Archive for njcbutts

Treat yourself: free download of two wondrous new MG fantasies

Just in time for the holidays, two of my editing clients are staging a joint book launch on November 22nd.

It has been both my privilege and my pleasure to be a guide along the way for these two marvelous middle grade authors, and if you love magical fantasy and stories about worlds-within-worlds, you owe it to yourself and to any young readers in your life to download these books–and indeed, all the titles in both series.

chimney-thief-cover-final-copyEmma Warner-Reed is launching Book 2 in her Calendar House series about Welsh orphan Dotty Parsons in Dotty and the Chimney Thief. In this tale, Dotty has to track a missing friend, in the process uncovering new clues about herself, her late mother, and the world of magical chimney sweeps hidden inside her Great-Uncle Winchester’s labyrinthine old house in Yorkshire. A perilous new threat menaces them all—and Dotty cannot be sure who is friend and who is foe.
magora-3Marc Remus is launching Book 3 in his award-winning Magora series about young Holly O’Flanigan [who coincidentally is also an orphan] in The Bridge in the Fog. This series brings to vivid life the world of Magora—a place where art and magic are one in the same, and where voracious creatures called the Unfinished are both feared and persecuted. In this installment, Holly and her three best friends at Cliffony Academy of the Arts must tread a fine line between helping the Unfinished and potentially unleashing a nightmarish danger upon Magora.

Both series have proven popular on Amazon and I think if you download them, you will see why. And the downloads are free!


Get word count of books with this tool

How many words should your book manuscript contain? Is 100,000 words too long for a YA, or 20,000 words too short for a middle grade novel? This is a question that my editing clients often ask.

One way to answer this is to familiarize yourself with the word count of recently-published books that are aimed at the same age reader for whom you are writing. The ARFinder tool allows you to ferret out that information easily. Many thanks to Katie Davis at the Institute for Writers for sharing this site with me.

Do a search for the book you want to check, then click on the blue underlined title in the result that comes up. That will take you to a window where you will find the word count.

A note to those of you who write for adults: this site is maintained by the Accelerated  Reader program used in many US schools, so it may not contain many adult novels. But try it and see.

Note: I waxed on in more detail about word count over at my Spontaneous Combustion blog.

Birth announcement for Melissa Roske’s debut novel!

I am beyond excited this morning: Melissa Roske, one of my “ducklings” as I secretly call my writing students and freelance clients, is celebrating a huge milestone today. Her first novel, KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN, is available for pre-order on Amazon today. I’ve already ordered two copies, one for her to autograph next June when the book finally comes out, and one for my iPad. you know, so I can carry KAT around with me everywhere.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-12-03-39-pmAnd to celebrate, she’s offering a book giveaway over at Nerdy Book Club, along with an interview with Nathan Duffey, the artist who created the cover.

Days like this I am extra-grateful that I’ve got two new knees: because now I can really do a happy dance for Melissa. [Which I am doing due to the beat of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” in case you’re interested.] I was privileged to be there as a kind of midwife, easing Melissa though the first few revisions of this warm and funny and insightful middle grade novel. So it gives me deep joy to know that soon everyone else is going to have the chance to find out for themselves what a fantastic writer she is.


Another plug for the serial comma

As my students and clients know, I am a big fan of the serial, or Oxford comma—you know, that punctuation mark that belongs in a list of three or more things before the word and.

lions, tigers, and bears

For such a tiny little squiggle, the serial comma elicits a lot of heated debate. The British writer Lynne Truss defended it beautifully—and hilariously—in the New York Times bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

If you can’t make time to read Truss’ book [although really, you should], here is a quick two-minute video by New Yorker copy editor Mary Norris, aka the Comma Queen. I couldn’t say it better.


Mary Norris

Queen Mary has a new book that I’m eager to read. It’s entitled Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen. Has anyone else read it yet?


Limping along, literally. But at least I got in a quote

“Pain Brain”—that’s what I call it. Or sometimes I refer to it as “post-op brain fog.” Either way, as I’ve learned over the past 48 months and five—count ’em, FIVE—surgeries, your body isn’t the only thing that needs time to recover after an operation. And from what I’d read, I was bracing myself for several months of mental muddle and creative coma after I had a total knee replacement five weeks ago. [New York Times health writer Jane Brody said she couldn’t write a word for four months.]

