How I Stopped Worrying and Became a ‘Pantser’

It is said that authors have two ways of working. There are the “plotters” and the “pantsers.” Plotters outline every plot point, every character’s journey, every piece of dialogue. A “pantser” writes by the seat of their pants and lets the story and characters take the lead. When I was writing my novel, I was most definitely a “pantser.” I began chapters with an idea of where I wanted it to go, but then the characters took over, and it was as if I was taking dictation.

But for my book on antisemitism, I thought “plotting” was the best way forward. I had an outline before I began, knowing exactly where I wanted to investigate successful methods of fighting antisemitism. I had all the categories lined up perfectly based on my previous knowledge of the subject.

Then, I began interviewing dozens of sources, and all my plotting went out the window.

But it’s better this way. The advantage of “pantsing” in nonfiction is that you can let the facts take you in new directions rather than letting your preplanned direction dictate where you put the facts.

Since originally launching my Kickstarter in December 2023, much has been happening at a dizzying pace, including campus protests that have broken out across the country. My book will not be a rehash of all the news, but it will provide the core reasons for what has been happening.

Every nonfiction book, no matter how nuanced and complicated, needs to have a “news peg”—a timely element that can be pitched to the media to promote the book. I’m hoping that my investigations into the silencing of Jewish voices and the amplification of non-Jewish organizations that pretend to speak for Jews will provide enough intrigue to get the media covering the book as news. Then again, the mainstream media’s tendency to ignore these points of view is part of the problem I’m writing about.

It goes against my instincts as a journalist not to report on everything I’m discovering in my research for my book on fighting antisemitism, especially in light of recent news. But my days of begging other pubs to run my stories are over. It’s all going in my book. I’m going to use my Substack newsletter to preview excerpts for paid subscribers. Stay tuned. I’m “pantsing” as fast as I can.

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