I could never be a pantser. For me, it's plotting all the way - and here's why:
I'm a control freak
I'm not the kind of person who can head out for a walk without knowing where they're going, and it's just the same in my writing. I know pantsers often say it's boring to write when you already know where you're going, but for me, it's too risky to head off without a road map.
I like the step-by-step approach
For me, plotting first breaks the writing into two stages: coming up with ideas, and expressing them as clearly as possible. I'm aware of using different skills at the different stages - and of course, the editing that follows is different again.
I'm the anxious type
Having a plan first allows me to check the idea works as a whole before starting, saving me from excess worry.
I'm used to working this way
It's how I've written essays and non-fiction for years, so feels quite natural to me. I'm really not saying this is the way to write - I wouldn't dare suggest there is a definitive way! The key is knowing what suits you, I think. I have done 'pantsing' in the past and just feel that, for me, it wastes too much time and the uncertainty - about the project as a whole, the destination and the route - is stressful rather than exciting to me.
I tend to spend longer plotting than writing the first draft, with character notes on index cards and different degrees of plot outlines. I also like to include word count targets for different sections to keep me on track. Again, that's something that came from essay and dissertation writing. I've always tended to find it hard to write enough words, so using interim word count targets is something I started doing to help me.
Do you plan? Or are you an adrenaline-fuelled pantser?
I wrote this post in September 2011 and am republishing it now as it still holds true. I've tried a NaNoWriMo in the meantime, with a bit of a plan but far less than usual and it didn't work at all. I tried to be more spontaneous and just focus on the messy first draft, I really did, but I'm just meant to be a plotter :) Original commenters: if you're still reading, do you still feel the same?