Thursday, July 11, 2013

Author Nancy Klann: The Writers Debate

I’m delighted to welcome ‘new-to-me’ author Nancy Klann here today to talk about her latest release, THE CLOCK OF LIFE, and to discuss ‘the writers debate.’

First, let me tell you a bit about THE CLOCK OF LIFE

    In the small town of Hadlee, Mississippi, during the 1980's, Jason Lee Rainey struggles to find his way among the old, steadfast Southern attitudes about race, while his friendship with a black boy, Samson Johnson, deepens.       By way of stories from others, Jason Lee learns about his larger-than-life father, who was killed in Vietnam. He longs to become that sort of man, but doesn't believe he has it in him.
    In THE CLOCK OF LIFE he learns lessons from the past, and the realities of inequality. He flourishes with the bond of friendship; endures the pain of senseless death; finds the courage to stand up for what he believes is right; and comes to realize he is his father's son.
    This story explores how two unsettling chapters in American history, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, affect the fate of a family, a town, and two boyhood friends.

THE CLOCK OF LIFE won “Best Unpublished Novel,” at the San Diego Book Awards held in June 2010, under the title, “Fate Carries Its Own Clock,” and it’s been adopted by the English Department at Los Medanos College for inclusion in their 100 Freshman Composition class. THE CLOCK OF LIFE was written to be a work of literary fiction. Since its publication, due to the age of the protagonist and the subject matter, an interest is growing among YA readers as well as the adult audience. 

*NEWS: THE CLOCK OF LIFE has named as a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and is a finalist in the Readers’ Favorite Book Award Contest. Winners to be announced Sept. 1st. In addition, it’s a semi-finalist in The Kindle Book Review’s 2013 Best Indie Book Awards. Finalists to be announced Sept 1st and winners Oct. 1st.* 
Here’s Nancy to tell us about ‘The Writers Debate.’

Hello all, and before I get into the age old writers debate I’d like to thank you, Mason, for the opportunity to guest post on Thoughts in Progress.  

My writing is primarily character driven. I like to play with language, aesthetics and feelings. My style is to work things out on the page without an outline. Sometimes my characters go off in a crazy direction that wasn’t called for and I have to edit them back, but that’s the way I like to do it.

During one of my drafts of THE CLOCK OF LIFE I asked a fellowThe Clock of Life Book Jacket Front Nov 2 JPG writer friend to take a look at my work and give me feedback. This is my fictitious account of how the conversation went with this hard-core, pre-plotting, heavily outlined, structure nut. 

    “Nancy, what you’ve got here is fine, but your protagonist isn’t following The Hero’s Journey.”
    “I know, because I’m not writing The Hero’s Journey.”
    “But you have to.”
    “Because that’s what stories are about – structure. Without structure, a story falls apart.” 
    “This one is character driven. It’s evolving organically,” I say. 
    “Then it won’t hold up. You have to have structure. You do know the twelve steps, don’t you?
    “I suppose you’re referring to The Hero’s Journey twelve steps rather than the AA twelve steps, right?”

He nods, amused with my attempt at humor.

    “Sure I know the twelve steps. Ordinary World, Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, etcetera, etcetera, and I know the 7 point plot system, but plot feels contrived to me.”
    “How about outlining?”
    “Not so much. I’m afraid I might stick to the outline even though my characters don’t want to follow it.”
    “They can’t rule you. You have to take control. Look at all the great movies based on The Hero’s Journey.”
    “Star Wars. The Wizard of Oz. Shrek.”
    “Shrek?” I say. “Really? Shrek’s what you came up with?    

He shrugs.

   “Okay,” I say. “I’ll see your Shrek with Memoirs of a Geisha, and raise with The Secret Life of Bees. Definitely character driven stories.”
    “Fight Club,” he says.
    I come back fast with, “The Kite Runner.”
    “Clash of the Titan,” he says without a beat
    “Middlesex.” Pow
    “Harry Potter.” Boom Bang
    “Life of Pi.” Zow
    “The Matrix.” Crunch
    “Huck Finn,” I say, knowing I’m not going to pull much more off the top of my head, and will need a Google search soon. Aarrgghh.

It seems he’s in the same place because he thinks for quite a while, and then says, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” And, I’m grateful the conversation is over – for the time being – because we’re both laughing so hard.

So, which team are you on? Team Sensitive and Character Driven, or Team Structure Nut?

Nancy, thanks for joining us today. I’d have to say I’m with you on character driven. Even with a good story, readers have to like the characters to follow the story.

Now for those who haven’t meet Nancy before, let me share a bit of background on her with you.

She tried her hand at writing short fiction while traveling for work in advertising and marketing, as a creative outlet on long plane rides. That led to her signing up for writing classes, writer’s conferences and local workshops.  

Her goal ― to create unique stories told in a distinctive voice. She’s happy to say some of the stories have garnered awards and publication in anthologies. Eleven of them are published in her collection of short stories titled, Like The Flies On The Patio

Short stories were her primary genre until one morning while in a workshop at The Santa Barbara Writers Conference, she read an excerpt. When she finished, the instructor asked what she was doing for the next couple years, because, “What you have written isn’t a short story, it’s a novel.” After a good deal of foot dragging she came to realize the subject matter was compelling, and she penned the novel, THE CLOCK OF LIFE

Nancy is now working on a new novel loosely based on the time she and her friend found an old diary in an antique shop and took a road trip to find the lady who wrote in the book. She says the girls will not be named Thelma and Louise, but the story will take them cross country and they will get into all sorts of trouble.

For more on Nancy and her writing, visit her website at

Thanks everyone for stopping by today. What are your thoughts on Nancy’s question - So, which team are you on? Team Sensitive and Character Driven, or Team Structure Nut?


  1. Nancy, thanks again for joining us today. I enjoyed your writers debate, but I still think characters rule. Wishing you much success.

    1. Mason, Thanks for having me. I enjoyed writing the guest post for your blog.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Nancy.

    Nancy - It's so interesting that you bring up the issue of character-driven vs structure-driven stories. I think there's room in writing for both kinds of stories, and there's room within the same story for character development as well as structure. I wish you success.

    1. I agree Margot, there is room for both in every story. I suppose it all comes down to the comfort level of the writer, and more importantly, the reader.

  3. I love the "conversation" It made me laugh.
    There are a lot of successful novels that are written during National Novel Writing Month where you use your creativity to write without outlining and editing is a no, no until you are finished with 50,000 words. Then there are writers like Jeffrey Deaver who write 150 pages of outline! Whatever works for one writer might not work for another. The key is to do what works best for you to keep the creativity flowing.

    1. Cozy, Just reading about the size of Deaver's outline makes me want to run from my writing desk. Such discipline he must have. So much structure! It's certainly something to admire.

  4. The characters provide the structure for my stories so I guess I use a combination of both techniques.

    Nancy, interesting book! I've always loved reading historical fiction but now I'm becoming more and more interested in the idea of modern history stories. It's weird to think of the 80s as history but they really are.


  5. A lot went on back then. Flashbacks in The Clock Of Life take us back to the 60's. Much history there.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.