Tag Archives: writing

The Season of Promise (Guest Post)

Baby Robins (photo credit: Steph Beth Nickel)

The Season of Promise

by Steph Beth Nickel

Birdsongs. Budding trees. Flowers opening to the sun.

Signs of promise and new life are all around us here in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the Southern Hemisphere, my favourite season has begun.)

Regardless of the season, we have the opportunity to experience God’s promises each and every day.

Will we experience the fulfilment of His promises in our time and in the way we’d choose for ourselves? Rarely, very rarely.

Still, His promises are Yay and Amen!

How can we rest in those promises—and share them with others?

  1. We must spend time in God’s Word. No matter how familiar it becomes, there is always more to learn.
  2. Prayer is crucial. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s this: what seemed impossible and surreal—unthinkable even—may be waiting just around the corner. Prayer is the only way to find peace and assurance in the midst of unimaginable circumstances. Plus, it’s a great way to focus on the Lord rather than on … well, anything else.
  3. Spend time with other believers, those who will encourage you and build you up. If you’re unable to do so in person, keep in mind that it’s important to carry on two-way conversations, not simply watch church services online.
  4. Head out into creation and soak in the wonder of the season, knowing that God reveals His nature in what He has made.
  5. If you feel overwhelmed, it’s 100% fine to get the help you need, including professional help. These past two years have taken their toll emotionally as well as physically as never before.
  6. We can’t wait until we’ve got it all together before we reach out to others, or we’ll never reach out. We’re always facing one challenge or another.
  7. Even before you feel adequately equipped, look for ways to bless others. Drop a card in the mail. Allow that person with only a couple of items to go ahead of you at the checkout. Smile at a stranger. (Even if you’re wearing a mask, it will show in your eyes.) A simple act of kindness can go a long way to brightening someone’s day—and our own.
  8. Prayerfully consider the writing projects you have on the go. Is it time to persevere and complete them or is God leading you in a different direction? (Remember: just because you’ve hit a wall doesn’t mean you should scrap the project. This is when we need abundant wisdom and clear guidance.)
  9. Take on a new project that will allow you to share the promises of God and evidences of the new life we have in Christ. Write a related blog post. Record an encouraging podcast. Start a Bible study—in your home or a private Zoom room.

We each express our creativity in unique ways, but we can only do so for a limited amount of time if we don’t refill the well.

What is your favourite season and why? What promises does it bring to mind? How do you share this encouragement with others?


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Picks from 2021

My year in books in 2021 from Goodreads: 56 books, 14, 165 pages read.
Graphic credit: Goodreads


Here are the books I’ve most enjoyed last year. Some were produced in 2021, some previously. Pop a note into the comments with your own favourites?

My top picks from 2021:

Book of the year: Yours is the Night, by Amanda Dykes (historical fiction)

Fantasy: Rhythm of War, by Brandon Sanderson

Favourite re-read: Star Wars: Scoundrels (Star Wars Legends), by Timothy Zahn [I’d forgotten I didn’t like the ending, but it’s a fun read]

Feel-good read: Tranquility Falls, by Davis Bunn

Mystery/suspense novel: Chasing Angels, by Karin Kaufman, and All the Devils are Here, by Louise Penny. In that order, based on how I felt as a reader.

Poetry: Wing Over Wing, by Julie Cadwallader Staub

Science fiction novel: Lesser Evil (Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy, #3), by Timothy Zahn

Writing how-to: Writing Your Story’s Theme: The Writer’s Guide to Plotting Stories That Matter, by K.M. Weiland, with an honourable mention to How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market, by Ricardo Fayet

This was a difficult year for me and my family. Hence the reduced reading count!
Here are five things that refreshed me this year:

  • Prayer: Not a new practice for me; a major source of comfort and hope.
  • Praise: Also not new; praise music helps me keep grounded. Funny how often the right song would come on the radio just when I needed it.
  • Poetry: Nova Scotian writer Laura Aliese showed me I can enjoy poetry. This year I’ve dipped into a few books from other poets. The strong word choices have been inspiring.
  • Pilates: Toward the end of 2020, I discovered a wealth of free YouTube videos from Rachel Lawrence Pilates. Her friendly and accessible instruction has helped tame the body aches that crept in during the first lockdown.
  • Photos: For all the negativity on social media, Instagram became my online happy place in 2021. I don’t post (that might feel like work) and I only follow nature photographers, tourism shots, and Bible/inspirational quotes (well, and David Crowder because he makes me laugh). It’s been a lovely mini refuge when I needed it most.
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Writing in Multiple Genres Part 2 (Guest Post)

Summer Series 2021: Writing in Multiple Genres Part 2

by Steph Beth Nickel

Last time we asked three questions:

  1. What does success mean to me?
  2. Do I care about becoming the “go-to” expert in my field or my readers’ favourite writer in a certain genre?
  3. Do I complete projects or do I have a virtual drawer full of unfinished manuscripts and other writing projects?

