I've talked before about being a "Plotter". I don't write without knowing everything that's going to happen in the story (but leaving room for surprises to happen along the way).
So what does that look like? Well, for me, in many ways it's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
First, you have to decide what difficulty level you're going for, what length of project. Is it a 200-piece puzzle, or a 550-piece? Then: is it the picture of puppies, the sailboat, or the bridge of the Enterprise?
After that is the hardest part: starting. You see, it's not just a puzzle. It's a puzzle that has been knocked over.
Because you don't have any of the pieces to begin with. Here and there on the floor you can see a couple of puzzle pieces, but on their own you have no idea what they are or how they fit into the bigger picture. But following the trail of pieces leads you to more, and eventually you find the mother lode: the stash of all the puzzle pieces somewhere underneath the coach.
Of course, the work isn't over yet. Oh no. You have to sort through the pieces, find which goes where - tossing out any pieces that you think belong to another puzzle altogether.
It's hard work, this, but satisfying. You get to see the picture come together. And it's a fascinating experience, at times, to find that what you thought was a bird's eye is actually a black shirt button, and that edge piece is really an odd-shaped center-piece.
But once the picture is complete, you can start the actual writing, knowing in full what you're going for, what the actual story is. Because if a character isn't heading for a specific destination, they really aren't headed anywhere at all.
Right now, in planning Book 3 of The Sleepwar Saga, I'm at the early piece-collecting stage. I have a handful of disparate segments, but I'm just on the verge of them leading me to the main pile of spilled pieces.
And soon will begin the main planning of the book. And then, the writing. I just can't write about the basket of puppies without seeing what the completed jigsaw puzzle looks like in the first place - writing about a few loose puzzle pieces just leaves me with a mess of purposeless prose.