Tag Archives: writing

NaNO? NaYES! (Guest Post)

NaNO? NaYES!

by Steph Beth Nickel

Most of you are likely scratching your head.

What on Earth does that title me?

Well, those of you who are writers have likely heard of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50K words in 30 days.

Crazy? Some may think so. But thousands of people all over the world are sharpening their pencils and limbering up their keyboarding fingers.

Although I have participated in the far more flexible Camp NaNo a number of times, I’ve never taken the plunge and actually signed up for NaNoWriMo. All that changed this year and I’m diving in.

Sh! Don’t tell anyone, but I hope to make significant progress on a story I’ve had in mind for a very long time. The point of the challenge is to write the first draft—or close to it—of a new novel during the month of November, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I really want to write My New Old Life.

So how can I set myself up to “win” NaNoWriMo? How can you set yourself up to achieve your goals—whatever they may be?

Learn from those who’ve gone before. (Tweet this.)

Although it may feel as if you’re alone, there are those who have gone before you, who know what you’re facing, be it an exciting new challenge or a heartbreaking situation.

I’m so thankful for those who have gone before, who know the pitfalls to avoid, who know how to plot a course (or a story), who know sometimes you just have to “feel the feels,” as the saying goes.

I would encourage you to learn from those with a positive attitude, who are further along on the journey. I have listened to some NaNoWriMo veterans on YouTube who shared great advice. I have also listened to some who share more about what went wrong. That’s not necessarily helpful or encouraging.

Plot out the journey—at least the highlights.

For the most part, I’m known as a pantser in writing circles. Come to think of it, I kind of live life that way as well.

I love paper planners and journals. They enable me to dream and pretend to be super organized. But I’m the kind of person who doesn’t mind getting to the end of the day not having checked everything off my To Do list. In fact, I can’t remember a time I actually accomplished everything I’d set out to do on any given day.

But when it comes to crazy big goals, like writing 50K words in a month, some plotting comes in handy. If I know the major plot points I want to hit in the story, it will keep me moving in the right direction.

And if we know the major points we want to hit along this journey called Life, we will have a better chance of achieving our goals as well.

Plan to succeed. (Tweet this.)

While it’s okay to participate in NaNoWriMo and write 30K, 20K, even a few hundred words—after all, it’s more than we had written at the beginning of November—it’s best to go in planning to win.

And that’s the way it is with other things in life as well.

I’ll never have a clean, organized home. So why bother trying? They’ll never hire me for that job. Why even apply? I’ll never be thin. Why bother eating healthy and exercising?

It’s so easy to give up before we even get started. Let’s set ourselves up to succeed instead and take one step at a time in the right direction.

Don’t give up when things don’t go as planned. (Tweet this.)

We all know that it doesn’t matter how carefully we schedule our day or plan our life’s course; things will always come up that have the potential to derail us all together.

While we may have to reconsider our plans and dreams, it doesn’t mean we have to abandon them altogether. We just have to be willing to reprioritize as needed, and, as Christians, we must believe the promise in Romans 8:28, that God is working everything out for our good.

Fireworks image with the words, "Celebrate the victories -- no matter how small."

Celebrate the victories, no matter how small.

Many NaNo participants set up a reward system for achieving word count goals during the month of November, the more words, the more extravagant the reward. This kind of system keeps some pressing on.

Whether or not you choose to reward yourself when you make progress toward your goals, it’s a good thing to celebrate in some way. Too often we become discouraged when we don’t achieve our ultimate goal, when we don’t cross off everything on our To Do list.

Let’s celebrate the “small” victories in our life—and in the lives of those around us. (Tweet this.)

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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.

My Theme for 2017: Less (Guest Post)

My Theme for 2017: Less

by Steph Beth Nickel

Having read Kevin DeYoung’s newest book, Crazy Busy, I came face to face with what I already knew: I spend far too much time doing things that don’t actually propel me toward my goals.

Clock with words "we must refuse to fritter away our discretionary time"

My word of the year for 2016 was more, as in more time spent writing and editing, more time spent in prayer and Bible study, more time seeking the Lord with my hubby and our daughter. My lack of success in these areas could be because I wasn’t focussed on the flipside of the coin.

If we’re going to achieve more, something has to give. We have to do less of something else.

So how does this apply to writing?

