Friday, June 23, 2017

The New Religion

My father used to say: "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." Wise words.

We all know better than to talk about religion or politics unless we want to start a fight. But I've discovered a new hot topic that will raise the hackles. Nutrition!

Recently when I was at a garden party a man we all respect and admire was holding forth on the merits of a low-carb diet. Since I share his views I was nodding in agreement on most of his beliefs. Since I'm diabetic I know the importance of limiting carbs.

He and I and possibly a few other were in the Paleo Adkins diet belief spectrum. On the opposing side, of course, were the low fat whole grain junkies. And another group believed that weight control, terrific health, etc., was simply a matter of calories. It was science. The tension was obvious.

Actually what I really believe is what works for one person will not work for another. This week I'm at the Western Writers of American conference in Kansas City. We're having a great time. I've never attended a writers conference where I didn't learn a lot and make new friends.

However, the methods used by writers to create books vary enormously. I like the general classification that we are either plotters or pantsers. Plotters outline everything and pantsers write by the seat of their pants. I'm sort of a combination of the two. I begin as a pantser then outline each chapter after I've written and tack this chain of events on a wall. If there is no chain of events or movement within a chapter I face the bitter truth: There is No Movement Within a Chapter. That means it's impossibly dull.

This is just part of my method. I wouldn't dream of trying to persuade anyone else that they should adopt it. In fact I've given up on trying to pass along writing advice. Having published six books now, a historical novel, an academic book, four mysteries, and having been included in a number of short story anthologies, and created oodles of published articles and encyclopedia entries, I feel that by virtue of my variety of experiences I know a lot about the business.

I would love to help budding writers avoid some of the pitfalls. But creative people are so resistant to advice. It's part of our psyche. After judging books in contest recently, I was struck by the number of books that could be taken to a much higher lever with better editing or if the authors would correct a major writing flaw. A fellow judge assured me that he had been an editor at a major publishing house and also at one time had a "book doctoring" business and that no one would listen.

They had to figure it out for themselves, he assured me. Some do and some don't. It's like finding the perfect diet and approach to food.


Frankie Y. Bailey said...

I've taken writing classes along the way, even taught a few at libraries. I'm going to teach a topic-specific workshop at an upcoming conference.

My own experience as a writer is that I haven't been able to adopt one method for writing a book. What remains constant is that I'm a plotter to the extend that I need to have a clear idea of what the book is about and what will happen -- probably a carry-over from being an academic and nonfiction writer.

But after all these years, I take what works from any source that I come across -- from books to blogs. And when I'm revising and looking for ways to improve the next draft, I pile writing books up on my desk and flip through them. I pace, I do yoga. I eat carbs, proteins, and anything at hand. I sleep and talk to my cat and hope something will work. I guess that is my method -- order followed by chaos followed by order.

Triss said...

Well said, Charlotte! In the end, whatever works for anyone- is what works

Donis Casey said...

I'm like you, Charlotte. I rather know where I'm going when I start, but am basically a pantser until I get lost, then I have to plot for a while. And as for writers not listening to advice (especially early on in a career) never a truer word was spoken, which makes it very difficult to critique effectively. As an aside, as for your contest judging duties, you're braver than I am to do it at all.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Sorry to neglect replying to those of you kind enough to leave comments. Somewhere in the hustle and bustle of the conference I forgot!

Charlotte Hinger said...

Frankie--a friend once told me that writing books is sort of like raising kids. You think you know what you're doing after the first one. Then what you've learned doesn't apply to the second kid at all.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Triss--and for me it's inconsistent from book to book.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Donis--judging was really hard this year because of the variety of qualified entries. The other two judges were just wonderful. I learned a lot simply by reading their comments.