When it comes to free piecing , I am really only hand stitching now.
Seams are really the key to patchwork unless you are working collage style. But building by piecing is a different world.
Piecing without a pattern make you think. Maybe that is what attracts me. The challenge of both functional and visual building.
I guess the beginnings could be called a plan, but they become more of an intention and maybe even a point of reference in most cases. Sometimes I draw and then sometimes I just gather scraps at hand. It seems more directly linked to making do.
Seams can be made 3 basic ways, the classic kinds where you put 2 pieces of cloth together , face to face, and stitch a line. This can be done by machine, or by hand.
You can fold the cloth over a pattern or in this case not and stitch with an overcast stitch ( like paper piecing ).
You can fold one piece, overlap and stitch it to another, as in applique.
Free Piecing originated as it relates to no pattern. That is building a shape or motif on the fly by seaming and slicing until you get the image you imagine. or close enough.
Over the years, truly free seaming is what evolved for me. That is making seam however they work best to facilitate the design building process. Mix it up.