There are two primary modes of writing: there are the “plotters” (that’s me) who lay out the path of a story and then start filling in that path, and there are the “pantsers” who start with an idea and run with it until an ending presents itself. Neither approach is as pure as that. The plot of my current novel has taken a few unexpected turns along the way but it keeps returning to the original course. I’ve read pantsers who say their work has taken an unexpected turn (big turns, like “my secondary character wound up being the protagonist”). I’m guessing that the changes a pantser makes between first and second drafts are more substantial than that of a plotter. I’ve heard of new works emerging from the stuff that got cut from the first draft, which is not unexpected from unbridled creativity.
Not that plotters are immune to shifts. One of my secondary characters has a lot more depth than my protagonist. I’ve needed to give her a much richer back story than my primary character, and that looks like a rich vein for at least one more novel.
For me, a good day is 1,000 words. I’ve had better, but my average is well below that. It’s hard not to feel inadequate when you see a fellow writer say “good day today, 3,000 words”. But I’ve also noticed that they tend to be the ones who say things like “first draft done, now to cut 180,000 words down to under 100,000!”
That kind of cut sounds like a deeper level of hell to me. Even if the stuff that winds up not making it drives another book, my editing process is more concerned with pace, flow of the story, making sure a scene is something that keeps the reader engaged. The idea of going “okay, there characters don’t fit the story” and pressing cut or worse — delete makes me uneasy.
I’m sticking to plotter.