Tag Archives: writing

How God Guides Writers—and Other People Too (Guest Post)

Questions: who? how? what? when?where? why?
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

How God Guides Writers—and Other People Too

by Steph Beth Nickel

What should I write?

Books, articles, blog posts …

Genre fiction, instructive nonfiction, memoir …

Poetry, Instagram stories, 280-character tweets …

At the risk of sounding cliché, the possibilities really are endless.

How should I pursue publication?

Should I look for an agent and try to get a traditional deal?

Should I self-publish my work?

Should I do both and become a hybrid author?

If I choose to self-publish, what will I do myself?

Format my manuscript? Create a book cover? Edit my book?

And if we’re Christian, we likely want to be certain that we’re fulfilling God’s call on our life—and going about it as He would want us to. But how can we know that we’re following the path He has set out for us?

Writer or not, there are a number of ways to do so—and they’re not as mysterious as we may think.

Study God’s Word.

The Scriptures are the Lord’s primary means of communicating with us. It’s important to become familiar with what they say and what they mean in context.

In God’s Word we find specific instructions and principles that apply to every area of life.

Seek to obey His commands and directives.

Are we seeking, in God’s strength, to walk in obedience to Him? As we do, He sheds light on the path before us and enables us to take the next step on the journey.

Spend time in prayer.

Sometimes, it’s as we pray for guidance that He gives it. At other times, it’s as we’re praying for others that the Lord nudges us in the direction He wants us to take.

Seek godly counsel.

Wise counsellors may be members of our family or fellow members of our church. They may be friends, neighbours, or even those we’ve developed relationships with online.

Wise counsel, direction that honours the Lord, points us in the right direction—even if it’s not what we want to hear.

And we can rest assured that it will never contradict the clear commands in God’s Word.

Use your talents and abilities as you have opportunity.

While we are responsible to develop them, God gave us our talents and abilities. They are often a good indicator of the route we should pursue.

Pursue that passion that just won’t go away.

We can’t do everything we’d like to do in this life. (Ask me how I know this. <grin>)

Still, if there is a God-honouring passion that never leaves us, no matter what our circumstances and season of life, it’s likely something the Lord wants us to investigate—and possibly, pursue.

Persevere.

I recently heard that there are writers who give up because the words just aren’t flowing. These individuals figure if God wants them to write, He will give them the words and it will be easy.

Any of us who have written anything from a Facebook status to a full-length novel know there are times it’s far from easy. The right words seem as elusive as the bat my hubby can’t find in our house (but that’s another story).

Still, the Scriptures have much to say about perseverance. And if God has put it on your heart to write, I encourage you to persevere. Develop your skills. And continue to seek Him for guidance and direction.

Tweetables

Wise counsel, direction that honours the Lord, points us in the right direction—even if it’s not what we want to hear. (click to tweet)

If there is a God-honouring passion that never leaves us, it’s likely something the Lord wants us to investigate. (click to tweet)

Any of us who have written anything from a Facebook status to a full-length novel know there are times it’s far from easy. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is a communicator who seeks to Nurture and Inspire in her many eclectic endeavours: editing, writing, podcasting, etc. Steph coauthored Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Steph and Deb are working on a follow-up, tentatively titled Keep Looking Up. Steph is also a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio. You can connect with her on Facebook or via email.

Writers Need Editors

Writing can be humbling. But I’d far rather be humbled by editors and beta readers—who are on my side—than by readers and reviewers after publication.

This is part of a guest post I wrote for the Seriously Write site. Pop on over to read the full thing: Commitments to Your Characters.

Editing for (Near) Perfection — Guest Post

Editing for (Near) Perfection

by Carol McClain

Author Carol McClain
Author Carol McClain

Edit.

A four-letter word. And we writers utter it in all its forms: noun, adjective, verb. However, this dirty little word is most vital to our work.

My latest book A New York Yankee on Stinking Creek was heading to IngramSpark. I knew it shone with my authorial brilliance. After all, my two critique partners tore it apart, and I rewrote it according to their suggestions.

I have subscriptions to Grammarly and to my favorite editing software, ProWritingAid. I ran the manuscript through them and dutifully made corrections.

As a final polish, another software program read the work to me.

It wasn’t enough, and I knew it.

The book would be self-published, the reasons would make another blog post. I wanted this book to rise to the top of Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s lists. Millions of other works competed against it. Again and again I read that in order for your book to make it into the ten percent of new releases, a professional editor had to correct its issues.

Breezy. Right?

You read all I did to make this work shine.

My editor, true to my predictions, claimed my work was clean. She found it easy to edit. Then she sent me my edited copy.

Page after page after never-ending page, she marked-up my work like an English teacher on Adderall.

And what did she find? A smattering of examples follow:

  1. MINI Cooper not Mini Cooper
  2. LEGOS not Legos
  3. My ‘ was supposed to go the other way ’ (Can you see the difference? I couldn’t).
  4. I spelled Emmett’s name (a minor character appearing seldom) Emmet on one random page somewhere in the middle of the manuscript.
  5. Kincade not Kincaid
  6. Random single spaces at the end of paragraphs

And I could go on and on and on. Why bore you with my boo-boos?

So many small mistakes all my early editing didn’t catch. So many of my favorite weasel words I never saw. So much.

I almost think I took longer to correct my mistakes than it took to write the story.

However, the result is a professional novel.

I know most of you use traditional publishers and using ProWritingAid sends off a polished manuscript for their editors to critique.

For those who must self-publish, find a trustworthy editor. Check his/her credentials. Send her a few pages for a sample of her work.

How do you find one? Ask your writing groups. Get recommendations from other writers. Mine is a member of ACFW and used to work for the agent Les Stobbe.

Will A New York Yankee on Stinking Creek rise to the top of the NYT Best Seller List? An introductory read of the novel will prove it should.

If it doesn’t, it won’t be because of poor editing.

You can check out more from Carol McClain at CarolMcClain.com.

Check out A New York Yankee on Stinking Creek. You’ll see the above is true.

NOTHING GOOD COMES FROM STINKING CREEK

Alone, again, after the death of her fiancé, abstract artist Kiara Rafferty finds herself on Stinking Creek, Tennessee. She wants out of this hillbilly backwater, where hicks speak an unknown language masquerading as English. Isolated, if she doesn’t count the snakes and termites infesting her cabin, only a one-way ticket home to Manhattan would solve her problems.

Alone in a demanding crowd, Delia Mae McGuffrey lives for God, her husband, her family, and the congregation of her husband’s church. Stifled by rules, this pastor’s wife walks a fine line of perfection, trying to please them all. Now an atheist Yankee, who moved in across the road, needs her, too.

Two women. Two problems. Each holds the key to the other’s freedom.

Author Carol McClain is an eclectic artist and author. Her interests vary as much as the Tennessee weather—running, bassoons, jazz, stained glass and, of course, writing. She’s a transplant from New York who now lives in the hills of East Tennessee with her husband and overactive Springer spaniel.

She is the president of ACFW Knoxville and the secretary of the Authors’ Guild of Tennessee.

The world in East Tennessee intrigues her from the friendly neighbors to the beautiful hiking trails and the myriad wildlife.

Life is good in here.

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.

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.

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.]