We must refuse to fritter away our discretionary time.

“Discretionary time? What discretionary time?” you may ask.

But let’s be honest. Do we watch even half an hour of TV most days? Do we spend far too much time on Facebook and the other social networks? Do we spend hours each week waiting on our children—at sports practice, music lessons, and other extracurricular activities?

You don’t need hours and hours of uninterrupted time to write a book—and certainly not a blog post or an article. There was one author I heard about who wrote an entire book in 20-minute increments during his lunch break. Amazing!

DO THIS: Take a look at your schedule and see where you can “steal” 20 minutes here, an hour there.

We must learn to say no.

Many—if not most—of us are not only busy, but we keep taking on more and more responsibilities. If you’re like me, you don’t want to miss any opportunity that comes along. Thankfully, I’m learning to say no; I’m learning to focus on what’s already on my plate; I’m learning to take on less.

Lysa TerKeurst wrote a book called The Best Yes. It’s about analyzing why we say yes when we are already overtaxed and really shouldn’t be taking on anything more. The book also addresses the importance of saying no or not now so we will be free to say yes when God brings a specific opportunity across our path.

If we feel God has called us to write, we must free up dozens—if not hundreds—of hours. We may find some time by restructuring our discretionary time, but very likely we’ll have to make even more significant changes.

DO THIS: Prayerfully examine your To Do list and choose one or more time-consuming items you are willing to eliminate in order to have more time to write.

We must spend less time making excuses.

There are legitimate reasons we don’t put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, but excuses often outnumber these reasons.

That voice in our head that says …

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said—far better than you could ever express it.”

“Writing is a selfish endeavour. Think of your family and friends.”

“You may squeak out the time to write, but you don’t have the time to hone your skills.”

“And you certainly don’t have the funds needed to get your work published.”

“God didn’t really call you to write. You’re delusional.”

DO THIS: Identify the #1 obstacle that keeps you from writing and create a game plan to crush it. The first step is often to simply pick up that pen or open that Word doc and get writing.

And what will I be doing over the next weeks and months? Hopefully, taking my own advice.

What are your writing plans for 2017? (Scroll down to share your comment.)

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.

Small Steps Add Up

I had the chance to guest-post at InScribe Writers Online this week, on small steps and perseverance in the writing journey.

I think it was Phyllis A. Whitney, in her Guide to Fiction Writing, who compared getting published to a train arriving at a station. If that train is a breakthrough of some sort, for you or I to benefit, we have to be diligent in the small steps of showing up at the station, bags packed and ready to go… [Pop on over to read the rest, and check out the other writers’ posts as well. Link: Small Steps Add Up.]

The Write Thing to Do

The Write Thing to Do

by Steph Beth Nickel

Tomorrow I will have the privilege of attending Write Canada. Although I wasn’t able to attend the entire conference this year, there are still many benefits of attending Saturday only. It was the write thing to do.

"Do the Write Thing"

Photo credit: Pixabay

Why?

Learn New Things

Just in case you ever wondered if I’m truly eclectically interested … this year I’m taking a couple of fiction classes, “Structuring Your Fiction” with Davis Bunn and “Deep Point-of-View” with Marcy Kennedy; “Do Good Not Harm: Writing to Empower,” a class whose description begins like this: Christians are uniquely positioned to bring a message of hope and redemption to a world broken by poverty, oppression and injustice (sounds great, doesn’t it?); and finally, a panel discussion on vlogs and blogs.

Refresh and Re-ignite

It may seem strange to say that after a jam-packed day, including approximately five hours of traveling, I anticipate returning home refreshed and re-ignited to devote several hours every week to writing. There’s something about hanging out with dozens of other writers that does that to me.

Discover What’s New in the Industry

In many ways, the journey to becoming a writer isn’t what it used to be. And it certainly doesn’t look the same for every writer. Finding out what’s new in the industry is invaluable. While it may seem overwhelming, it also helps the writer plot the course that best suits him or her.

Make Professional Connections

We hear a lot about networking these days. And of course there’s the old saying, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” While that is only true to a certain extent (after all, it’s each writer’s responsibility to become the best he or she can be), those connections can help you get from where you are to where you want to be on the journey to publication.

