Sometimes, I know (in broad strokes, at least) what’s happening as I’m getting words out of my head and into the computer. Sometimes, I can “see” how the story moves from one event to the next; other times, it takes more effort.
When that happens, it feels like I spend too much time fighting against roadblocks, but time spent thus doesn’t have to be a waste. It helps me evaluate what’s already taken place and what I think should take place next and determine if I’m right or wrong. I like internal logical consistency: stuff that happens (or doesn’t happen!) should form a navigable whole that’s free from unintended contradictions or inconsistencies. That means sometimes, I have to revisit a few chapters (or all of them) and edit out such happenstances. I’d like to think I catch them all, though it’s possible (probable?!) that some remain.
I keep a separate file I call my “outline,” but it’s really an unstructured collection of possible directions I might pursue, whether its characterization or plot development or dénouement. Sometimes I actually stick to that “outline.” Other times, it at least helps me eliminate arcs I once considered viable. I don’t delete anything from it: sometimes I realize an arc I thought was unusable suddenly makes perfect sense. There are a handful (maybe more than that) of elements unresolved from Beneath the Vault of Stars that I intend to tie up in books II and III.
Right now, while working on Chapter III for Between the Lion and the Wolf, I’m reaching a place where I have a rough idea of what’s happening now and what has to happen next, but building a bridge between the two is more troublesome than anticipated. What I’ll probably do is a) write a bunch of garbage that I’ll end up deleting1, or b) I’ll spend some time away from the keyboard and come back to things later. (Some of the better ideas I’ve had spring from bouts of insomnia. I think. Maybe that’s just the sleep deprivation talking.)