

  1. Write every day.

Set aside a specific time every day to write and record the time in your planner and / or set an alarm on your cell phone to remind you—at least until it’s a habit.

  1. Set a specific writing goal.

Do you want to write a new blog post each week? A short ebook or novella for publication online every two to six months? A full-length novel or nonfiction book for print within the year? Break each task into bite-sized pieces and set deadlines for each piece.

  1. Read skills development books.

Read up-to-date books on general writing topics and on specifics that are of interest to you. You may want to read a new book every month or two. For most of us, that would be an achievable goal. Don’t forget to incorporate the skills you are reading about into your work.

  1. Read other books as well.

It’s amazing what you can learn about good writing just by reading a variety of books in a variety of genres. Read with a notebook on hand so you can record words / phrases / sentences that appeal to you. Jot down thoughts about what makes the writing amazing—or terrible. Learning opportunities are all around us.

  1. Enter writing contests regularly.

Entering contests is a great skills development exercise—even if you never win. You learn about writing with specific guidelines in mind. You learn about submitting on a deadline. There are countless contests you can research online. Just a word of caution . . . be sure that the contest sponsor is reputable.

  1. Join an online writing challenge.

I participate in OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month) and PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) each year. In October I write 31 poems and in November I come up with 30 ideas for picture books. I often attend Camp NaNoWriMo once or twice a year but have never participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), though I would like to do so one of these years. You can learn about these and other challenges online. Just type “writing challenge” into your search engine and see what catches your attention.

  1. Attend a writers’ conference or one-day workshop.

From skills development to networking . . . from inspiration to feeling understood . . . there’s nothing quite like hanging out with other writers and industry pros. Don’t feel intimidated. No matter how far along the path, every writer has more to learn. And every writer was a newbie at some point.

  1. Join or start a writers’ group.

I had the privilege of being one of the original four members of Women Writing for Christ. Over a decade later, we still meet monthly (except in the winter) and share the adventure of writing. We each write in different genres and for different audiences, but it is a wonderful opportunity to encourage one another. It’s a highlight of my month.

  1. Be patient with yourself.

Remember it takes time to develop new habits. Add one or two new goals each month. It’s much easier than trying to incorporate everything all at once.

I hope you had a Most Blessed Christmas, and wish you a New Year overflowing with rich and abundant blessings!

What are some of your writing goals for 2016?  [Scroll down to join the conversation.]

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Blog Hop: 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers

Writers need people. We need family and friends, and of course readers. We also need other writers.

There’s nothing like the sense of belonging that comes from being with people who understand you. That’s one of the things I love about writers’ conferences and my local writing group.

We may all write different types of material, but at some level, we connect. We can encourage one another, share experiences and information. Commiserate, when needed. We can inspire each other, even brainstorming to develop ideas.

The new anthology, 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers, is like a portable writers’ group, one we can take home and enjoy at our leisure.

7 Essential Habits of Christian WritersReading it feels like sitting with other writers and listening to them share advice… stories… poetry… all about aspects of the faith-filled writing life.

The seven habits it addresses are:

  • Time with God
  • Healthy Living
  • Time Management
  • Honing Writing Skills
  • Crafting a Masterpiece
  • Submitting
  • Marketing

There’s something for everyone, from the beginner to the seasoned writer. Here’s the Amazon purchase link.

The Kindle version has been available for a while and is a Canadian bestseller. (Other ebook formats are coming soon.) The print version of 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers will launch at the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship’s Fall Conference, Sept. 25-26. To celebrate, InScribe has organized a blog tour to introduce some of the contributors.

Today’s my turn. InScribe has been a key part of my growth as a writer, and I’m thankful for the chance to collaborate on this project. My contributions are both non-fiction: “Writer. Ready. Pen.” and “The Writer’s Newsletter: Do You Need One?”

If you’re visiting as part of the blog tour and we haven’t “met” before, here’s a quick introduction: I live in Atlantic Canada, and I write Christian suspense novels and blog about faith and books. I love Jesus and my family, and enjoy reading, worship music, and tea. If you’re a fan of Christian suspense, you’re invited to join my writing journey through my monthly newsletter.

I hope you’ll take time to check out the other stops on the blog tour. They’re listed below:

Have you read 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers? If so, what did you think? Please consider leaving a review at myBook.to/ChristianWriters1Review or on Goodreads.

7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers

Introducing a new resource for Christians who write:

7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers

Available for Kindle (July 2015). Coming soon in print and in other ebook formats.

There are plenty of how-tos out there addressing various aspects of the writing craft, publication, marketing etc, but there aren’t many books that cultivate the writer as a whole person.

The editors of this anthology chose seven key areas that are essential for a Christian who writes:

  • Time with God
  • Healthy Living
  • Time Management
  • Honing Writing Skills
  • Crafting a Masterpiece
  • Submitting
  • Marketing

How often do writers concentrate on a few of these while letting others slip away? Or forget that the time invested in spiritual growth and maintaining health actually contribute to the depth and quality of their writing?

