Category: writing

Some days, my kids wake up absolutely ravenous. From the moment their eyes open in the morning, their only thought seems to be, “Feed me!” This was especially true in their toddler years, but now that I have a teen and a tween, this modus operandi seems to be back! Those are the weeks that a bunch of eight bananas will vanish in two days.

But then, there are stretches of time where they don’t seem to eat enough to keep a bird alive. They wake up and start to shuffle through their morning routine, but when I urge them to eat breakfast, they moan, “I’m not huuuungry.” There’s no underlying malady – they’re just a little peckish. It takes coaxing or downright parental orders to get them to eat a tiny granola bar or a yogurt cup! Those are the weeks when a bunch of eight bananas goes untouched and turns completely black on the counter (and eventually becomes banana bread).

I’ve noticed similar seasons of hunger and peckishness for God’s Word in my own life. There are times when I’m hungry — starving, even — for more of Scripture. I wake up every morning eager to dive in to my Bible, and all day long I’m drawn to meditate on what I read, or to go deeper by listening to a sermon, talk, or worship music. But, to be honest, there are also times when I’m just not hungry. I don’t feel like consuming the Word. I might choke down a verse or two, but my attitude is a lot like a whiny kid being forced to eat a granola bar before school.

Our kids’ varying hunger levels are based on dozens of factors. They may be more or less hungry,  just because:

  • They’re having a growth spurt
  • They’re more or less active than usual
  • The weather is impacting their appetite
  • Their taste buds are changing
  • They’re going through a phase of focusing on just one or two preferred foods

In other words, it’s both normal and healthy for our kids’ appetites and intake to change from day to day and from year to year. It’s part of their growth.

But what about believers and God’s Word? Is it normal and healthy for us to crave the Word at times and reject it with an upturned nose at other times?

I’d like to propose this: perhaps it’s “normal” –in that, it’s commonplace and most believers can relate to the experience– but it’s not healthy, and it’s not what God desires for us or from us.

I can think of a few reasons why my spiritual appetite lags. Do any of these resonate with you?

  • There’s unrepentant sin in my life.
  • I’m in a vicious cycle: not enough time for God’s Word, so I put it off, which makes me feel guilty for neglecting it, so I avoid it when I do have even a few minutes, which leads to feeling like there’s not enough time… lather, rinse, repeat.
  • There’s a physical trigger (mental health issues, chronic pain, devastating diagnosis) which I’m addressing only on a physical level.
  • I’m distracted by lots of perfectly harmless time-wasters.

On the other hand, feasting on God’s Word is satisfying in a way that no meal ever is. When I’m “eating well” of Scripture, I can walk away feeling full and nourished — and at the same time, primed and ready for the next time I’ll sit down at the table. The more I take in of the Bible, the more I crave it. It’s a different cycle than those vicious, destructive ones which condemn us and convince us we’re doing things all wrong. When I’m regularly reading and responding to Scripture, I notice:

  • I truly want to spend more time with the Word, so I get creative – using audioBible versions, podcasts of sermons or uplifting meditations on Scripture, and worship music to keep my mind set on God throughout the day.
  • I avoid ‘bad influences’ – whatever might otherwise tempt me to get lost in distraction – more easily.
  • I find verses coming to mind and on the tip of my tongue, ready to offer encouragement or wisdom to my family and my friends.

My heart is lighter and more joyful when it’s filled with Scripture and the Holy Spirit. I bet yours is, too. And on that note, I’m excited to share a new project I’ve just launched: Plain & Simple Bible Study.

It’s my heartfelt belief that every single Christian is capable of picking up God’s Word, reading it for understanding, and being transformed by its truth. However, I meet so many folks who feel unequipped to dive in to the Bible on their own. These studies are designed with simple prompts and questions to help you think with clarity about your Bible: what is the text saying? What does it mean? How does it apply to my life?

A 6-week study of 1 John is available now, and Ephesians is coming soon. These free printables are great for individual or group use, and their aim is to help everyone push past their peckishness and eat well of God’s Word.

I hope and pray that Plain & Simple Bible Studies will give more believers the tools they need to create a habit of Scripture study that will flourish in their lives. Please check it out, and share it widely.

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If you’re here for the Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop, welcome! My writing life has been full of good stuff lately, and it’s so fun to have the IWSG community to share with here, both here and on Twitter.

The logo of the Insecure Writer's Support Group shows a lighthouse in sepia tones behind the lettering of the group's name.

First, I had the opportunity to write a guest blog on a topic I’m really excited about. That will go live in a few days, so be sure to subscribe to my mailing list if you want the link as soon as it’s available! (There’s no spam, just a ping in your inbox when I post.)

Then, the results of the next round of judging in the ACFW writing contest were announced.

via GIPHY

I didn’t advance to the finals, but I did get my scoresheets and comments back from the judges, and their insight and feedback is an invaluable help. If you’re thinking about entering the ACFW Genesis contest in the future, my advice is: go for it. Seriously! You’ve got nothing to lose and your writing will be stronger for it.

And finally, I wrapped this manuscript up and sent her out into the world for her first taste of the query trenches. I use QueryTracker and a homegrown spreadsheet to keep up with important details, but I also made a colorful flowchart on the whiteboard right behind my desk. It makes me HAPPY every time I see it.

But hold on. Let’s be honest. There’s never a ‘finally’ in this writing life. Because even though my completed manuscript is done-enough-to-query, I’m not done. No, I’m still getting up at 5:00 a.m. to make a cup of good coffee and flip on the desk lamp and write. There’s a new WIP [work in progress] brewing, this time with a single main character and no time slip.

Oh, and I’m also loosely researching for another story idea (by which I mean, there’s a topic that intrigues me as a jumping-off point for a plot, so I’m listening to podcasts and reading books and articles about that topic… I feel a story percolating in the far reaches of my brain, but I’m not sure yet whose story it is or where they are or how it’s going to unfurl.)

