Are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?
Writers are usually split up into two groups: Plotters and Pantsers. Plotters plot their work before they begin to write — and sometimes in such excruciating detail they’ve basically already written the book but in outline form (I once knew an author who wrote a 40 page a outline of her book). Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants. They open up their computer or notebook and just start writing. Stephen King is famous for working this way. He says he will continue to write until the book is done — when that is, he won’t know until he gets there.
But, like with so many things, plotting and pantsing isn’t a binary. It’s not one or the other. It’s not on or off. It’s a continuum, a sliding scale. There are some people who plot down to minute detail — like the 40 page outline — and there are those who do absolutely no thinking in advance, don’t know what they’re going to write until it appears on the page and don’t stop until it’s done. However, for the majority of us, we don’t go to such an extreme. Many writers are “planters.”
Technically, a plantser is someone who starts off with an idea or a character. They know who the protagonist will be and who the antagonist is. They know how the story will start and probably how it will end (although not always).
The most dedicated plantsers may even write down the major turning points (also called “tent poles”) of their story. A brief sentence or two describing what happens at the inciting event is written. The first major turning point where the protagonist commits themselves to their goal, the detective determines that they will take the case, the party sets out on their journey, or, in a romance, where the two protagonists (hero and heroine, hero and hero, heroine and vampire, whatever) meet may be briefly described. The climax or point of no return is determined. The black moment, or all-is-lost moment, is determined. And finally, there is a general idea of how the story will end (aside from the criminal being brought to justice, the party returning home safely, or the couple committing to a more permanent sort of relationship.
A plantser will probably also determine their protagonist’s internal and external goal, motivation, and conflict, determine how the characters will…