Tess Gerritsen, a thriller writer I much admire, on her blog had a very interesting pair of entries. They were about how she wrote.
She is a pantser -- a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants, where she has no idea who the bad guy is when she first starts out with the book.
I'm amazed that anyone could do that. I'm a plotter, a planner, a list-maker extraordinaire. It drives me crazy to go grocery shopping without a list, so how on earth could I write a book without at least a little planning?
She does it, and does it well, so I'm not knocking it. It's not for me, though.
People ask me how I do it. How do I plan so much of the story and not get so bored out of my mind that I can go ahead and write it?
The trick is to have faith that your characters will surprise you. A minor character will leap off the page and take over -- like in WHERE LOVE GROWS, my Superromance that will be released in October. My heroine visits a farm only to be introduced to a guy who surely loves his porcine pets. He was such an unexpected, loveable character that I plan to use in him in a spin-off novel (please, Lord, let my editor like it!)
I don't want to know EVERYTHING about my characters -- just enough to have more than a conversation of smalltalk with them. Later on, like I do when making a new friend, I'll discover new and small things. I'll discover my heroine hated Spaghettios or never got to wear a pair of red ruby slippers she coveted (I'm making this up about these characters -- but it's got my creative juices flowing).
For me, it all comes down to the old saw about luck being preparation meeting up with opportunity. If I wasn't sure where the story was going, I might be impatient and ignore these subtle clues my brain is using to help me improve the story. As it is, I have learned to listen ... but I'm still not able to leave home without the map.