This is how the process works for me. I figure out who the main characters will be and what their conflicts are, both with each other and their own internal conflicts. Then I plot a story around that. It's all pretty vague, and the whole mess churns around in my brain until I have a feel for what the first scene will be. Then I start writing. That's where I am now, fifteen pages into it.
If you could see inside my mind, it would look exactly like this:
That swirling fog is trying to coalesce into a story. See the dark spot on the left? That's chapter one. It's solid and sure - stuff happening, characters interacting, tension set up. It's reaching short tentacles into the confusing mess behind it, trying to find the right elements to pull together for chapter two.
See the small yellowish dot in the lower right portion, the itty bitty spot that's barely visible in my mind? That's the rest of my life. Thanksgiving and Christmas are in there, along with family obligations, house cleaning, cooking, and my perpetual list of errands. Embarrassing, but true. As that solid core of story gets larger, and the churning mass gets smaller, the tiny yellow spot will grow. By next April the yellow spot might fill half of my brain and I will be able to pass as human for short periods of time. Until then, please bear with me.