7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers is produced by InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, with contributions from 28 Canadian writers (including me). Writers, I encourage you to take a peek at the table of contents (click here and scroll down the page) to see what’s on offer.

At present the book is available exclusively for Kindle, but there will be a print version released this fall and the ebook will also be available for Kobo, Nook, iTunes etc. In Kindle form, the book is already an Amazon bestseller in Canada and has been gaining traction internationally as well.

Amazon.ca listing: 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers #1 bestseller

Highlights from Write Canada 2015

I spent part of last week at Write Canada, an annual conference for Canadian Christians who write and/or edit. This is my happy place, where I gain practical teaching and build friendships, in an atmosphere that renews my spirit.

Write Canada 2015 Canada's largest conference for Christians who write

After many years at the Guelph Bible Conference Centre, the conference moved to a Toronto hotel this year to be more accessible. This was a positive step, although a few logistics need tweaking for 2016.

I missed the restful beauty of the grounds in Guelph, but the open-air market behind the hotel provided fresh Niagara strawberries and there was a lovely little park a few blocks away.

Best thing about this year’s conference, for me?

Janet Sketchley and Matthew Sketchley at Write Canada 2015

One of my sons attended with me. Matthew was a runner-up in the Fresh Ink Contest at the university level. He can write circles around me, and that makes me proud. If you like dark fantasy from a Christian perspective, keep an eye out for him in the next few years.

Other best thing? Early morning and impromptu prayer times with treasured people (you know who you are.)

What did I learn?

From the panel on book launches (I was one of the panelists): One panelist recommended the short ebook, Hosting a Virtual Book Release Party by Shanna Festa. Another reminded me to contact the local cable TV channel with my book news.

From the Titles, Keywords and Blurbs workshop with NJ and Les Lindquist: The homework gave me a decent beginning on the back-cover blurb for Redemption’s Edge #3, and the workshop suggested No Safe Place may not be the best title for this one.

Indie Author/Publisher class with suspense author Linda Hall:

  • Free “simplenote” app for note-taking, syncs from one device to another.
  • Beta Readers: give them a few questions (sequence, believability, characters etc)
  • Android tablet: Google Play Books will read your manuscript aloud in epub format – read along silently with it to see what you catch.
  • If your ebook includes internal graphics, reduce them to 500×700 pixels or less. Link them to full-sized images on your website if necessary.
  • Cover: Can you read the print cover from 10 feet? Can you read the ebook cover in a thumbnail? Keep the title at/near the top so it won’t be lost if print books are stacked in a tier.
  • theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/ is a list of reviewers of indie books.
  • Goodreads for Authors course

Marketing Best Practices with Mark Lefebvre from Kobo:

  • The “3 P’s of Self-Publishing Success: practice, patience, persistence” – to which I add a fourth: prayer.
  • Your “street team” is your secret weapon. Treat them well.
  • Set up an Amazon Central page for the Canadian and international sites, not just the US one.
  • Book signing tip: have a stack of books ten feet away from you, so people can check them out without fear that you’ll “sell at them.”
  • Wattpad can be a great place to find beta readers and reach your target audience, but it needs an investment of time.
  • $1.99 is the worst price for an ebook online.

Going Global: Write Locally, Publish Globally, with Mark Lefebvre from Kobo: In the US, most ebooks sold are for Kindle, but Kobo outsells Kindle in Canada and in the rest of the world (Kobo started in Canada and is now part of the Japanese Rakutan company).

Writing from the Middle with writing teacher and thriller author James Scott Bell: I need to read this book. He made a lot of sense in the one-hour workshop. (No surprise. I’ve learned a lot from his other books on writing.)

The Word Awards Gala (for work published in 2014): My romantic suspense, Secrets and Lies, didn’t win in the suspense category, but to be a finalist is still a positive endorsement of the book’s quality. The suspense winner was Sandra Orchard’s Blind Trust, (Book 2 in an excellent series. I suggest starting with #1, Deadly Devotion.) You can read the full list of winners on The Word Guild site or by clicking the photo below.

Book finalists in The Word Awards, for work published in 2014

Book finalists in The Word Awards, for work published in 2014

Review: Writing the Heart of Your Story, by C.S. Lakin

Writing the Heart of Your Story, by C.S. LakinWriting the Heart of your Story, by C.S. Lakin (Ubiquitous Press, 2014)

What transforms a novel from a good read to one that lingers in readers’ imaginations? C.S. Lakin suggests the key is finding—and writing—the story’s heart. Finding it, she says, requires seeing the big picture, or some level of pre-writing discovery. Once a writer has found this connection point, he/she is in a strong position to weave it through the whole story.