While your answers to these questions may lead you to believe that it’s best not to write in multiple genres and/or on multiple topics, there are several reasons you may choose to do so.

  1. If you haven’t yet settled on the genre and/or topic you want to focus on, it’s perfectly acceptable to try your hand at writing several different types of books. After all, if you end up churning out books you don’t enjoy writing, it’s going to lead to burnout—and will likely come through in your writing.
  2. If you’re just getting started on your writing journey, you may be surprised that you can actually write in a particular genre. I didn’t think I was clever enough—or committed enough to research and worldbuilding—to write fantasy or sci fi. However, I began a YA speculative fiction novel for NaNoWriMo last year and quite enjoy what I’ve written so far—at least most of it. You never know unless you try.
  3. If you’ve been writing on the same topic or in the same genre for a long time, you may be ready for a change. Nothing freshens up the process more than trying your hand at something new.

There are also a few ways to make it easier to write and publish in multiple genres.

  1. Choose variations of your name or pennames so readers can easily identify the books they’re looking for. Remember—if you use the same name for all your books, you risk losing readers because they will expect one thing but may end up with something completely different. Plus, since additional books sales can come from recommendations, you don’t want to disappoint your readers.
  2. If you’re publishing a certain type of book with a traditional publisher but also want to write something completely different—and have the capacity to do so while fulfilling the terms of your traditional contract—you may want to look into self-publishing/indie publishing. (For the purposes of this post, I define both self-publishing and indie publishing as a process by which authors hire a book cover designer and an editor and upload their books to Amazon [and possibly, other platforms] themselves or through an aggregator such as Draft2Digital. The authors also oversee the marketing of their books. I am not referring to signing an agreement with a company that requires payment for two or more of these services.)
  3. Be willing to become a lifelong learner. Whether you self-publish or sign with a traditional publisher, the writing industry is always changing. What sells well this year may be outdated by the time you complete your book. The level of connectedness readers want with their favourite authors has changed dramatically in the last few years. Facebook groups may be the perfect place to develop that connectedness with your readers. But who knows what’s just around the corner? Plus, genre expectations, “hot topics,” book cover design, available formats (print books, ebooks, audiobooks, etc.), and so much more evolve. While we shouldn’t let this discourage us, it does confirm that we must always seek to learn—and adapt when appropriate.

Have you dabbled in various genres or written about a number of topics? Do you write books? Short stories? Blog posts? Have you been writing for many years or are you just getting started?


Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel
Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Writing in Multiple Genres Part 1 (Guest Post)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Summer Series 2021: Writing in Multiple Genres Part 1

by Steph Beth Nickel

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of writing in multiple fiction genres. Later in the blog series, we’ll talk about nonfiction.

Not everyone agrees that it’s a good idea, but there are a number of authors who successfully write in two or more genres.

Before you decide whether you’re going to focus only on one genre or on several, you’ll want to ask yourself a series of questions.

The first …

What does success mean to me?

Will you consider yourself a successful author only if you’re picked up by a traditional publisher?

If so, your publisher will want you to write exclusively in one genre—at least in the beginning. You’ll have more latitude if you go the indie route.

Are you looking forward to developing a devoted fan base?

If your readers love your speculative fiction and then pick up your next book, a cozy mystery or sweet romance, they’ll not only be confused but also disappointed. They’ll be expecting more of the same if your name is on the cover of both books. Writing under different pseudonyms can solve this issue.

Is keeping your fans happy an element of success in your mind?

With so many new books appearing on the market every day, if you don’t release your next book in what readers consider “a timely fashion,” they’re likely to move on to another author and may not pick up your next book if it takes too long to come out. This is especially true if you’re writing a series. Once readers are invested in your characters and storylines, they’ll want more ASAP.

Do you define success as being your readers’ favourite speculative fiction author? Mystery writer? Sweet romance writer?

To develop your storytelling skills to this level requires hours of reading, writing, and research. If you want to become your readers’ go-to author, it’s important to focus on one genre at a time. It’s best to choose a genre you love to read and can see yourself writing in, potentially, for years. Once you become someone’s favourite author, they’re going to want to get their hands on as many books as you can write.

What’s most important to you? How do you define success? Which route makes the most sense to becoming your version of a successful author? Regardless of whether you write in multiple genres or only one, your first responsibility as an author is to write the best book you can.

