All stories were born in ink, solid and immutable, their plots, characters and destinations known the moment the writer gets them on the screen.
That is a lovely fantasy. In reality, characters are born in one paragraph and die with the delete button without anyone ever knowing. The same with subplots, irrelevant taxi scenes, random villians and other screwy things that the writer’s brain barfs up.
I can’t plot things out ahead of time. I’ve tried but like a lung transplant from a raccoon it never takes. I wake up everyday wondering what the heck I’m going to write next. It’s a wonder I get any sleep with all that suspense.
I write in layers. First I start off with a scene or an idea and I let ramble. It rolls along, morphs and mutates with time. There are a few core ideas that remain throughout the story, but the rest is all a delightful sucker punch. Sometimes writing a one paragraph teaser helps me stay on track, and sometimes afterwards I’ll go back and rip entire characters and subplots out, shaping the story until I get it the way I want it.
This is a crazy, stupid, insane way to make a book but it’s how I manage to create a book in the first place. There are a few important things that anchor the whole chaotic process. Number One: Have a working crap-o-meter that detects bad writing, flimsy plots, unlikeable characters and artificial sounding dialogue. Number Two: Be ruthless when you detect any of this nonsense. Number Three: Give the story time to develop and allow your ideas to age and simmer.
Does this work? It does for me but it definitely takes some faith in your own ability and patience with the craft.
Happy writing, however you do it!