I think this concept bothers writers a lot. More than most would be willing to admit. I've seen many suggestions on discussion boards: writers telling other writers how they should be writing their stories. Does that mean there's only one tried and true method of writing? I don't think so.
Then what is the best way to write? Is it just sitting down and writing what comes? Is it planning out the characters first? Creating an outline? Writing various scenes and dialog?
The answer is: none of the above. The best way to write is the way that works best for you.
If you're a seasoned writer, you probably know exactly what works and what doesn't. But if you're relatively new to writing, you may not.
So how do you figure out what works? Well, that depends on you. When you sit down to write, what's the first thing that pops into your head? Is it a scene or line of dialog? Is it backstory, character development, or plotline? If it's the former, then you're probably a free-writer. If the latter, you're probably a planner.
Next: which is less complicated?
My personal opinion on an individual's writing process: none of them are complicated, especially if it works. They just seem complicated to other people.
A non-planner might find a planner's process complicated since she probably finds outlines and backstory tedious, and limiting to her creative process. She just sits down to write and sees what happens.
A planner might find a non-planner's process complicated because, after the first draft is finished, she might find that she needs to take the story in a completely different direction. Or a character develops in unforseen ways. Or something else happens that requires chucking a good portion of the story, perhaps even starting over. That's inefficient, messy, and complicated to planners.
So, what do we do when we sit down to write? We write what pops into our heads.
I'm a planner by nature. I can't function if I don't have at least a general plan in front of me. And I get really annoyed when non-planners try to tell me I'm doing it all wrong, that I'm limiting muse. *sigh* My muse doesn't know what to do without a plan. :)
I try hard not to push people into writing the way I write - just because it works for me doesn't mean it'll work for everyone. There is no one way to write. The best way to write is the way that works for you. And the only way to find that is to try lots of things until you figure it out. It's a sad truth, but no one ever said this writing thing was easy.
When you sit down to write, pay attention to what pops into your head. Is it scenes and dialog? Or is it outlines and big picture stuff?
Or is it a mix of both - that gray area that isn't all planning and isn't all free-writing? I think this is where most writers land. But it's far too complicated to get into right now, so I'll talk about that in my next post.