Be Challenged to Write Something New

This is probably a good reason for me to stay home, but it’s still a great reason to attend a writers’ conference. I never imagined writing a memoir. Yet, I had the privilege of co-authoring Paralympian Deb Willows’ Living Beyond My Circumstances. Deb and I are now working on a follow-up book. (I attended my first conference with the lady who introduced Deb and me. I also met our publisher there.) Because of this project, I had the joy of co-teaching a class with Carolyn Wilker on memoir writing at the 2015 Write Canada. You just never know what doors are going to open for you.

And probably the number one reason for me …

Reconnect with Friends

Write Canada is the only opportunity I have to reconnect in person with some dear friends. It also provides the opportunity to make new friends. And when those friends are fellow writers (and other industry pros), it is truly amazing. I will be flying for days—and hopefully, energized to go home and get writing.

Attending a writers’ conference or workshop just may be the write thing for you as well.

Tweetables:

[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.

Writers, Reading, and Comparisons

The books I most love to read are dangerous. Something, in the crafting or in the content, stirs a restlessness, an “I wish I could write like that.”

It’s important for writers to read words that leave us hungry to grow. We can study them for clues about how their author achieves whatever aspect of prose or poetry that we find so effective, to sharpen our own techniques.

That kind of comparison is healthy. It’s not the dangerous part. What trouble me are the whispers of doubt that make me want to hide the evidence that I’ve ever tried to write anything, and just kind of blend into the cushions of my couch.

As a beginning writer, I confronted the fear head-on: “Okay, what if I can’t write well? First, is there anything wrong with simply writing for fun? Second, if God gave me this gift, however rough its present packaging, isn’t it both wise and good manners to accept and use it? How else will I improve?”

Now, the comparisons keep me from being complacent about my words. They remind me that there’s always more to learn, and that there are better ways to apply what we know.

Whichever writer we’re currently admiring hasn’t always written at this level. Talents are developed and honed. We need to read carefully, learn from what we see, and apply it to our own skills.

Comparisons also remind me that we don’t all write for the same audience. One person’s delivery and style won’t work for another. We need to be true to our individual voices and not try to copy anyone else.

A symphony or a kazoo, crystal vase or clay jug, are equally useful in God’s hand to serve the people He designed them to serve. Mark Twain once said, “My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine — everybody drinks water.”

My writing friends, when we encounter excellent reads, let’s choose to learn and grow, instead of giving in to comparison’s dark side. Perseverance, it seems, is won in the mind.

Writers: Perseverance is won in the mind.

[A previous version of this post appeared under the title of “Comparison” in the September 2015 edition of FineTuned, the newsletter of author/editor Carolyn Wilker]

On the Wonder of Flying

Last week I had the opportunity to share a guest post at the Castle Gate Press blog, on a “behind the scenes” aspect of writing Without Proof.

Flying has always caught at my imagination, and this post let me chat about how it led to the small plane flight in the novel. You can read it here: Behind the Scenes: Author Janet Sketchley and the Wonder of Flying.

Writing and Reading: Settings

Writers, do you prefer to “write what you know” geographically, or to discover new settings, real or imagined? Readers, what do you look for (or avoid) in a setting? Or does it matter?

Pop over to my guest post at International Christian Fiction Writers and join the conversation.

Idea to Book

Ever wondered how a few scattered ideas turn into a novel? It’s a question I hear every so often, and I suspect the answer is different for every writer. Perhaps even for each book.

Without Proof is my third novel, and I’m still learning what works best for me, in terms of discovering the story. Seeds of this one showed up a long time ago, in a little coil-bound red notepad that I can’t find today. They percolated while I worked on other things, and when it was time to start writing, it looked like this:

Apparently graph paper is the best for my creative process.

Apparently graph paper is the best for my creative process.

For keeping the plot events in order, I played a bit with a great program called Aeon Timeline, but it turns out I need to see a calendar grid. That looked like this:

Sticky notes were so easy to move around!

Sticky notes were so easy to move around!

The writing happened in Scrivener, which is one of my best writing friends. [If you’re doing NaNoWriMo in November and you meet your goal, I think you’ll get discount codes for Scrivener, Aeon Timeline and others. If not, Scrivener gives you a month’s free trial, which should be long enough to convince you.]

