I have found, in writing, that I need to get deeply into a project before I know where it’s going. I typically need to write 20,000 to 30,000 words before I have a good feel for it, and know who the characters are and where they’re going. Sometimes I know the plot of the book, other times I don’t. But I definitely don’t know the world or the people in it without that first drafting process.
I have met writers that have a few thousand words, or maybe a thousand, and get lost in the plotting and outlining process. I knew a writer that said he needed to get the “story beats” down first. He was so insistent on that, that he refused outright to do any writing until that was done. When I asked him what “story beats” were, he didn’t have a concrete answer, and what I gleaned from his answer is that he puts the story arc on index cards. That’s fine and dandy if it helps you get on the page. But since it didn’t help him, and he was effectively blocked by trying to do it, I’d argue it’s not useful.
It’s like many things: it’s a lot harder to rock the boat when you’re rowing. Get into the project. Learn to draft. Put down the words. Trust yourself, and trust story. Tell the critic that says it’s not worth it, no one wants to read it, you don’t know how to do it, and all the other bullshit that critics like to say, that they’re on vacation for the next 30 minutes – set the timer and just draft. Write. It’s called a “rough” draft for a reason – but it’s a helluva lot harder to edit it if it hasn’t been written yet. So write it.