Sections of the book focus on the heart of the story, of the characters, and of the plot, with extra sections on scenes and settings. Each chapter ends with a “think about” assignment, which turns this already-helpful book into a personalized writing course. Most assignments send writers back to their own favourite books to observe how those authors succeeded, and then challenge us to re-evaluate our own work.

If you’re a die-hard seat-of-the-pants writer, you may not value the book as much as I do, but you’ll likely find some things to help in your revision stages. C.S. Lakin is an unapologetic advocate of pre-planning, using the analogy of a mine: if you’re digging for the heart of your story, it makes sense to stabilize the tunnel so it won’t collapse.

I’ve done a prodigious amount of highlighting in this book, and it’s one I’ll go back to again and again to deepen my understanding. My first reading taught me things I’ve been able to apply immediately, and taking time to do the homework will build on that.

C.S. Lakin is a novelist and writing coach. Writing the Heart of your Story is one of her Writers’ Toolbox books, compiling a year’s worth of teaching on her Live Write Thrive blog. It’s available in multiple ebook formats as well as in print.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Write Canada: 5 benefits, plus 1

One of the best things a writer (or wanna-be writer) can do is invest in a conference. Consider these benefits:

  • practical teaching on the craft
  • connection with other writers
    • making new friends and growing existing friendships
    • learning from those ahead of us on the trail
    • passing on what we’ve learned to those behind us
    • affirming that we’re not alone in our writerly oddness
    • opportunities to cross-promote our work, guest post on others’ blogs, etc.
  • connection with faculty
    • pitching ideas to editors and/or agents
    • critique feedback
    • advice on how to take the next step
    • learning about the publishing industry
  • recharging and inspiring our creativity
  • new ideas

Write Canada 2015 Canada's largest conference for Christians who write

Write Canada offers all that to Canadian Christians who write, and it adds another essential benefit:

  • spiritual refreshment through group worship and prayer times

This is my favourite conference, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve attended. This year I’m excited about something special — I’ll tell you about it when I come back with photographic evidence 🙂

I’m looking forward to the courses I’ve selected, and I’ll be part of a panel (Book Launches that Sizzle). My newest novel, Secrets and Lies, is short-listed for the 2015 Word Awards, which will be presented at a banquet closing the conference.

This year the conference will be held in Toronto, instead of its former venue in Guelph. I’ll miss that environment this time (and miss my friend Mary who lives nearby, who I won’t see…) but transportation will be easier, and the Novotel site looks great.

If you’re considering the conference, be warned that the early registration ends May 10. Why pay more? For more information on the conference and registration, click here: Write Canada.

What benefits can you add to my list?

What I Brought Home from Write Canada 2014

I love going to Write Canada because it’s like three events in one: professional development, a getaway with friends, and a spiritual renewal.

Here are some of the highlights:

The Word Awards Gala: Heaven’s Prey was a finalist in the suspense category, and while it didn’t win, being chosen as a finalist is good affirmation. And I got to cheer for a number of my friends when their work won. (Winners’ list here)

Writing: R.J. Anderson gave me a broader understanding of the ways my individual roots and experiences give a unique flavour to what I write. I’m looking forward to more intentionally discovering my “singular storytelling voice.”

Marketing: Sherry Stahl and a round-table discussion led by Lisa Hall-Wilson gave me some specific tips to help more readers of Christian suspense discover Heaven’s Prey and the rest of the Redemption’s Edge series as those novels are released. Definite homework here.

Friends: It was so good to reunite with old friends and to meet new ones. Some faces were conspicuously absent, since life does interrupt us, and they were missed.

Spiritual: Or is it writing? Or life? Mark Buchanan and Ted Dekker are widely different individuals whose messages overlapped in some key areas. I feel liberated to more fully embrace the gift and calling of writing, to write from a deeper sense of who I am (and Whose), and yet to not tie my identity to writing or to any other aspect of my life.

This and that: I also came home with Aimee Reid‘s new picture book, Mama’s Day with Little Gray (autographed “To Janet’s grandchildren” – not that I’m rushing that event!), a knitting pattern for the little sleeves you put around cups of take-out tea, a little teapot with knitted cozy, and two jars of rhubarb chutney from a friend of a friend.

I am blessed, indeed. For more snippets from the conference, check out my friends’ blogs below. And, in case you’re wondering, a sheep did make an appearance on the final day. Eowyn joined me for a photo-op.

Janet and Eowyn the sheep at Write Canada

Janet with Eowyn the sheep. Photo credit: Susan Stewart.

What other Write Canada attendees are saying:

My Surreal Life Continues

Strawberries and Sandcastles

When is Tension a Good Thing?

The 10 Best Things About Write Canada 2014

Rediscovering the Joy of Writing

Following Up: Victory on the Road to Recovery

Tears

A Glimpse Into the Writers’ Life

Memories of My Involvement with Write Canada…