Thanks for that take, Michael. As I say, there’s no right way to write. Each writer is different. Each story is different. And if you’re writing on spec and on your own time, a hybrid approach such as the one you describe, can serve the writer well.
That said, if a writer is hired to do something on assignment, I would suggest that’s a different thing entirely. You sign a contract and the script is due in 10–12 weeks. For everyone’s sake, I’d say the best thing to do is break the story BEFORE typing FADE IN.
I’m sure there are pro writers who DON’T do that, go at things more instinctually, however my guess is they are in the minority. And for writers who are at the front end of their writing journeys and have NOT built up the experience and confidence they will find the story along the way, I still say breaking the story in prep is the way to go.
That’s no rule, each writer must find their own way to write. But the chances of reaching FADE OUT in an expeditious manner are much better for writers working out the story including the Protagonist’s arc in advance of going to draft.
Thanks again, Michael! And best of luck in your writer’s journey!