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.