I am neither a pantser nor a plotter. I have my own method. It’s worked for me so far.
Pantsers write without a structure in mind and plotters outline and then fill in the blanks. The pantsers and the plotters. I never really got this distinction. The grey area between these two extremes is just too huge. Experts tell you to do what suits you best. I figured it out, for me.
I did write my first crime thriller (to be published next year) as a pantser. It took several rewrites and several years and a lot of muddling about. I want a better method. Fun as it was.
The second time around (I am penning my second thriller, a sequel) I thought I would try the plotting method. Total Fail. Got writer’s block. So that’s out of the window.
This is what did next. I wrote out about half the novel (rough first draft) and then stopped. This is usually where I get into hot water.
I decided to flesh out the characters in greater detail. Not the main characters (protagonist and villain) because I already knew them well. But there were the minor characters who weren’t as vivid in my mind as I would have liked. So I wrote out detailed physical descriptions, personality traits, goals, motivations, and interviewed them, asking them all sorts of questions. This also included the characters who play bit parts. It took time and at times seemed a futile exercise. But I carried on. Some insights I got surprised me.
It wasn’t a magic pill. After the exercise was over, it wasn’t as if that I knew exactly what was going to happen.
I picked up the draft where I had left off. The protagonist was in the thick of it already but now I knew how the minor characters were going to create even more hurdles. All of them had serious personality issues. There would be consequences.
Even then I did not plot or outline the rest of the novel. A few chapters were done this way (the last 3-4 chapters) but the rest were written out. They were written very roughly, not bothering with grammar and paragraphs. Quite basic really, not like the first half of the book, which was also a rough first draft type of thing. But in the second half, there are mostly half sentences, dialogues without tags, and plenty of notes and questions to myself. The chapters are still about 1000 words or more; I was certainly not writing an outline. This is where I am now. Hope to finish in a month or so.
I will write a proper first draft next year (hopefully in the first 3-4 months) and then finish the second draft in the next 3-4 months. If I manage it, I’ll give myself a break for a month or two and then go back and polish it up. I think it will be faster than the first novel I wrote, but it’s not as if I will be churning out book after book. I am just one of those who is slow. But at least I am clear about the story now, before I have written out the first proper draft. That’s what matters.