As a pantser I never know when I sit down to write the first words just how the story is going to play out. I have a destination in mind, but I figure out the route to take as I go.
But that’s not to say that I write blindly. I’ve found that if I simply sit down and start typing the next scene without having given any thought to it it typically takes me two or three times longer to write than if I plan out the scene, roughly, in advance to putting my fingers on the keyboard. I spend so much time between sentences and paragraphs just figuring out what comes next.
So I’ve gotten into the habit of plotstorming – brainstorming the upcoming plot sequences – for each scene as I write. We have two dogs, which I take for a walk every afternoon. Depending on the weather and my time we usually cover 3 to 4 kilometers, which takes us about 45 minutes; plenty of time to think. I find that my brain really starts to kick in and ideas begin flowing near the halfway point of our walk. I use this to work through plot blocks, too.
The other advantage of plotstorming is it allows me to pay attention to the pacing of my story before I write stuff. When I wrap up a scene and head out to plotstorm the next one I can figure out whether I need an action scene or a character development scene next – fast or slow. I can pay attention to how long it’s been since there was a plot twist or development. Make note of what threads haven’t been touched in a while.
I first started doing this with book three (Magestone) and with each book since I’ve seen a decrease in the number of scenes I’ve had to later cut, add, or drastically revise. (I did actually do some major revisions with Secrets… but that was because I’d gotten a character completely wrong, not because the pacing or scene selection was necessarily wrong.)
I’ve come to really value my plotstorming time, be it while walking the dogs or driving somewhere or doing chores. That’s really when the story gets created – the time in front of the keyboard is simply choosing the words and getting it all down.