In genre fiction circles, we talk a lot about two broadly-defined writing processes. Are you a plotter or a pantser? There are writers who are almost exclusively one or the other, and there are hazards to each. George Lucas plotted out his Anakin Skywalker prequels according to a rigid self-defined canon, with the result that all the characters and their interactions suffer a terrible flatness. George R.R. Martin writes novels by the seat of his pants, to the point where his series A Song of Ice and Fire is likely never to be finished, because he keeps coming up with more cool stuff that has to get into the manuscripts somehow. The most-writers-are-in-between piece writes itself, so we’re going to skip right over that and do something different.
When I was working on my first novel, my process involved a lot of literal lucid dreaming, staring into space, long ethnographic interviews with key fictional field informants characters about the world they lived in, and big surprises when other characters finally let me see what they could do. As my most devoted alpha reader observed, “You don’t needto have a dissociative disorder to write fiction, but apparently it helps.” Well, um, yeah, it does. For years, I looked at those parts of my process and concluded I was a pantser.
But that ignored the other phase of my process, which took at least as much time, gave at least as much pleasure, and was as important to getting drafts into some kind of complete form as the dreaming phase was to getting drafts started.