Writing for me is a lot like developing a screenplay for a movie. At the end of the day, whether a story is told, written, or produced on the big screen, they share a commonality, each involve the most important moments in time for the story’s protagonist and supporting characters.
After identifying my story’s protagonist, setting, location, period, supporting characters, etc., I start to build scenes for the first couple of chapters. I don’t go crazy with outlining the entire novel or short-story, I simply start with a rough sketch of the first act and let my creativity juices evolve beyond the early stages. As is often the case for many writers, as the story develops, the story changes to accommodate circumstance, the probable versus plausible, and protagonist state.
I've used storyboarding in the past as a way to visualize and link scenes to arrive at critical points of inflection and climax, much the way a marketing professional would use them to pitch an idea to a potential customer. You don’t have to know how to draw or paint to develop a storyboard; in my case I use written cues within a frame or frames to depict what my protagonist should feel, think, do, and react to in a specific scene or series of scenes.
Once I have the scenes for a chapter approximated, I beat them up to make sure I have achieved consistency and flow. More importantly, I need to answer two important questions; how has my protagonist changed during the course of the chapter and is it what I intended?
It’s no small wonder that great stories are adapted into screenplays.