Category Archives: Writing

What They Write and Why (Guest Post)

Why do writers write what they do?

What They Write and Why

By Steph Beth Nickel

Are you part of a writers’ group?

The ladies I’ve met with over the past decade are diverse, as is their writing. But we’ve learned much during our time together, including what we want to write and why—for now at least.

Memoir

Barbara is working on a talk she will be giving to the ladies at her church in December. Her husband passed away from ALS, and she will be sharing some of that journey. This is a highly emotional topic, but one she feels ready to dig into now that some time has passed. Barbara has come to realize there may, indeed, be enough material to write a book, something she has been encouraged to do.

Even though there may be no one in the audience who has lost someone to ALS, Barbara’s listeners will be able to relate to the depth of emotion, the sense of loss, the challenge of believing in God’s goodness and love even when the darkness threatens to engulf you.

Do you have a personal story to tell? Have you struggled with pain, illness, broken relationships? Do you wonder if anyone could relate, if sharing your story would be more than simply a cathartic experience for you?

You might be surprised what a blessing you can be to others.

Romantic Suspense

In the past, Darlene has blogged about some of the most painful and challenging times in her past, but currently, she is focused on fiction. She likes to read—and write—romantic suspense. She enjoyed Nancy Drew as a girl, as many of us did. And this serves as inspiration for her award-winning stories. She and her agent are hunting for the right publishing home for her work.

Which books fostered your love of reading? What do you enjoy reading today? Have you considered writing in the same genre? Perhaps you should.

The journey to publication can be long and filled with a string of highs and lows. But if this is where your heart is, take courses, attend conferences, read skills development books, and write, write, write … and then write some more. Perseverance is key—to this and most any form of writing.

Eclectic Writing

Lisa writes nonfiction to share what she has learned, to encourage others, and to enable them to write more skillfully. She writes fiction to tell the whole truth. There is a depth to the human condition that is sometimes best examined in a story.

Lisa is an expert in writing in deep point of view, and her new book Method Acting for Writers: Learn Deep Point of View Using Emotional Layers teaches others how to draw in readers and keep them engaged from page 1.

Do you have a wide variety of interests? While there is a time to focus on a single project or a single genre, you may want to explore a number of the many options available to today’s creative.

Our group members are also writing poetry, devotionals, and book reviews, as well as other things.

If you’re not sure what you’d like to write, connect with other writers, in person or online, and ask what they write and why. Your conversations may spark your creativity and lead you to write something you hadn’t before imagined.

You can learn more about Darlene and her writing at darlenelturner.com and Lisa and hers at lisahallwilson.com/.