Happy Writing!

[Come back next month for part 2 of this series on writing in multiple genres.]

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel
Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

It’s Not About the Money (Guest Post)

It’s Not About the Money

by Steph Beth Nickel

Guest Marguerite Croft shares so much wisdom on Episode 127 of the Write Now podcast (link here: WNP 127). One of the things that stood out most to me was her advice to “have a hobby.” She believes if we write only to monetize our ideas that we’ll have lost some of what it means just to write for the sake of writing.

Disclaimer: I complete several copywriting assignments each months to help pay the bills, some I find incredibly interesting; others, not so much. I also have numerous ideas for books 1) I’d like to write or 2) I’ve begun. One day I hope those books will earn an income as well. Writing for money is not a bad thing—not at all. But sometimes, it’s great just to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard (or speech to text) just because we want to.

So, today, let’s explore some ways we can write simply for the joy of it. (Warning: Not all the following suggestions will give you “the warm fuzzies.”)

Have a “horrible” idea you want to explore?

Give yourself permission to see where the idea takes you. No one else ever has to read it. But who knows? Maybe it will turn into something you can’t wait to share.

Been thinking about trying your hand at a form of writing or genre you’ve never delved into before?

Go for it! Despite the fact that it’s difficult to discover who first came up with the idea that there are three distinct facets of a creative’s personality, when I heard Marguerite Croft mention the Dreamer, the Writer (or Maker), and the Editor, it resonated with me. We have to give the Dreamer permission to make even the craziest suggestions. Some of them we may want to pursue—even if it means exploring a form of writing we’ve never tried before.

Go with the flow!

Julia Cameron encourages everyone to take up pen and paper (NOT keyboard and computer) every morning and let three pages of whatever comes to mind flow from their pen. She calls these Morning Pages. It’s like clearing the dam. No judgments allowed! The Editor is definitely not permitted in the room at this point.

Similarly, you may freewrite based on a writing prompt—or anything else that inspires you and gets the creative juices flowing. You simply follow your stream of consciousness. (See what I mean about going with the flow?)

Pour Out Your Heart

Although similar quotes have been attributed to a number of different sources, back in 1949, journalist Red Smith was quoted as saying writing wasn’t hard because “you simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

The page is an amazing place to work through your thoughts and feelings. You can be 100 percent honest—and sometimes surprise yourself by digging down and discovering those deep waters (to keep the analogy going).

Talk to Yourself. Talk to God.

I refer to my journaling as “rambling until I stumble across truth,” but that’s just one form of journaling. There are countless ways to journal. Free form. Gratitude journaling. Prayer journaling. And on and on and on. For the most part, this is a very private form of expressing ourselves. Some people even leave instructions that their journals be either buried with them or burned after they pass away. Now, that’s private!

What writing have you done recently “just because”?

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel
Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Take Joy in the Little Things (Guest Post)

Image by Karita88 from Pixabay

Take Joy in the Little Things

by Steph Beth Nickel

I only have one book published.

I don’t even know what an author platform is.

I signed up with a newsletter provider … but now I actually have to write a newsletter (and get subscribers).

A website? I need a website?

“Build a social media following,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. Okay. But how?

This whole writing thing can be overwhelming.

So, the first step? Take a breath—a really deep one. Count to five. And exhale. Repeat as needed.

Numbers can be scary, really scary. Thousands. Tens of thousands. Millions even.

But no one—NO ONE—began by having 50 books under their belt or even 100 followers. (Not long ago, “followers” weren’t even a thing.)

So, you’ve published your first book? That’s worth celebrating BIG TIME. You’ve done something so many people only dream of doing. Kudos!

And an author platform? Just take it step by step. Word of advice: don’t get overwhelmed by all the “expert advice” on the Internet. Do your research and find someone who has experienced the same kind of success you’d like to have, someone whose advice you can trust and emulate without too much stress.

Like Facebook and blog posts, it’s a great idea to create several newsletters before firing off that first one. If you have four prepared and send out your newsletter once a week, you’ll be all set for a month. If you write even one newsletter per week after that, you’ll never get behind. At least, you’ll have a little wiggle room.

And that newsletter email list? Again, it’s good to do your research and learn from someone who has built a sizeable list, someone who can break it down into a doable step by step process.

Don’t have an author website or a blog yet? One-page websites can be a great place to start. You can always grow from there.

