I'm a fogwalker, preferring that title to that of pantser. I know, I know, it means writing by the seat of your pants - which in some ways makes perfect sense, sitting here at the computer. But still...
I, unlike Annette, tend to write almost completely in the fog. I get started with a word or a phrase, a title or an idea, and somewhere in my subconscious the entire book is there, waiting for me to write it down.
I'm very careful not to think too much about the book, about where it's going, about the plot, about the ending - especially on the first draft. My first draft is completely unconscious, or at least as unconscious or subconscious as I can make it. If I start thinking about what's going to happen next, I get out of bed and write it down before I can think about it too long. If I start thinking about it, I lose my enthusiasm for that part of the book, I get bored. And the worst thing that can happen to me? I get bored.
My kind of writing, this first draft kind of writing, is all about faith. I call it this fogwalking (and thanks to my friend Mary Forbes for the name). What it means, and I hope this makes sense to you, is that I begin to walk. I can't see in front of me so I have to have faith. I have to have faith that the next word, the next sentence, the next paragraph or page or chapter, is going to make sense, is going to fit into the story that I don't really know I'm writing.
I don't let myself think about what's going to happen next. I very carefully avoid it. My subconscious - at least I believe this is true - is very much smarter than I am and I don't want to get in her way.
This faith is relatively easy for me because I've been doing this for over twenty years. When I first started writing short stories and poems, I just wrote, hoping that everything would work out in the end. Now that I write novels, I know they're going to work out in the end, and that knowing, that faith, is crucial. If I didn't have it, I'd give it up.
This is not to say that I don't - occasionally - do some plotting though I never write an outline. But I tend to do that at certain places when I'm writing. When I'm halfway through the book I go right back to the beginning and do a set of revisions - I add in things that I need to, bump up things that need to be, delete things that don't belong. I think - because I've been writing and reading for so long - I have a pretty accurate sense of how story works and when I'm doing that draft, and the final draft, I know what needs to be done.
Make sense? Probably not - and I don't blame you. I've been trying to explain this for years and it's not easy to do, not unless you write the same way.