Which brings me to the July IWSG Question: What personal traits have you written in to your characters?

via GIPHY

I think my first manuscript may have been the closest I’ve come to writing characters who had my personal traits. It seems to me that a lot of writers ‘accidentally’ write an autobiographical character now and again, but the best characters are the ones who aren’t US.

The novel that’s out in the trenches right now has two main characters: one’s in her sixties and the other’s in her twenties. Both of them materialized pretty fully in my mind’s eye, and they’re definitely not aspects of myself. They don’t share my penchant for reading, coffee, or a village full of friendships to keep them on an even keel. I suppose both of them are great in the kitchen, and I do love to cook & bake–but that’s it. My new WIP is still a glimmer in my eye with a half-formed protagonist, but I won’t intentionally give her any of my personal traits.

So talk to me, friends: do you ever guest blog? Do you love it? Have you ever participated in a writing contest–good, bad, or ugly? If you’re querying, what do you use to stay organized and happy through the process? I’ll make my way through as much of the IWSG blog hop as I can. I’m excited to read your answers to the July question!

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Hi, friends! It’s the first week of June, and you know what that means: a new edition of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group Blog Hop!

This month’s question is: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

First, let’s talk reading. Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, mostly fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft; I read because I like to read.” (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, 10th Anniversary Edition, p.145)

I’m not quite as voracious as Mr. King. (Then again, I suspect he’s not parenting three kids and doing all his own housework, so I’m giving myself some grace on this whole book-count situation.) A few years ago, I started keeping records of the books I read. I finished fifty-six in 2016, forty-five in 2017, and sixty-seven in 2018. Not too shabby for this season of life!

To break it down by genre, in the past six months I’ve read the following:
7 mainstream women’s fiction
6 Christian Living (non-fiction)
4 Christian speculative fiction
3 Christian women’s fiction
1 writing craft (non fiction)
1 mainstream thriller/suspense 
1 mainstream comedy
1 Christian romance

My tastes in reading material are a little like my tastes in breakfast food: I’ll eat ANYTHING, but I tend to get stuck with a favorite and eating oatmeal every day for a month until I burn out and switch to bagels. I sometimes read lots of light-hearted fiction (chick lit or up lit or women’s fiction with romantic subplots) and then switch to heavy documentary style nonfiction for ages.  I also enjoy the occasional memoirs, mainstream nonfiction, YA contemporaries, and YA fantasies. So, if I zoomed out to look at the stats for what I’ve read over the past year or nine months, you’d probably see some representation in those genres, too.

My favorite genre to write in is women’s fiction—but (confession) it’s the only genre I’ve written in long-form seriously. I’ve written a few articles for magazines and a few children’s stories for my own kids, and of course I’ve been blogging here for years. But when I decided to jump into novel writing, the stories I really wanted to tell were definitely women’s fiction. The first manuscript was mainstream and my second is Christian, but both center around women’s lives and the friendships and family relationships that carry them through their emotional journeys.

And you? If you’re a reader, what’s your jam? If you’re a writer, join us on the blog hop!

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A blue Weimaraner puppy lays curled up in a fluffy gray dog bed. One green eye is looking at the camera.

Porter, my youngest Weimaraner, lays curled up in a fluffy dog bed right beside my computer desk every day while I write. Today, he’s peeking out of his nest to announce that I’m a semi-finalist in the Contemporary category for the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest!

ACFW is such a wonderful, supportive organization, and this is the first writing contest I’ve ever entered. It is so exciting to see my name among so many talented writers. The semi-finalists go on to a second round of judging, and three finalists will be announced June 15th.

I feel like “semi-finalist” is a lot like the word “half-marathon.” You know, I ran a half-marathon and let me tell you: it was a full race. It was a whole lot of work. There was nothing ‘half’ about it. And for me, being a semi-finalist feels the same. This in itself is a whole achievement, and I’m fully thrilled with it.

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It’s time for another Insecure Writers’ Support Group blog hop! This month’s question is: If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be?

An animated gif of Aladdin rubbing the magic lamp, causing a puff of smoke to appear and the Genie to whirl out.

Oh, man. This is such a fun question! I’m currently in rewrite mode for my WIP after getting a manuscript critique from an editor. She was really positive about one half of my dual-timeline narrative, but found some major weaknesses in the story arc of the other protagonist/timeline.

Here’s a look at my Scrivener “binder.”

Scrivener software is shown with a list of scene descriptions, some highlighted in pink.

In the final version, the chapters will alternate between Zola in 2000 and Erin in 2019. But for this phase of writing, I used Scrivener’s amaaaazing powers of click-and-drag-to-move-scenes-and-chapters-around to put this timeline in consecutive order. So this only shows the timeline of the weaker protagonist. The scenes highlighted pink are complete. The scenes in white are either scenes to write new from scratch, or scenes to rewrite–either to meet a new purpose, to meet their purpose more clearly, or small rewrites to accomodate a new location in the story/timeline.

If I could make a wish and a genie would help me with a scene or chapter, it would definitely be the chapter down toward the bottom of this list: “Erin’s Bad Guys Close In.”

I decided to use Save the Cat Writes a Novel to attack this rewrite. When I put my story through the filter of Jessica Brody’s scene breakdowns, I discovered this was the plot point where I was most lacking. I have four scenes to write to create this chapter (or two chapters?), and I’m most nervous about getting the tension and stakes right.

I think the buildup was solid–but this plot point was missing, so the resolution scenes were unfulfilling. I’m confident that if I can nail this section, the rest of the story will hang properly, like a well-cut dress that drapes just right.

At least, that’s what I’m wishing & hoping!

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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