Monday, April 29, 2013

Spontaneous Combustion

I have quite a collection of writing books at home. Some are how-to books on plotting or characterization, staying organized. Others are inspirational, but my favorites are books on living the writing life specifically. They are part memoir-part how-to, part inspiration, all rolled into one. These are perfect for intermediate writers -- those who already have a writing career but need a friendly companion on the journey. So imagine my delight when Nancy Butts wrote to me about what she was up to the past few months ... Spontaneous Combustion! Reading it was like sitting with her on my back porch, sharing sun-tea. I admit I am completely biased. Nancy was my novel-writing instructor at ICL and I have missed her since I graduated. Oh, we touch base and exchange a flurry of emails over a period of a couple of weeks and then disappear into our writing caves, but it's a different relationship now. And I do miss that hand-holding. Without her detailed instruction and encouragement, I wouldn't be where I am now -- a writer who has finished not one, but two novels.

I have not sold either of them. In fact, six months ago, I started sending one baby out into the world, full of hope and optimism. But I confess that even the good rejections drained me of my natural enthusiasm. My solution -- stop submitting. I am focusing on writing again, returning to my love of story. Revising is one of my favorite things to do and I'm enjoying it.

So this quote, which I am sure Nancy shared with me when I was her student jumped out at me.
Take your writing seriously— even when nobody else does. Especially when nobody else does. 

And this is what Nancy has set out to do in this book. She's a professional writer, teacher, and editor, and she's been through a lot of ups and downs, and above all, she has persevered. She has numerous tips and tricks to share for the long haul. Consider some of these chapter titles: Why write?; Clothes are entirely optional (you'll have to read this delightful chapter); Stoke the fires; Converting the demons of doubt; Faking it. All these pose immediate questions and suggestions, don't they? And Nancy walks us through them, showing us with examples from her own life an those of others. It's a slim book ... I read it quickly in two chunks.

I wasn't having a hard writing day, but just like I cannot leave a manuscript that needs correction alone, I cannot leave a new book alone. I decided to sit on the porch and give myself a little TLC, and before I knew it, I'd read half the book, so I thought, why not? Indulge. And so I did. But you'd better believe the next day I sat and pounded the keys, remembering Nancy's words: Be inflamed again with passion for what you do. Write.

I recommend Spontaneous Combustion to writers who are experiencing resistance to writing. Nancy wrote this book for her students, and I am grateful she did. If I get into a writing slump (as all writers do from time to time), I can read this book again for a writerly revival. Thank you, Nancy.

15 comments:

R. T. Freeman said...

"Take your writing seriously— even when nobody else does. Especially when nobody else does." Wow. This is IT in a nutshell, because it's too painful to neglect doing what we were meant to do. I'm putting Spontaneous Combustion on my Amazon Wishlist.

Mirka Breen said...

"Take your writing seriously— even when nobody else does. Especially when nobody else does."

Perfect. You'll be getting a lot of us commentators repeating it here. Should be a mantra for unsticking the insecure writer, which is most of us.

Larissa said...

This sounds lovely! Off to check it out. :)

Ruth Schiffmann said...

The title alone makes me want to read it. Thanks for sharing your experience with this book, Vijaya =)

Nancy Butts said...

Thank you so much for this heartfelt review of my book, Vijaya. Your response is just what I was hoping for. And I know that you will persevere, too, and one day that novel—your baby—is going to find the editor who will love it and understand it, so everyone can read it one day.

Vijaya said...

RT, Mirka, Larissa & Ruth -- you won't be disappointed. Thank you for giving it a look-see.

Nancy, thank you for everything. One of these days we'll have to meet up at a conference given we're on the same coast.

Becky said...

This sounds like a wonderful book! Thanks so much for sharing! = )

Faith E. Hough said...

Wow, considering how much the little tidbits you just shared helped me, I know I need to read the book. I'm trying to get back to my regular writing routine after a few months in which writing has been painful...and I've been scouring all my favorite writing books for inspiration.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

How marvelous that you can have a relationship like this. Even though you don't get to interact as much as before, she sounds like an amazing lady to know.

I've just been reading through your old blog posts, trying to catch up!! I'm so sorry your headaches are still causing so much trouble. :( I'll continue praying for you.

And I want you to keep querying, my friend. Send out a few a week while you write your new project, and try to forget about the whole process even while you wait. (That's just my advice, so feel free to ignore it. I know you didn't ask for it. :) )

Xo

Vijaya said...

Becky and Faith, I esp. liked that it was a short book, because I was itching to get back to my own work.

Faith, I hope you'll be able to carve out a little hour of quiet to be able to write. I could never do all that you do when my children were little. So take heart.

Amy, thank you for your prayers and encouragement. And working with Nancy has been a huge gift. I'll probably enter queryland again in the fall with my new novel ...

Marcia said...

I will have to get this.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love this: Be inflamed again with passion for what you do. Write.

When I'm feeling down, writing always seems to help. Especially when I'm working on my novel.

Christina Farley said...

What a great book review. Sounds so useful.

Angela Ackerman said...

I love the title, and that your writing instructor wrote it. I'll keep this one in mind the next time I feel I'm struggling. Thanks!

Vijaya said...

Ladies, I hope you will all find it useful.

Stina, a good writing session is the best!

Angela, thanks. I see your book has been reviewed, and very well, in the Bulletin! Congratulations!!!