Plotter or Pantser? How I go about writing a novel #amwriting #MondayBlogs

Since I wrote the first chapter in a new manuscript today (Whoo Hoo!), I thought I’d answer a question I hear often. Friends, fellow authors, readers, and family regularly ask how I write. One word at a time? That’s not really the answer they’re looking for. Do I use a special computer program? Or do I write with pen and paper? Am I a plotter or panster?

The first question is easy to answer. I use good ‘ol fashioned Microsoft word. Yes, I’ve heard of all those writer programs: final draft, StoryMill, Celtx, Scrivener, yWriter. But I’ve never actually checked them out. As a recovering lawyer, I’m intimately acquainted with Microsoft Word. In fact, we once had a computer geek come to our firm and give a lecture about Word in which it turned out the lawyers knew more about the program than the geek did. True Story. So, yeah, I’ll stick with Word. There’s enough new technology I constantly have to learn. I’m not adding a writing program to that never-ending pile.

I don’tjournals only write with my computer, though. I’m absolutely positively addicted to my notebooks. For each novel I write, I have a journal. The journal contains notes on ideas, lists of characters, and a chapter outline. I also put notes on any research I perform in there as well as ideas for red herrings and plot devices.




The journal I choose must ‘fit’ the book I’m writing as well. I just started a romantic comedy about a woman who is overweight and doesn’t see her own beauty. This is the notebook I chose:


Plotter or pantser is another question I often hear. I’ll admit I didn’t even know what a pantser was the first time this question was posed. Can I just blame that on working in Dutch for the past decade? No? Bummer. Anyway, I find this question hard to answer. Because I’m both. On the one hand, I plot out my mysteries – who’s the bad guy, the red herrings, etc. On the other hand, I always listen to my characters and they often take me in a direction I wasn’t expecting. So sometimes I have to cross out pages in my lovely notebooks and start again.

That’s it. There’s no magic formula to writing. At least I haven’t found one yet! Let me know if you do find it 🙂


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  1. I’m glad someone else is speaking up for Word. Why make things more complicated than they need to be? I write on paper first, anyway, so really don’t need anything more than Word.

    1. I think a lot of people (and writers are people after all) get excited about new gadgets, including new software programs, and let the excitement take them away from the actual work they shoud be doing – writing. I don’t understand how a new program will make me write better. *Scratches head* I have Word set up in the correct format for Amazon and a little cheat sheet to switch it to Smashwords format. What more do you need?

  2. Ahh, that journal addiction! I know it all too well! 😄

    I’m a WORD-ophile who recently switched to Scrivener for writing. In terms of organization, it’s amazing, and works well with MY brain! LOL! But I’ll never totally leave WORD and use it every day for something or other. 😉

  3. I use Word and my tiny brain has no time to take on new writing software. I will only cross that bridge if and when I think it’s absolutely necessary. This is my first novel and used notebooks and wrote by hand in the very beginning and still use my hand-written notes as support. Plotter, Panster? a bit of both too and yes, most definitely, I will find the ‘right’ notebook to start on my next novel. That is important to me. The notebook has to help create the mood. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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