Building a social media following can seem overwhelming. Maybe you don’t like social media. If that’s the case, don’t feel pressured to do “all the things.” Even if you do enjoy social media, it’s best to focus on one program at a time. If you’re building a Facebook group, you don’t have to create stories on Instagram and figure out Clubhouse at the same time. Maybe never. It’s up to you. And if you really don’t know where to begin, there’s great training out there—much of it free.

Of course, there are costs along the way, but remember that there is SO MUCH free information online created by GENEROUS EXPERTS.

Be patient. And as much as possible, enjoy each step forward—no matter how small the step. Learn to celebrate each step and you will experience joy in “the little things.”

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel has recently begun a new Facebook group, Editing Tips. If you are interested in joining, contact Steph at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com.

Just Write! (Guest Post)

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Just Write!

By Steph Beth Nickel

Some of the best writing advice I ever received …

Even before you know exactly what you want to write, you have to get the words on paper. Just write!

I have four manuscripts partially completed: a devotional on the gospel of John, a contemporary women’s fiction novel, a YA fantasy, and a memoir I’m coauthoring.

While niching down has its place and is well worth the effort, waiting until you’re 100 percent sure what you want to create for the long haul pretty much guarantees you won’t hit PUBLISH (or pitch an agent) on any project.

So, consider this your invitation to write … just write!

Here are some suggestions to inspire you:

  1. Pick up that book of writing prompts that has been sitting on your shelf gathering dust. Open it to any random page … and write.
  2. Scan photos online until you find one that inspires you and go for it.
  3. Make a list of all the topics you’d like to write about. Obscure? No problem. No market? It doesn’t matter at this point. Plus, you might be surprised. Don’t think you have what it takes? Tell your inner critic you’ll get back to her later—much later!
  4. Create a list of your favourite genres, authors, writing styles …
  5. Choose a topic and a genre … and write! (You don’t have to know everything about the genre. There’ll be plenty of time to polish in subsequent drafts.) Or you may want to …
  6. Create an outline for your project before you begin to write. (Discovery writers [aka pantsers] prefer a simple scaffolding at most. Plotters will want to include more details but can get caught up in “perfecting” the outline before they even start. At some point, both types of individuals must take a deep breath and begin to write.)
  7. Allow the story or nonfiction project to flow—even if it does so in spurts and starts. Bullet points. Notes to self (i.e.: insert character name here). Skipping around in the story. (I’ve written an epilogue for a novel that isn’t finished yet.) If you run into a roadblock, these and other methods are 100 percent acceptable “fillers.”
  8. Try your hand at something you’ve never written before. I wrote 40K of a YA fantasy novel back in November for NaNoWriMo. I wondered if I had what it took to write fantasy, but I figured, Why not? And I’m having lots of fun.
  9. If you’re writing to deadline for a traditional publisher with specific guidelines, you have a responsibility to fulfill your obligations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore other genres, other writing forms, that idea you’ve long buried at the back of your mind (or in the bottom of your drawer) …
  10. Writing can be both a job and a creative outlet, but don’t let the business side of things squelch the joy you feel from simply putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. JUST WRITE!

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel
Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Review: Left Turn to the Promised Land, by Rachel Starr Thomson

Left Turn to the Promised Land, by Rachel Starr Thomson (Little Dozen Press, 2018)

“One Author’s Journey of Writing, Business, and Walking by Faith.” Rachel Starr Thomson’s openness in sharing the practical and spiritual development of her writing reads like a novel. It’s present-tense first-person, with some lyrical descriptions.

You might want to read this book if:

  • You’re a Christian writer. Your experiences will be different than the author’s, but there will be overlap. Like the struggle to discern direction, and the danger of allowing sales to become an idol.
  • You’re an indie author, Christian or not. No matter what you think of the spiritual aspect, this book is an interesting case study of someone who’s been an indie author since before it was popular.
  • You’re a Christian creative who’s struggling with the idea of maybe being called to use your creativity for God.
  • You like Rachel Starr Thomson’s books and want to know more about her.

What I loved most about this book was the author’s frankness in sharing her spiritual growth. Her story challenges me to sit more with God and ensure I’m being honest with Him—and with myself. And that I’m aligned with what He wants to do with the gifts He’s given me.

I also appreciated how she clarified the sometimes-mystical idea of “calling,” reminding us that callings aren’t just for us—they’re for others. And that a creative calling is as valuable as any other. Too often, maybe because creativity is fun, writers and other creatives diminish its value. (Not that creating is easy, or always fun, but there’s that certain zing to it at times.)

Rachel Starr Thomson is an author, speaker, and ministry leader. She writes fiction and nonfiction, “always exploring the kingdom of God.” For more about the author and her ministry, visit rachelstarrthomson.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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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
Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

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.