Archive for May 2013

Seven types of creative block: fascinating article

My friend Kristi Holl, whose book Boundaries for Writers I recently reviewed on my blog, shared a fantastic article on her Facebook page about creative block. I wrote a blog post about it, but thought I would reprint it here on my website as well.

Seven Types of Creative Block (and What to Do About Them)

Since I just spent three frustrating hours yesterday staring blankly at my keyboard, this couldn’t have come at a better time.

The author, Mark McGuiness, talks about seven different kinds of block. As a solitary writer, only six of them concern me, but I confess that at one time or another, all six have been a factor. Sigh!

It’s Block #5 that intrigues me the most. McGuiness writes:

5. Poverty.

I’m not just talking about money, although a lack of cash is a perennial problem for creatives. You could also be time-poor, knowledge-poor, have a threadbare network, or be short of equipment or other things you need to get the job done.

I had never thought of poverty in these terms before, but I like that way of looking at creative block. I think it was my problem yesterday. When the roofers working next door started playing insanely loud, insanely obnoxious radio music yesterday, I had to flee. I  packed up my portable office and sought out the cool peace of the stacks in the college library. It was the first day of the summer session, and I swear I was the only patron in the entire library. It should have been writer heaven, right?

Wrong! I sat there for nearly three hours and didn’t get a thing done. Well, not true. I revised the last chapter I had written in my middle grade novel, but I couldn’t make any headway in the new chapter. I couldn’t see what the characters were doing. I had poverty of ideas.

I think perhaps the problem for me is that I was in a space where I felt constrained physically. Is there such a thing as a kinesthetic writer? That seems to be what I am, because my daily walks always seem to kick my mind into gear. This morning on my walk, the first line of the chapter came to me, whole and complete. And I suddenly had a clear visual image of where my characters were. Of course, I’ve got a stack of manuscripts coming in this morning to be edited, so no writing for me, not today.

But I’ll jot down that line, and maybe storyboard the chapter on some index cards. It’s like depositing money in the bank, so that when I am able to sit down to write, I won’t be idea-poor again.

Self-pub imprints: treating their clients like second class writers?

The news about the class action lawsuit filed April 26th against Penguin, as the owner of Author Services Inc., riled me up this morning. I wrote more about it in this post on my blog, but here is an excerpt:

“…it has always made me deeply uneasy that major publishers such as Simon & Schuster—even Christian publishers such as Thomas Nelson—should offer two separate paths to publication. If you aren’t lucky enough to get an actual contract where they pay you to publish your book—and give you all the editorial and promotional services that go along with that, for free—there is a back door, a kind of servant’s entrance. You can still have that affiliation with S&S or Nelson, sort of—as long as you are willing to pay them for the privilege. But does that buy you the same careful editing, the book design, the cover art, or the promotion that a contracted author receives? Somehow I doubt it.”

What does this have to do with Penguin? Because the whole thing is like one of those nesting Russian babushka dolls: Penguin bought ASI, which in turn operates AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford Publishing, Xlibris, Palibrio, and Booktango. ASI is also the force behind self-publishing imprints with traditional book publishers like Simon & Schuster (Archway Publishing), Thomas Nelson (WestBow Press), Hay House (Balboa Press), Guideposts (Inspiring Voices) and Writer’s Digest (Abbott Press).

What do you think about the big “traditional” houses like Penguin and S&S offering this back-door route to publishing with them? Please go over to my blog and leave a comment.

Goodreads book giveaway ends June 11th

Just in case you missed the entry link on my home page, here it is again. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’ve only recently discovered Goodreads: how could a writer/bookworm miss that for so long? But now that I’ve found it, I decided to sponsor a giveaway for my new book, Spontaneous Combustion. Five readers will get autographed copies of the book, so enter by June 11th!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Spontaneous Combustion by Nancy Butts

Spontaneous Combustion

by Nancy Butts

Giveaway ends June 11, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


Bridging distances

Today on my blog I shared an excerpt from a “fan letter” I received from a reader in Istanbul. It made my entire day! I know it sounds hopelessly idealistic, but books truly can bridge the distances—physical, social, cultural—that divide us.




Good news/bad news

I got good news this morning: I sold an article to the SCBWI Bulletin! The bad news though is that it’s one of the pieces on my Free wisdom page, which means I have to temporarily take down. So I apologize, but the article about using a Kindle or iPad as a way to get fresh eyes when proofreading a manuscript will have to disappear from the site—just for a while.

However, the good thing about the SCBWI Bulletin is that unlike some other publications, you retain all rights to anything you publish there. So after a decent interval, I will be able to publish the proofreading article again.

Mini-review of Kindle Paperwhite on my blog

Things have been quiet here on the website since I released my new book, Spontaneous Combustion, two weeks ago—but only because the rest of my life has been so busy, between all the hubbub and the gratifying response to the book launch, teaching, celebrating two family birthdays, writing a couple of freelance articles, and immersing myself in the middle grade novel I’m trying to finish this summer. For details, swing over to my blog or my Facebook Author page.

I promise to update this website soon with a new article for the Free Wisdom page. But in the meantime, here’s a link to a mini-review I posted on my blog about the new Kindle Paperwhite in my life. I’ve tried and failed three times before to like a Kindle (or any other e-reader, for that matter). Though I did appreciate the lack of glare with e-ink screens in bright sunlight—where I do a lot of my reading here in the sub-tropics—I found e-readers to be too dim and lacking in both contrast and clarity when reading indoors. [Despite its long windows, my 1880s-era Victorian cottage is plagued with shadows.] So sadly, each Kindle was returned to Amazon.

But after getting an iPad Mini, I discovered how much I liked reading on its crisp, clear, backlit screen. It’s readable night and day, indoors and out, as long as I stay in the shade. But there was enough glare on the Mini’s screen that I decided to give Kindles one more chance, even though they had already had taken their three swings and struck out as far as I was concerned. So I sprang for a Kindle Paperwhite, fully prepared to send it back, too. But to my surprise, I like it a lot. If you’ve been straddling the fence yourself about an e-reader, see my blog post for more details.