There are as many different ways to initiate a novel as there are novels, but the approaches can generally be boiled down to three:
The term pantser stems from the phrase “flies by the seat of their pants,” essentially meaning that the planning stage is either non-existent or minimal.
Pansters allow their creativity, for better or worse, to define the journey of the story. They maintain the freedom to ask questions of the characters during scenes and allow the story to gravitate organically.
It does however come at a cost. Driving the journey blindly can lead to taking turns which drift away from the original idea of the story and there is no map to lead you back. It can become frustrating for the writer, who may find it easier to start another piece of work.
A plotter is someone who meticulously plans out their novel before they write it, mapping out the plot and characters in detail before the creative art of writing begins.
The advantage of such advanced planning is that you will know specifically what is going to happen prior to writing it. Some authors find this an advantageous method of avoiding writers block. The process is said to be faster than the other methods, although when factoring in the planning time I’m not sure that is actually the case in practice.
The downside of this method of writing is that it is by its very nature rigid. Sometimes you will have a great idea as you write and implementing it in this methodology means going back through all your prep work and updating to reflect each new twist or idea.
For plotters, I think the Snowflake method is an excellent outline of creating the structure. The article http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/ demonstrates how an author can build a story up from much smaller blocks to ultimately reach the completed manuscript.
A plantser uses a combination of pantser and plotter, and the majority of writers will fall into this category. They will however generally sway more to one side or the other. I would consider myself a planster who does edge more towards the plotting side. It might only be a sentence or so for each scene, but not to the extent that a new idea means days of updating sheaf’s of documented planning. I feel it allows me the flexibility to change the story where it is beneficial to do so but keeps me working in the direction that leads to a finished draft.
What method do you use to write? If you are starting to think about writing a novel, which would be the method that most appeals to you?