Some are complete “pantsers” – they fly by the seat of their pants, never knowing what will happen next until they’ve written it. To them, the journey is an adventure. They’ve no clear idea of their destination and if they go up a few blind alleys, or end up hanging over the edge and looking for new ideas, who cares?
Others are “plotters” – that is, they work out every last detail of a story before they start their first draft. Their outline is like a sat-nav; it tells them when to turn and which route to follow and doesn’t like it if they deviate.
Both have their good points and their bad. Plotters usually need fewer drafts as the story is complete before they start, whereas pantsers may find themselves having to go back time and again, drastically altering things to accommodate new twists and turns. Plotters run the risk of getting bored with a story they know all too well while pantsers are as surprised as their readers, and kept on their toes.
I’m sort of in the middle. I tend to start off as a plotter. I know where every story thread is going to lead, what will happen to every character and how the whole thing will end. Every new project starts with a basic outline, which grows into a detailed outline (or treatment), which grows into a scene by scene breakdown. I know what happens where and when, in which order, who is involved, why and how. It allows me to be sure the story makes sense and has “legs”, it helps continuity, and I am never led into a cul-de-sac.
However, when I come to write, I fine new ideas muscling in, things that make the story stronger and need to be added, while other parts turn out to be weak and disappointing and need cutting out. Characters let me know they are not happy, and they need to be listened to. (I know. I’m a grown up with imaginary friends.)
Often the finished manuscript bears only a passing resemblance to the original outline.
My way of taking the journey is like someone using an AA route planner, but who is happy to turn off when they see a signpost that points to a better way of reaching the destination, which rarely, if ever, changes.
Plotter, pantser, or somewhere in between. I can’t see that it matters much as long as, at journey’s end, you have a story that’s satisfying, coherent and well written.