I’ve been writing novels for about twenty years now, and although I have lots of first draft stories, I don’t have one product that is marketable! Not one! In twenty years. (Well, okay – there is one – one that I submitted to Harlequin that received an awesome, personal rejection with a request to see other works – I never followed up.)

For all of these years, I have told myself I am a pantser. I don’t plan, I just dream up characters and tell their story, writing by the seat of my pants — thus, I’m a pantser. I have a vague idea of what the dark moment will be and, since most of what I write is romance, I know that there will be a Happily Ever After. Way back in the early stages of my novel writing, I tried plotting a scene-by-scene outline of exactly what was going to happen. The outline turned out to be about eighty pages long and by the time I finished it, I had no desire to write the book because I already knew what was going to happen – validation that I am a pantser!

Except – what if I’m not? Or don’t want to be?

Can a pantser become a plotter?

I’m about to find out!

My last story is about 180 pages of ‘stuff happens.’ A lot of STUFF HAPPENS! I got really sick back in February and haven’t returned to writing since – so I printed a hard copy of the work-in-progress and the first thing I noticed was that TOO MUCH stuff happened! In fact, I think I told a trilogy in 40,000 words – seriously, in my attempt to figure out what happened next, I included three valid plots: There is a former boyfriend who stole everything from the heroine, including her design label; there is the discovery of the 100 year old diary that reveals a crime that means the current day heroine and her family don’t legitimately own their land; there is a feud between the families of the hero and heroine that dates back 100 years; and there is a horse theft ring.

Did I mention that I ‘planned’ to write this as a novella?

Okay, stop laughing! No, seriously – stop! Even this old lady can learn from her mistakes – maybe. That’s why I’m downloading Scrivener, even as I type (yep, multi-tasking! I’m also drinking coffee! Talent just oozes from my pores! Yep, that’s talent, NOT fear-induced-sweat!)

In case you don’t know – Scrivener is a program for writers! I’ve been hearing good things about it for years. It has me excited (and anxious in a not good way – anxiety lump of fear lodged in my gut)! So, yes – I’m glad I am making myself try something new, even though the thought of learning a new program is scaring the spit out of me. I’m 60 damn years old – guess I’ll soon learn if this old dog can learn new tricks!

There is a temptation to turn this into a blog post of a few thousand words – because as long as I’m writing this blog, I have a legitimate REASON (not excuse) for not opening the Scrivener tutorial and getting down to business.

So, like the smart person I try to be – I’m going to end this now and get to work! Wish me luck. Lots and lots and lots of LUCK! And patience. This old brain of mine is already aching just thinking about what is coming! So, taking two Tylenol and I’ll let you know next month how this experiment went!

Have you written today!

Terri Rich

Terri Richison (writing as Terri Rich) lives in Clear Lake City, TX with her husband and a giant Great Dane (giant even by Great Dane standards). She is working on self-publishing women’s fiction and avoiding getting a pie in the face if she doesn’t produce pages for every critique session! PIES OR PAGES! Terri started telling stories almost as soon as she could talk – she learned everything she needed to know about storytelling at her grandmother’s knee. Craft however, is something she is still learning – those damn commas give me nightmares!


  1. I got Scrivener a while ago, took a look at it, messed around with it for a bit, and then told myself, Nope, not for me. But when I started back on my fantasy, I decided to try it again, and it was like night and day. I will admit that I do not like creating in the software. I still use regular ole Word, and then drop it into Scrivener (SCV). But I have absolutely come to depend on SCV for keeping facts straight. I can drop in pictures I find on the internet of what my characters look like, creatures, places, etc. I can refer to notes about spelling, time line issues, plot points. It’s a great tool for that kinda stuff – at least for me, anyway.

    As to how it helps when you reach THE END (formatting and such, well, like you my dear OLD friend, I need to actually finish a project before I can play around with those functions.

    My advice, take the time to figure it out. It just might be worth it to you in the end – and it might help with your journey to be a bit more Plotter-like.

    1. I too love my ruts and staying in my comfort zone – that’s why I’ve resisted buying this software for so long. On the other hand, sometimes there truly are better ways of doing things and I suspect Scrivener might be one of those times. That’s why I bought the software instead of downloading the free 30 day sample – If I own it, I’ve spent good money on it, then there is an obligation to use it! At least I hope so!

  2. I bought Scrivener about two years ago, per the advice of Other Kay (Hudson). The SCV icon is still sitting there on my desktop flashing ‘Look at Me’ and ‘Try me out.’ When I read about it I was convinced it would be perfect for me–keeping historical facts straight and the rest of the book organized. I read a lot of the instructions, watched the videos and immediately fell back into the ‘comfort’ of my good old Word documents. Now I really feel the peer pressure (Thanks, Terri and Anne-Marie!) to go back and try again. Maybe I will do that.

  3. Kay, from what I understand it SHOULD be a great help to do exactly what you are hoping – keeping facts straight and the book organized! Let me know how it turns out for you. I’m slowly making my way through the tutorial – slowly!

  4. For me, Scrivener has been incredibly helpful because I can drop thoughts, reminders, and dialogue snippets into the notes for each scene and either incorporate them or ignore them when it comes time to work on that particular scene. As opposed to what I used to do, which was get to the scene and say, “Now what was I thinking about adding in here two weeks ago?”

    I’ve also been known to rearrange the files/scenes when I realized that some plot turn needed to come earlier or later in the story, so it’s super-simple to just move that scene around.

    As for outputting, I wouldn’t worry about the formatting too much. It’s still developer-ese, in my opinion, and if you’re going to format for print, you’ll have to do all that in Word, anyway.

    Way to go, Terri! Looking forward to seeing the new(er) story when we get together in July!

    1. Oh yeah, I have to get something together for critique group …
      So far, Scrivener is beating me – well, the combination of Scrivener and having a grandson here around the clock this week – and most of next week – but no worries Guess I better get my BIC and do some writing!

  5. Good Luck!! All the luck the universe has to offer! I know you’ve got a New York Times Best Seller just waiting to be written! I would recommend a side of Chocolate to go with that Tylenol! Chocolate is the cure all for EVERYTHING! Even unknown electronics!

    1. Chocolate is ALWAYS a good idea! Why didn’t I think of that. You know what else would be great – chicken soup – LOL
      Seriously – thank you for your encouragement!

  6. I haven’t been doing much fiction writing lately, but I do all my blog posts, book reviews, and articles in Scrivener. There’s definitely a learning curve, but for me it was worth it. Now Word is usually my last step rather than my first. As for plotting vs pantsing, I like to have a general road map, but the details pop up along the way.

  7. Kay, I think that’s more or less what I’m aiming for – a general road map. A plot that goes from start to finish. When I start with just characters, they have the ability to take things in too many directions, as the last story demonstrated.

  8. I’m thinking you need to give outlining another chance. Not an 80 monster that leaves nothing for the girls to noddle with along the way, but maybe a 20-30 page “road map.” You’ve learned at lot in 20 years: not just about craft, but about the business of publishing. By now, you should understand that if you intend to publish your stories, then knowing the resolution can’t be the end all for you. As the writer, you need to know how the story will end and figure out a way to tell the story so that your readers will continue turning pages until they find THE END!

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