[Note: this post first appeared September 13, 2018, on InScribe’s Blog on Writing.]

~~~

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.

Writers? Quitters?

Writers… are you sometimes tempted to quit? I’ll never forget lamenting to a friend and fellow-writer that I wanted to give up. She shot back, “Go ahead and quit. See how long it lasts.”

Because we’d both been there, done that. And we both knew why it wouldn’t last. Writers are wired to write.

Recently, I had the opportunity to share a guest post, “Quitting Time?” at the Seriously Write blog. You’re invited to pop over and join the conversation.

Author Interview: Writing from the Trenches

Ten busy authors have banded together to create a how-to for writers at all stages on the writerly journey. Writing from the Trenches released Sept. 1, and I caught up with one of the authors, Michelle Griep, to learn more about the book.

Janet: Welcome, Michelle, and thanks for taking time to join us. Love the title! It tells me you’ve all been there, you’ve served your apprenticeships, and you have stories to tell and wisdom to share. What excites you most about this project?

Author Michelle GriepMichelle: I love that the reader will get to hear from not just one author, but 10 veterans who’ve been around the writerly block—many times. I learned a lot just by reading what the other writers said!

Janet: I love a book that offers something for every stage of writer, because we can keep going back to it as we grow. What are some of the topics covered?

Michelle:

Plotting Techniques
Research
Characterization
Villains We Love to Hate
Dynamic Dialogue
Sigh-Worthy Heroes
The Right Heroine for the Job
Hooking Your Reader in the First Chapter
Scene Endings to Lead Your Readers On
Creating a Movie Set
Making your Readers Cry
Deep POV
Copyediting your Manuscript
Indie Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
Marketing for Those Who Hate Marketing

Janet: Where did the book idea come from?

Michelle: MaryLu Tyndall was really the driving force behind this book. I’ll let her answer.

“I’ve read many writing instruction books over the years from many different authors, and I’ve learned a great deal. But I noticed that everyone’s advice, style, and instruction was different. Sometimes they even contradicted each other. So, I thought, why not get a bunch of fabulous authors together to give their own advice on a variety of writing topics and put it in one book? A one-stop shop for the best advice out there on writing!” 

Janet: Great idea. Beginning writers sometimes try to take everyone’s advice, even when it doesn’t work for them. Ten authors… how did you connect for this project?

Michelle: Once again, MaryLu to the rescue. . .

“Gathering up authors was much like herding and leading cats, but so worth the effort. I wanted to get a variety of authors—some successfully published in the traditional market, some who’d made a success as Independent authors, some who did both, some with name-recognition, some without a whole lot, but ALL great writers who had won awards or been on best-selling lists. Those were my criteria, so I went about sending out recruitment emails!  Surprisingly nearly everyone I contacted was excited to be a part of this book.”

Janet: You’re from different locations (all US?) and you write in various genres. How did that shape and enrich the project? Did it add any challenges? And do you have any funny, or maybe frustrating, stories of working together? Something other writers considering collaborations might need to know?

Michelle: Yet again, I defer to the wonderful MaryLu . . .

“Working with nine other people is never easy, but I was fairly surprised at how great this group got along, how quickly we came up with the topics we wanted to cover and who wanted to write which ones. We divided up the tasks we needed to accomplish—writing, editing, formatting, printing, cover design, marketing, etc—and then set a timeline. I have to say, everyone has been wonderful to work with, everyone got their chapters done on time, and everyone is contributing to the final product. Truly a miracle has occurred!”

Janet: You’re all Christian writers. Is Writing from the Trenches exclusively for Christians, or would a non-Christian writer find good take-away too?

Michelle: There’s honestly no way to extract who we are from what we write. But that being said, this is not an overtly Christian book. It’s a how-to, nuts and bolts sort of book. Any writer will benefit from all the collected wisdom, no matter their religion.

Janet: Before Writing from the Trenches, what book(s) on the craft most impacted you?

Michelle: Yikes! That’s a tough one because there are so many good ones out there. I’d have to say Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Brown & Dave King made a big impact on my writing, really explaining the difference between showing and telling. Also, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott really spoke to my angst as a writer and freed me from a lot of writerly fears.

Janet: Classic books for writers! Thanks for chatting, Michelle. All the best with the new book, and with your fiction as well. How can we find copies of Writing from the Trenches?

Michelle: You can snatch up your copy HERE AT AMAZON. And here’s a blurb about the book:

Writing from the Trenches: Tips and Techniques from Ten Award-Winning AuthorsTEN-HUT! Gear up for your writing with tried-and-true tips from the trenches. Ten award-winning authors share invaluable tips and secrets they’ve gleaned the hard way, offering a broad range of insights and opinions on the best way to tackle tricky subjects on everything from characterization to plotting to marketing.

At last … a writer’s tool that provides the experience and expertise of ten authors who’ve been on the front lines of publishing and lived to teach about it: Connie Almony, Lynnette Bonner, Hallee Bridgeman, Louise Gouge, Michelle Griep, Julie Lessman, Elizabeth Ludwig, Ane Mulligan, MaryLu Tyndall, and Erica Vetsch.

 

Can’t Writers Just Write? (Guest Post)

"Writers are expected to do so much more than just write."

Image credit: Pixabay

Can’t Writers Just Write?

by Steph Beth Nickel

If you’re a writer—and even if you’re not—you’ve probably seen posts about the GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation. It makes sense to be concerned about how our personal data is collected, stored, and used, but the GDPR has caused a lot of trouble for many authors, bloggers, and other writers.

While this post isn’t about rules and regulations, all the talk about the GDPR did lead to the thought … why can’t writers just write?

If money were no object, perhaps, a writer could outsource everything except the writing itself. But are there really any writers who do that? Highly unlikely.

Authors and other writers are expected to do so much more than write.

Develop and maintain a website and possibly, a blog.

While creating content is a big part of this, there are domain names to be purchased, website themes to be chosen, and “branding” to be considered … among many, many other things.

Develop a social media presence.

In this, the cyber age, readers want to feel connected to the authors and writers whose posts and books they read. They want to know they’re real people with real lives. They also want to know that their favourite writers are willing to give them a glimpse into their life and that they care about more than simply selling their next book.

Find one’s tribe and connect with them regularly.

People can smell a sales pitch from a mile (or 1.61 kilometres) away—and many will run in the opposite direction. However, if an author is willing to truly connect with their readers and potential readers and offer them something of value without asking for the sale at every turn, those individuals may rise to the level of “super fan.”

Continue to develop and hone writing skills.

No matter how experienced a writer, there are always more skills development books to read and courses to take.

Authors seeking to go the traditional publishing route are familiar with writing and rewriting, query letters and proposals, pitching to agents and editors, and on and on.

Much of what it takes to become a traditionally published author has little to do with writing the books themselves.

Those seeking to self-publish have to write and rewrite, decide what to do on their own and what to outsource, oversee all aspects of their writing business even if they are working with a team.

While some people hate the word, authorpreneur hints at the fact that self-publishing writers are doing more than writing. They are small business owners and must see themselves this way and take responsibility for their business.

And when all is said and done, a writer must …

Continue to create content.

And while writers must juggle their schedules to include all of these pursuits and more, they must also continue to create content—or the rest of the process will be meaningless.

This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. So, the answer to the question is no, writers can’t just write. But, at the end of the day—GDPR or no GDPR—writers can’t not write.

Tweetables:

Writers are expected to do so much more than write. (Click to tweet this)

At the end of the day writers can’t not write. (Click to tweet this)

