Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Writing Is Like Dieting

Mindy here. And yes, you read the title of this post correctly. From someone who has been writing for a long time, as well as spent a good portion of her adult life dieting, I'm here to tell you how these two aspects of life can be very similar.

First, you have the plotter. This person tends to be regimented. They have their route mapped out, know exactly where they are going, and how they're going to get there. In the world of dieting, this person would strictly adhere to a program that has been laid out for them, perhaps in a book or pre-packaged food--South Beach Diet, Adkins, Jenny Craig, Body for Life. They'd have at least a week's worth of menus planned and the refrigerator and pantry would be stocked with the items needed to fulfill those menus. They would rarely deviate from the plan set forth.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the pantser. This person likes to wing it. They love to be surprised right along with their characters. You'll often hear these writers say things like, "I had no idea that was going to happen." When it comes to dieting, the pantser doesn't worry about menus. They're going to eat whatever it is they're in the mood for when mealtime rolls around. Granted, they're still going to consider their options and make a choice that will satisfy them, yet won't send the scales in the wrong direction. Weight Watchers is a good option for pantsers, allowing you to choose what you eat, so long as you keep track of what you're putting in your mouth.

Then there's the puzzler. They'll write scenes out of order, then piece them together to make a whole story. Like the pantser, they like to discover the story as it's happening, though they sometimes have a challenge figuring out how to connect one scene to the next. When watching their weight, the puzzler is the person who knows they're going to have a grilled chicken breast and salad for dinner, but when asked if anyone's up for Mexican at lunch, they're the first to order the cheese enchiladas, after they've scarfed down that bowl full of chips. Realizing what they've done, they'll hit the gym for two hours, then skip the chicken breast and eat only the salad.

There's an entire boatload of theories, books, and character worksheets out there designed to make things easier for us and to help us improve our writing. But, like dieting, you have to find what works for you. We're all "fearfully and wonderfully made" individuals. What works for Sally, may not work for Sue. The key is in finding that trick-of-the-trade that fits you.

So where do you fit? Is there a book or workshop that has changed the way you write? What was there about it that appealed to you, and how did you make it work?

Maybe you have a diet/lifestyle success story. What helped you change your eating habits and set you on the road to a healthier lifestyle?

Happy Tuesday, y'all.


  1. What a fun analogy, Mindy!

    I have so many great writing books all 3 of Donald Maass' are at the top of my list. Susan May Warren also has two great books.

    I'm more of a plotter but my characters still shock me with the things they say and do. In my most recent book, one of the characters named a minor character. She just called him by his name out of the blue. (Yep, I'm a little crazy.)

  2. Plotter. Obsessive calorie counter.

    looks like your theory makes perfect sense!

  3. Hi Mindy:

    All diets work: if you just do them!

    What do they say: If you want to be a writer: write, write, write!

    If you want to lose weight: diet, diet, diet.

    In other words, just do it!

    The simplest things can be the hardest to do. : )


  4. Fun post, Mindy! You know it's funny how accurate this is for me. I'm a plotter. And I've always had more success on a diet like NutriSystem where they send you the food. It's so much harder if I have to make more decisions as I'm going. :)

    Favorite plotting books and methods: Alicia Rasely's The Story Within, Carolyn Greene's plotting notebook, Stanley William's The Moral Premise, and Hauge and Vogler's Hero's 2 Journeys.

    Hmmm, my word verification was just "perse." I wonder if that means I should buy a new purse today while shopping with my daughter?? ;) (Please don't tell her, though, because she has a fit when I get near purses because I can easily spend an hour just looking!)

  5. Teri, I haven't had the privilege of seeing Susie's books yet. They sold out of them at conference last year before I could get to them. However, I love her teaching.

  6. Thanks for proving my theory, Debra :-)

  7. Vince, you are such a man. Yes, all diets do work if you follow them. But women have to find the diet that fits their world. If they cannot do without bread or pasta, then Adkins is definitely not a good choice.
    Likewise, we learn differently. I can't tell you how many writing books I've bought because other people raved about them, then I didn't get a darn thing from them, because they weren't presented in a way that clicked with my brain.
    You are right about that last thing though. The simplest things are indeed the hardest.
    Thanks, Vince.

  8. Missy, send the girl off to look at clothes and go for the purse:-)

  9. Fun post! I am normally not one to follow order but since everything feels so out of control, I'm looking for just that! in life and writing.

    Dieting... uh! That's such a bad word. It spells disaster for me.

  10. Okay, Christy, we won't call it dieting. We'll call it a lifestyle change:-)

  11. I am the panster who became the plotter! And I still deviate from my plot and replot at various stages of the novel. I only have 10,000 words left!