I’m probably viewed as one of the craziest people when it comes to story planning.
First - never plan for your players. Ever. You will always be viciously and amazingly surprised. This is a good thing.
I am a bottom-up prepper. I have everything in my campaign world planned. 30,000 named NPCs with backgrounds, descriptions, some with stat blocks, connections, goals, etc. My game world is also NOT static, it self-adapts. What does that mean? If an NPC dies, so does everything they affected in the world. Their goals and dreams? Gone. Their knowledge? Gone. Their story hooks? Gone. Will someone replace that fence that was masquerading as an undertaker that now died because the PCs got him mixed up in a deal gone sideways? Yes. But, it won’t be the same character, and probably not even the same profession. A new undertaker will certainly take their place and a new fence will likely find a profitable business venture, but it won’t be that NPC.
The core of what makes linear and long-range planning work (begin MY opinion soap box) is: Understanding and Ascribing Goals.
Every person and every organization has one or more goals. Each goal is essentially a story or plot hook. Where goals intersect there is tension. Where actions cross there is competition. Where tension and competition meet: there is plot.
This frame of mind works incredibly well because it becomes SUPER easy to track even thousands of story details with very little effort. Does it matter that Clerics of the Temple of Justice aren’t out preaching against violence? Of course it does. Now, why would they not be?
NOW comes the part where the Narrator/GM/world-builder needs to actually do something. You need to allow your mind to just gin-up whatever reason, no matter how initially flimsy. Well, turns out a lot of their militant members have been cut-down recently on local roads trying to preach that very message, so the Temple is willing, but unable to continue their efforts. They need help. How does this matter? Because Friar Hogart knows some obscure piece of lore about an alignment of cosmological forces that is driving up unrest.
But, wait - that’s not the only plothook: there’s a merchant organizing attempting to start up a racketeering operation that are hiring some of these “bored” attackers.
So on and so forth. It’s EASY to generate hooks, story points, and even lore elements all as you go and STILL CONNECT them in ways that become clearer than a Greek Prophecy about Tragedy.
Wait, wait, what does this have to do with linear story writing?
Doesn’t matter that the players aren’t following your first, 2nd, 20th plothook: they’re still following the plot. Why? Because the plot doesn’t give a rat’s tooth if the players participate: the events will happen REGARDLESS. That ominous cult? Doesn’t care about some murder hobo group. They want their bodies from the graveyard for their rituals regardless. Where do the PCs matter then? They affect the final outcome. So, they ignored the possible warnings of the bartender because they didn’t talk to her. No problem, a key contact refuses to show because she’s afraid of traveling on the main road out of the city, and the PCs hear about it through a different contact. Now, they’re right back on track. THEY (the PCs) get to decide how and more importantly WHY they interact with your story, but it never derails because it’s just events unfolding as they already would have. The PCs can just take any thread by the reins and affect the various outcomes.
(edit: hopefully I answered it, I know the answer may not seem direct. But, the point is: any time a player does ask such a question that seems to defy logic. You can also respond like an improv artist: “Yes, and” or “No, but”.)