~~~

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.

Christian Creatives and Self-Promotion (Guest Post)

Christian Creatives and Self-Promotion

by Steph Beth Nickel

Marketing: Make authentic connections and overdeliver on promised content.

Image source: Pixabay. Text by @StephBethNickel.

As Christians who write books and pursue other creative endeavours, we all run up against the issue of marketing. Smacks of self-promotion, doesn’t it? And self-promotion doesn’t sit well with us when we consider the high premium God puts on humility and placing other people’s needs ahead of our own.

The very word sales brings to mind a pushy individual pressuring us to buy something we don’t really want or can’t afford. As Kirsten Oliphant of Create If Writing says, her books, courses, and other resources are for creatives who want to learn to market their products without being smarmy.

While we still come across smarmy salespeople, more and more creatives are practicing excessive generosity, “overdelivering” as it were. From those whose first book in a series is permafree to those who offer information-packed training online that is of great value, both to those who purchase their product—and those who do not. These are only two of the countless ways to market our work in a way we can feel good about.

Another way to make a connection with our fans and potential fans is to spend time with them. More and more readers want to feel as if they can develop a genuine relationship with their favourite authors. While not all creatives spend time interacting with their fans online, those who do can develop communities where members end up befriending one another as well as the creative who started it all.

Many creatives are introverts and developing a community in cyberspace is often far more appealing than seeking to do so in person. Still, doing book signings, speaking at conferences, and leading workshops are other good ways to connect with our audience. And even when not doing so in person, there are many online opportunities: participating in a virtual summit, developing a course and including regular “live” events where we spend time with those taking the course, periodically going live on YouTube or Facebook …

As Christians, we were made for relationship. As we seek to market our products by developing Facebook groups and other social media communities, we may find ourselves developing deeper authentic friendships and speaking into the lives of others in ways we never imagined. These relationships may lead to sales. But even if they don’t, we can have a positive impact on others’ lives, something we should all desire.

And when it comes to making the sale …

An insightful fellow author once said if he didn’t feel his book had value to potential readers, wasn’t worth the asking price to them, he had no business selling it. Wise words!

Let’s remember that our creativity is a gift from God. Let’s develop our abilities and endeavour to bless others. As we seek to effectively market our work, let’s remember that there is nothing wrong with doing so if we exercise honesty, integrity, and a desire to improve lives.

Tweetables

#Marketing for #Christian creatives: Make authentic connections and overdeliver on promised content. (Click to tweet)

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.

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.)

===

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.

Online Writing Conference

Write Canada Online 2017Write Canada is online this year, happening on October 21, 2017, with tracks for fiction and marketing.

This means you can attend from anywhere — no travel costs, no accommodations, and you can be there in your pajamas if that makes you happy. Members of The Word Guild get a discount, but anyone who wants to learn is welcome. And you don’t have to be Canadian.

Participate in real time, and you can interact with the presenters in the “virtual classroom.” If the time zones don’t work for you, attend what you can in real time, and catch the rest in replays.

There are four wokshops this year, and you can attend one or all. One advantage of having the option to access the replays later is that if you miss something, or want to hear it again, you can.

Real-time technical assistance will be available during the event, too, so if tech is a bit scary for you, no worries. Someone can help with anything that comes up.

Workshops:

  • “Six Months to a Full-time Income,” with Marcy Kennedy
  • “Using Character Emotion to Wow Readers,” with Becca Puglisi
  • “Writing Christian Fantasy in a Secular World,” with R.J. Anderson
  • “From Blog to Book Deal,” with Sarah Ball

Here’s the link for more information and to register: Write Canada Online 2017.

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.]

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.

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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