I sat down to work on my new work-in-progress recently. I'm what is lovingly referred to as a "seat of the pantser" which means that I am in awe of people who, before they even start writing, have fully plotted out the book, know their characters intimately and even have chapter by chapter detailed synopses.
Here's how it works for me. A situation pops into my head. Closely followed by a main character. This generally occurs at a very inconvenient time in the middle of the night, leaving me blindly trying to find a pen and paper on the bedside table, followed by trying to decide whether to risk my husband's wrath by turning on the light or braving the cold and sneaking out to the living room.
I then spend a few days (or weeks) pondering if there is really a story here. It's one thing to have a great situation, it's another to try and spin it into a 90,000 word compelling plot. After I've ironed out a main framework, I sit down to start writing.
There are many good things about being a pantser. Writing a manuscript is a bit of an adventure, you never quite know what is going to show up on the page. There are many bad things about being a pantser. You never know what is going to show up on the page!
Case in point. On Tuesday night I sat down to write. Having hit a bit of a block at the end of the first chapter and having no idea of where to take the story next (bad thing about being a pantser), I decide to pick up the story at a later point where a long past ex-boyfriend makes a reappearance. So I'm writing away, feeling like I have some vague clue where I'm going, and the next thing I know there's A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT GUY ON THE PAGE. I don't know where he came from, I don't know what he's doing there, he's totally messing up the plot that I did have, and my traitorous heroine has chemistry with him!
So what would you do? Would you hit the delete button and force your heroine to go down the path (and the guy!) you have chosen for her? Or would you want to see where this "new" character takes things, even if it means you'll have a completely different story on your hands?