Confessions of a Pantser

Guest post by Holly Kelly.

Holly Kelly is a mom who writes books in her spare time: translation–she hides in the bathroom with her laptop and locks the door while the kids destroy the house and smear peanut butter on the walls. She signed with Clean Teen Publishing in 2013. Her first published book, Rising, quickly hit the best-seller lists and has maintained its status on those lists since its release in September 2013. The subsequent books in the series also became best-sellers at their releases, including the fourth and final book in the series—which was released on April 6, 2016.

Her latest series—The Unnatural States of America—will be launching its first book called Cursed by the Fountain of Youth and will release in the fall of 2016!


You can find Holly at

If you think I’m talking about pulling someone’s pants down, you obviously need to read more how-to books on writing.  Or perhaps you know me a bit too well. (I’m kidding!)

No, seriously. The term “pantsing” refers to a writer who does not outline but instead writes by the seat of his or her pants. Well, that’s me. And after beating myself up and trying to fit my round shape into a square hole (no pun intended), I’ve come to accept my pantser status and even appreciate it.

Let me start out by giving you a few pros and cons to pantsing versus outlining. I’ll start with the Outliners.

  1. Their books are well organized.
  2. They have a clear sense of where their story is going.
  3. They easily recognize where they need to foreshadow.
  4. They spend less time editing.
  5. There’s less chance they’ll put their characters into a no-win situation.
  6. They know beforehand what they need to research.
  7. They have a lower chance of getting writer’s block.
  8. They are more likely to have perfectly balanced action/character building scenes.
  9. Generally, they are able to complete books faster than pantsers.

Now that I’ve basically convinced you that outlining is the way to go, I’m going to give you the benefits of pantsing.

You don’t have to follow an outline.

Okay, that may be a tad over-simplified. But seriously, I can’t for the life of me follow an outline. I’ve been a pantser from day one and I’ll likely be one until day number one million. (I plan to keep writing for a long time.) I did try my hand at outlining once. And let me tell you what a disaster that was.

After publishing my first two books, I found myself frustrated at my inability to put out books as fast as other writers around me. I thought if I could outline, I could produce books faster, find greater success, and make more money. So, for my third book, I decided to outline. And I did. I created a beautiful outline—filled with all kinds of details. By the time I was done, I thought I’d come up with a pretty darn good story.

Then, I began to write.

The first chapter went smoothly. I stuck to my outline perfectly, but then as I began chapter two, disaster struck. Actually, it was inspiration. I had a “wouldn’t it be cool” moment. It was such an amazing idea in my mind, I couldn’t let it go. I had to use it! But it took my book in an entirely different direction than I’d planned. Still, I was determined to stick to my commitment to outlining. So, I rewrote the outline with the changes—in other words, I basically rewrote an entirely new outline, minus the first chapter.

Having done that, I began to write again. Chapter two went smoothly until I hit another snag. It was another darned “wouldn’t it be cool” moment. Again, I felt I need to make the change. I mean, the idea was really incredible! At this point, I was beginning to rethink my commitment to outlining, but I’m no quitter. So, I outlined once again.

At chapter three, I just wanted to hit my head against the wall the moment I got another idea. At this point I said, screw it, and threw the outline out the window.  (Not really. It was on my laptop, and laptops are expensive! But, if I’d outlined on paper, I’m sure I would have disposed of it dramatically.)

This book took me several months longer than my other books had, and it’s because I wasted time outlining again and again. But, straying from my outline really paid off. The changes I made were gold. My book made it to #1 on the best-sellers lists and currently has seventy-seven reviews on Amazon averaging a whopping 4.9 stars.

So what did I learn from my experience?

I learned that it’s really bad to compare yourself to others. No two writers are going to have the exact same process. And, just because something works for one person, doesn’t mean it will work for someone else. You need to find out, what your process is. What wakes up your muse, and gives you the best ideas. And then just do it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try new things, but don’t force yourself to do something that is obviously not working, just because others say it’s the right way to do it.

I also learned that it’s okay to write a bit slower than others. I’m never going to be that author who can publish a new book every two months. That’s just not within my capabilities. But, I take pride in the books that I do write. I think I write well, and I’ve found a fan base that thinks so too.

So my message to you—be proud of who you are. Be proud of the work you create and appreciate the process you go through. And, stop comparing yourself to others! Just be the best you can be.


Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

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