However, the medical folks keep telling me that I’m making a ridiculously fast recovery physically—so much so that I’ve gone ahead and scheduled the second op in early December. Gulp! Plus I’ve edited two novels and a picture book in the past two weeks, and my clients say I actually made sense, so maybe my brain is recovering, too.

You can judge for yourself. My friend and fellow writer Christine Kohler, author of the YA historical novel No Surrender Soldier, quoted me today over at the UncommonYA blog in a piece about the value to writers of keeping an emotions journal. She’s the one with all the wisdom; I was just flattered that she asked me to chime in.

Honored to be the guest expert on POV in a new book

Here is where I have been lucky enough to escape for the past three weeks.

© Photo by author

© Photo by Nancy Butts

Sadly, it didn’t take long to get sucked back into the stressful routine of chores, errands, and deadlines once I returned to the real world. I call this dreaded period of time after a vacation “re-entry” syndrome, and I’ve got it bad.

A bit of good news has helped ease my re-entry a teensy bit, however. I am excited to announce that I’ve got a chapter in a new book by fellow ICL instructor Chris Eboch. It’s called You Can Write for Children, and she was kind enough to designate me the guest “expert” on POV, using some material from the six-part web series I published here. I am so honored to be included, and hope you will check out the book. Chris’ other book on writing, Advanced Plotting, is one I have long recommended to clients and students.


Doing a happy dance: my six-part series on POV is finally finished!

A funny thing happened on the way to the website: although I fully intended to publish my final POV article in April, I got a wee bit distracted by a sudden influx of work. It’s a nice problem to have, but it’s taken me weeks to dig out after I picked up four new clients in one day!

But although right now my Newf Yukon is eyeing me hungrily because I’m half an hour late feeding him dinner, I’m done, and I’m doing a happy dance. Choosing the Perfect POV: The Writer’s Quest for the Holy Grail is finally published. The series was two years in the making, but I hope it’s been worth it for all you writers struggling with the sometimes-confounding topic of POV. If it helps just one person , I will feel that I’ve done something worthwhile.

Article on omniscient POV is up at last!

Well, I made it with one day to spare: my article on omniscient viewpoint is published at long last. I guess it really does work to give myself a deadline; I promised I’d have this done by the end of February, and I was ashamed enough this morning when I glanced at the date on the calendar to finally get it done.

Just as with my article on multiple POV, I had to overcome some internal resistance to write about omniscient narration, since it’s not my favorite thing. But it gives me a deep sense of satisfaction to know that I’m only one article away from finishing this series—and I’m already wondering what the next series may be. If there is anything that you’d like to see me write about it, please fill out the Contacts form and let me know.



Try my new method to prime your writing pump

When I started this experiment in techniques to jump-start my writing back in December, I didn’t intend for it to be anything more than a way to send a jolt of electricity through my post-op brain and get my writing neurons firing again. But when I discovered that neither Julia Cameron’s morning pages nor Natalie Goldberg’s freewriting were targeted enough to achieve what I wanted, I brewed my own method that I call Priming the Pump. You can read about my entire experiment in three parts over on my blog, Spontaneous Combustion.

My pump has certainly been primed. Not only did I finally plot my way through the second half of my middle grade novel, but I also started churning out chapters. I also produced the blog post mentioned above, and I finally started drafting the fifth installment of my web series on POV. I hope to finally get the long-promised article on omniscient POV published here before the end February. I’ll let you know when it goes live.

And in the meantime, I’ve got the Readers Digest Condensed Version of my Priming the Pump method available here on a new page I’m calling Featured Writing Tips. If you try this method, I would love to hear your comments. Post them over on my blog, or email me here. I hope it’s as fruitful for you has it has already been for me!


Ditching the morning pages for something different

The purple cast is gone, thank goodness. Although it took much longer than I anticipated to be functional again on my poor right leg—and there is still a long way to go before I can get that calf muscle back to full strength. May you never hurt your Achilles tendon!

But I think the post-op brain fog I wrote about last time has finally dissipated, at least enough for me to put up a new post over at Spontaneous Combustion about my experiment with Julia Cameron’s morning pages. Two weeks turned into a month before I stopped. And although there were aspects of the practice that I liked, I ultimately concluded that it was a failure, at least for my purposes.

So now I’m changing the experiment, mulling over my own twist on freewriting that might work better to achieve my personal writing goal—which is to end each writing session with a piece of useable prose, a decent first draft, not just rambling “word salad.” Join me over at Spontaneous Combustion to share in the experiment.