Planning my novel is, to me, like writing a movie script. I don't write down every little nuance and thing that I want to happen or might change when I actually write it, but I get down a rough version of what I want to happen, with the essential parts marked clearly. Then, when I actually write a certain scene, it's like the director just called "Action!" and it's time to put it into story form.
And it's interesting because this has just been the way I've done it, and I've stuck with it. But today, I just had a scene on my mind that I wanted to write, so I just sat down and started writing it out, with some idea in my head of what I wanted to happen, but not a lot.
Well...it didn't work so well. I ended up with a page of starting the scene, seeing it just didn't 'work', trying a different angle...no, his reactions are all wrong, well let's try this...and at the end of the scene, I just had a bunch of small versions that didn't work well. It was then I really recognized how much that before 'planning' section was crucial to the writing.
Okay, I'm not an expert in film-making so I can't say this for sure, but I'm pretty sure a director wouldn't, in the middle of filming a scene, go "wait, nope, this isn't right at all! Okay, let's try it again, except change all this up here and do this differently. Now try it! Okay, okay....no, that doesn't work. Let's try it a different way!"
Sure, they may make small changes to subtly shift the scene a certain way, but they certainly wouldn't just drastically change the whole scene, right? (Again, could be wrong, haha, but I wouldn't do this ;) That would just not be smart, not to mention extremely frustrating! The director needs to make sure their script is good before they start filming, or else what use is it?
In the same way, this is how I approach my story-writing. It makes me wonder if I could be good at writing movie scripts; it would be something interesting to try. :) But that's besides the point. The point is, it's best (for me at least) to have a plan before I start actually writing.
Now, since I'm not a straight-up 'pantser', I'm not sure if this method works for pantsing, or if the idea of planning anything before writing makes them nervous, haha. But I do know from my own experience that straight-up pantsing normally involves a lot of revisions, rewrites, and problems like getting stuck in the middle of a story not knowing where to go. I think to some degree, it's always best to have a plan, if only so when you get stuck you can use it as a guideline to keep you moving forward.
For a super quick example, here's something I put together just now. I'm writing a scene with two characters, Lena and Dailen. They're dressing up and going somewhere fancy. Here's what I would write as my 'script', and then the real life thing.
"SCRIPT": Lena and Dailen go into their separate rooms to change. Dailen comes out of his room semi-nervous, straightening his jacket. He then sees Lena in a simple yellow dress looking really pretty. He doesn't know what to say for a moment, as she laughs a little nervously and asks 'do you like it?'. He smiles and tries to figure out what to say, eventually just saying, 'you look...stunning', at which she smiles, kind of embarrassed. Dailen then offers her his arm and they walk out of the house together.
At this point, I have a solid idea or 'guideline' to write the scene off of, to make sure I stay on track. And, I've decided to write this from Dailen's POV, as I think it will make the scene more powerful. You'll notice in the 'story' example below, I've made a few slight changes and/or expounded on what I've written for the script, but nothing major. (Note: The 'story' form is just a rough draft and could definitely be improved, haha, but that's not so much part of this example. ;)
STORY: Dailen fumbled with the buttons on his jacket as he walked out into the hallway. He heard a door creak open and looked up, nearly dropping his jaw in shock. Lena stood just outside her door in a simple yet elegant yellow dress, her blonde hair in soft waves and a pink flush in her cheeks. She gave him a small smile, pulling gently on the folds of her dress. "Do you like it?"
Dailen stuttered, not knowing what to say. "You, uh, y-you..." He laughed nervously and smiled. "You look stunning."
Lena laughed quietly and looked down at the ground. "Oh stop it."
Dailen stepped towards her, his voice sincere. "No really, you look beautiful." He offered her his arm, which she shyly accepted.
"Thanks. I, uh...it feels nice to get all prettied up again." She smiled.
And there you have it! As I said, rough draft, but hopefully you get the idea. :) So, did you find this method useful?