Monday, March 20, 2017

Pantsting with Savannah Jezowski

Hello! I have Savannah Jezowski here with us today to talk about Pantsting, a writing style characterized by opening up the document and going. It's a fun style that I thoroughly intend to write a book with some day ... but I keep having the whole thing planned out ahead of time. The Ankulen was my most Pansted novel, though.

I've not yet had an opportunity to read Savannah's work yet. I have Five Enchanted Roses on my kindle ... but I tend to be pretty meh about B&B retellings (that's a story for another time), and have been having trouble getting into the first story in the collection.

Anywho. Over to Savannah!

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By the Seat of Your Pants—and Your Plot

We have all heard the expression “by the seat of one’s pants,” and whether it refers to the willy-nilly way one approaches their life decisions or the method used to construct a story, the concept is about the same. It’s a “hold-onto-your-pants-this-could-be-a-bumpy-ride” sort of deal.

Most writers are advised to plot out their story before they begin writing. To summarize the parts, outline the chapters, make note of where you plan to foreshadow, where you plan to reveal: in essence, where you plan to begin, where you plan to stop and how you plan to get there. In his book Scene & Structure, Jack Bickham states that “a novelist, like a ship captain, should have a good idea of where he plans to end up.” Does this mean that “Pantsing” is an absolute No-Go for the aspiring and seasoned author?

Not necessarily. Pantsing allows the author to be free to go wherever their creativity and imagination takes them, whenever it strikes them, however it strikes them. This is freeing and exhilarating—and loads of fun. There is nothing like sitting down to your keyboard as a grand idea sparks, and without wasting any time planning or plotting or jotting ideas down (BORING!), you dive in and WRITE. Fast and furious and passionate. Oh, this is a writer in his glory. No boundaries, no rules, no stuffy outlines to follow. Just you and your computer and a world of possibilities. If you are lucky, you can pound out an entire story this way. When the mood hits, you write. When it doesn’t, you don’t.

I have pounded out some amazing short stories like this, and it worked. However, the problem with this approach—especially if you are writing a longer work of fiction—is you write seldom and, although passionately, poorly. By the time you finish your novel, let’s face it—it’s a hot mess, full of winding bunny trails, dropped plot threads, abrupt revelations, a weak ending…huh. I seem to be describing my current work in progress which has missed its self-imposed deadline twice already. Meh.

Some structure, even for the die-hard Pantser, is really a good idea. However, I don’t propose following the painfully rigid structure that best-selling author Gilbert Morris advocates in his book How to Write (and Sell) a Christian Novel. This was the first how-to-write book I ever bought, and although it is full of wonderful ideas, it stunted my writing. I spent so much time trying to outline every itty bitty detail that I never got around to writing the novel. Hence the hundreds of outlined but unwritten novels cluttering my thumb drive. Don’t get me wrong: outlining has its place but it’s not really for me.

Honestly, I am somewhere between the two. A little bit of plotting with plenty of room for creative genius to take over and redirect the story.

If you are a Pantser like me, I really have only one major recommendation. Be prepared to REWRITE. This is where your story will really take shape—this is when you will do the gritty, boring work—the foreshadowing, the tying up of loose ends, removing bunny trails, adding scenes to explain that ending you came up with out of the blue (after an all-nighter, six cups of coffee and a box of ice cream). Is it more work? Perhaps. However, I propose that you’re merely relocating your work load. Instead of doing all the hard work at the beginning, you are doing it after you have the bones of a story before you. By this time, you are invested in the story and your characters, which makes it a lot harder to walk away from because you’ve gotten bored and want to move on to the next grand idea.

Pantsing isn’t for everyone, but if you are going to try this approach with your next novel, I recommend fleshing out a brief summary of where you plan to go. Make sure you have some good Beta Readers lined up—the kind who will make you cry not inflate your ego—leave yourself time for several rewrites and one or two good edits—then grab your writing hat and hang onto it.
Because you are in for the ride of your life.


Savannah Jezowski lives in a drafty farmhouse in Amish country with her husband, wee daughter, two English Springer Spaniels and her adoring cat family. Her work has been published in Ray Gun Revival, Mindflights and the student publication of Fountains at PCC. She is a featured author in Five Enchanted Roses and is the author of When Ravens Fall. She likes books, tea and all things faerie.


  1. I'm not a pantser. :) My imagination is my weak point. :) When I've tried, I've written myself into a mess, but it's interesting to read how other writers handle this and keep themselves on track.

  2. I'm mostly a panster but I usually have a really rough, short outline of things that need to happen. I've never tried hardcore outlining because I think I'd freak myself out, or large chunks would be missing with giant questions marks. :P

  3. I'm with you; too much pre-planning makes me lose interest in the story (it's as if I've already written it, so why continue). I'm finding that pantsting a 5 book series is very inefficient, but I'm on the last one, so it's too late to do anything but enjoy the ride. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I'm a full on pantser. Inspiration comes from a single idea - a comment overheard, a name on a tombstone - that's all I start with. The work usually builds itself. I do have to rewrite, usually because of a timeline issue or because I discovered something juicy hidden within the chapters. One tactic I employ during editing and revision is time consuming but worth it. I use colored pencils, each assigned to a different character or plot line and mark through the text. This allows me to follow a character/plot line from beginning to end, seeking that solid line. At the end, no words should be unmarked. Yes, pantsing does take longer, but I write for myself not a dollar. When the time is right, I'll publish and see how well my method pays off. Until then, I'm soaking up all the advice I come across.

  5. I agree; too much pre-planning makes the story way less fun. Though I've kind of followed the opposite path from you: I started as a full-on pantser, and gradually I've learned to plot a little more before going in.

    Thanks for the great post!

  6. I've pantsed, plansted, and tried to plot my stories - turns out I can be both a pantser and a plantser for the first draft, but I become a bit of a plotter during editing :D. This post was fun to read! I find pantsing short stories to be really fun, because I never know what to expect! I love letting my story surprise me ;).

    ~ Savannah


Hi! Now that you've read my post, hast thou any opinions that thou wouldst like to share? I'd love to hear them!

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