A Pantser’s Use of Scrivener’s Scene cards

November 6, 2012

As I’ve said in the Nanowrimo threads, plenty of times in plenty of places, I’m a pantser…not a plotter.

Cat at laptop, writing fiction

Mitten’s 2012 NaNo effort


I’m working without an outline and very little pre-planning.

Essentially, in order to gear up for 2012 Nanowrimo, I just started talking to myself. Well actually, talking to myself and listening.

Basically, it went like this:

“So, what you want to write about?”

Me: “People. I think this should be character driven.”

“Okay. How many people do you want be writing about?”

Me: “Three’s a nice uncomfortable number let’s do 3.”

“3. Good, so um, how many men, how many women?”

Me: “That’s ah, one woman, older, and then, uh, a guy and another woman, yeah.”

“This isn’t, ah, going be like a Lifetime movie triangle thing is?”

Me: “I beg your pardon?”

“Just kidding, ha ha h– oww! You punch hard. So tell me about the lady, older?”

Me: “Let’s make her a writer. Older than the guy… [Spoilers].”

“Okay, I can accept that in a non-Lifetime-movie, elevated kind of way. And the guy? How about him?”

Me:  “He’s some kind of editor, or agent, maybe… [ more Spoilers].”

“And this is nothing like a Lifetime movie?”

Me:  “Oh ye of little faith.”

“Fine. So what’s going on with the young lady?”

Me:  “Ah! Here’s where it gets good, see,…[Even better Spoilers]…

At this point I open up Scrivener, and try to get down a few ideas of how I want all this to look. It’s pretty basic. I don’t actually write plot points– that stuff stays in my head fermenting. It’s the only way to get that yeasty batch of ideas to rise.

I firmly resist putting them down until they just come spilling over the edge of the bowl. Nearly full-formed in the struggle to be noticed.

So, What I get down in Scrivener, are craft elements. Here are a few of my cards so you can see what I’m talking about.

I run a short Q/A card to remind myself quickly about what I eed to keep in mind.

But then I write out a longer version of it too, with examples of what I mean – for the moments I’m too weary to figure out my own shorthand notes:

Scrivener's Corkboard/ index card view As you can see, I also set up the Chapter cards  with the same info–

so each one will help me keep pace on the craft elements the story requires.



I don’t really need precise outlining.

For me, the ideas really will never stop coming. I’m never paranoid that I’ll run out of them. What does worry me from time to time is that I’ll forget that better writing doesn’t come accidentally. That there is a craft behind it. And I keep reminding myself about those craft elements.

The gift of storytelling is there, I was born with that. It’s the skill of writing stories that preoccupies me the most, for many of us this has to be learned.  And I learn and re-learn that each and every time I start up, edit, refine, and send out something.

Let’s hear from you, how are you pantsing it this November?

8 Responses to “A Pantser’s Use of Scrivener’s Scene cards”

  1. luanaaraceli Says:

    The only planning I did for my nanovel were two basic character sketches for my two mcs and answering some world building questions since the world itself plays a huge part in plot development.

    I don’t outline, but if I get stuck I’ll make a list of potential scenes I want to write and go from there.

    I like the chapter cards you have set up–I might try it out sometime if that’s okay with you 🙂

    • ejrunyon Says:

      Hi there, luanaaraceli,

      Please, use them all you want, and share this site with any of your NaNo buddies.

      I really envy genre writers, they’ve taken on a world to build, as well as the characters and plot.

      Feel free to use the card ideas as you can. If you come up with additions to it that have to do with World building, please share them with us. That would be very cool.
      Come visit again, a new post is due soon, or you can check out the archived posts, too.


  2. Mil Holmes Says:

    I used scene cards and plotted out the outline of the story. The first few chapters were fine, followed pretty close. By the middle of the book, I was writing and the scenes very loosely matched the plot outline. Editing it now, for the mechanics. Then will look for a critique, or two.

  3. ejrunyon Says:

    Hi Mil,
    Thanks for the comment.
    Sounds like you’re moving on in spite of the sharp turn your story took. Good. Sometimes with plot plans we lead and sometimes, as writers, we have to follow.
    Check some of the other archived posts, you may find some ideas to help you along.

  4. Breanna Says:

    Good info. Lucky me I found your blog by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have saved it for later!

  5. Sebastian Says:

    I was curious if you ever thought of changing the structure of
    your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or two images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

  6. anthem2004 Says:

    Most people who are aware of my extensive use of writing tools think of my style as planning. Maybe so, but not when it comes to words in the manuscript. I use a lot of techniques all at once, and also at different stages of a work. Of course, I use Scrivener as sort of home base, where everything comes together. I use a technique very similar to yours with the cork board. However, most of my time is spent mind-mapping with Scapple. When it comes time to write the narrative, all this stuff goes on displays to my left and right with Scrivener in the middle, set up with a simple blank page. Then I pantsy the story with all those reminders, in various forms, a glance away. It’s my style and technique and is what works best for me. Furthermore, it’s constantly evolving.

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