I think most of you have at least once read some sort of hint in what I post or comment that will make you realize that I am the consummate pantser.
In fact, the thought of spending more than fifteen minutes on something resembling plot development fills this little heart with dread.
And yet, my first draft wasn't all that chaotic. If anything, it felt a tad too linear to me, because I focused too much on one part of the story.
How, you may ask, did I do it?
Simple. I knew.
Before I started the first line of my first draft, I knew how the book would end.
Every single thing I wrote either went towards character revelation or to progressing the story line. Of course, I decided to end the story earlier than that, but when I started rewriting, the new end was fully formed in my mind.
To me, the end is my Polaris. Without it, I meander aimlessly, looking for a point for my story to go. With it, I still get to meander all I want (straight from point A to B is soooo boring), my wanderings now always have some underlying reason to them.
That makes a vast difference.
When my first draft was done, I knew that I would have to tighten the story up considerably. So I used the important plot points to make a rough structure for my rewrite. So yes, I do plot, but after I write. So now whenever I open my rewrite, I know what needs to happen in the near future. But those plot points shift (I think I've been through three significant changes to the outline) as I find ways to make later points possible earlier to pick up the pacing. The fact that those plot points are so flexible means that I get to still play while I write.
But none of the changes to the structure would have been possible if I didn't know how the story had to end.
So.... About you: Plotter or Pantser? How do you approach your story? What keeps your story in line?