I don’t work well with a word count deadline, so I committed to a few hours a day, Monday to Friday, seat in chair, fingers on keyboard, writing. I learned to stop in mid-scene for easier re-start the next day. I’d skim the previous day’s work and make minor tweaks, but instead of editing, I kept following the story.

Until I found my rhythm, the first 100 words were the hardest. Every day. For weeks. There had been such a long period of editing and marketing after writing the early drafts of Secrets and Lies that I was way out of practice. I suspect this will simply be part of the cycle.

The calendar chart helped. One character wanted to do something early, and the chart reinforced my argument that he had to wait. When another character wanted to speed things up, I saw that it could work, so he went ahead.

After finishing the draft, there were revisions, more revisions, and yet more revisions. Professional editing. More editing. More revisions. Early reader comments. More revisions.

Cover and layout design, and the publishing process. [I’m an indie author, so I did this part with the help of Scrivener (ebooks) and CreateSpace (print).]

At the end of the process:

Box of books.

So pleased with the finished product!

The official print launch will be Saturday, Nov. 7, 2pm at Regal Road Baptist Church in Dartmouth, NS. If you’re near enough to know where that is, you’re invited! Otherwise, check out the Without Proof page if you’re looking for preorder links. (Psst… the paperback is already available online through Amazon.)

Do you write short stories or novels? Scroll down to leave a comment telling us about your creative process.

Guest Post: What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

by Patricia Bradley

I’m sitting here staring at a blinking cursor. Or I was before I abandoned the blank page for Janet’s blog. Of course, that meant I was staring at another blank page and blinking cursor, but at least I have an idea of how to start. I’m going to talk about starting a new book and a new series.

Gone Without a Trace, by Patricia BradleyI’ve finished the fourth book in the Logan Point series, and the third one just came out—Gone Without a Trace, which I’m giving away this week here.

My next series is about cold cases set in Memphis. I’ve tentatively titled the first book The Case of the Murdered Roommate. I have no idea if my publisher Revell will keep it, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog. I have my characters named except for the main antagonist, whose identity will be kept secret until the fourth book. And his name eludes me. I actually thought of a great name, but it turned out that name belonged to a main character in a popular TV show.

Without his name, I can’t move forward. I don’t know why I can’t, but that’s the reason for the blank page and blinking cursor. And I can’t ask you, my readers, to help me because then you’d know who he is. *Sigh*

Why are names so important to a writer?

Well, like naming your children, I’ll have to live with my characters throughout the 95,000 words it will take to tell the story. And some of them will carry through the whole series. I’ve discovered if I don’t have the right name for a character, he won’t talk to me. Or she won’t. And it’s really important for my characters to do that. Otherwise, I don’t know what their greatest desire or fears are. They will be flat. One dimensional. This is especially important for my villain. Well, my hero and heroine, too, but they already have names and are talking to me.

Thanks for listening to me. Just getting away from the story has helped. In fact, a name came to me as I wrote this. A great name. Now to find a fitting last name.

[Patricia is giving away a copy of her newest release, Gone Without a Trace. Contest limited to Continental USA for print copy. E-copy—anywhere! To leave a comment on this post, scroll down.]

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Patricia BradleyPatricia Bradley lives in North Mississippi and is a former abstinence educator and co-author of RISE To Your Dreams, an abstinence curriculum. But her heart is tuned to suspense. Patricia’s romantic suspense books include the Logan Point series—Shadows of the Past, A Promise to Protect, and Gone Without a Trace. Her workshops on writing include an online course with American Christian Fiction Writers and workshops at the Mid-South Christian Writer’s Conference in Collierville, TN. When she’s not writing, she likes to throw mud on a wheel and see what happens.

Connect with Patricia:

Website: www.patriciabradleyauthor.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/patriciabradleyauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PTBradley1

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/ptbradley/

Or find her books:

Shadows of the Past: CBD; Amazon; B&N; Books A Million

A Promise to Protect: B&N; CBD; Amazon; Books A Million

Gone Without a Trace: Amazon; CBD; B&N; Books A Million

Don’t Annoy the Novelist

Want to know why? Or, if you’re a fiction writer, do you find ways to release real-life frustration in your stories? Pop by James Callan’s The Author’s Blog to read my guest post and leave a comment. One commenter will win a copy of Secrets and Lies.

Link: Don’t Annoy the Novelist.