"Strong Enough" was written without an outline. It was a free fall that I value but don't want to repeat because It was a long path. It was precious for its lessons, but I hope I've honed a few techniques! A particular lesson learned was outlining. Do you know what an outline is in hindsight? A timeline. By applying a timeline, I brought "Strong Enough" into order. I've outlined almost everything since.
But there's a new lesson. Outlines can be too confining.
During NaNo 2010, I wrote a first draft of "Graffiti" with an outline. Sure inspiration cropped up unexpectedly, and I followed it, but I had mile markers that I returned to. I see now that the constraints limited me. I have a first draft that will mostly be tossed aside. Was this a waste of time? No. For this story, I needed to write this draft so that I could write a better version. I'll be starting over, but with a richer instinct for the depth of this Dystopian novel.
In 2011, I pushed through "Lily" and was grateful for the outline. I discovered new aspects and then meshed them with my outline. I have a solid story that now needs a ton of research to take it to the next level. Three cheers for outlines!
2012's NaNo was a .... dare I say failure? Nah, that word has no business in process unless you quit. I had a loose outline but without mile markers, I floundered. Finally I admitted, I just wasn't interested in my story. NaNo people will tell you to just write and let the story go where it will. They're 100% right, but I was at an important editing stage in "Strong Enough" and that was where my interest lay. I don't regret it. And since then, "Wanderlust" has percolated on a back burner until a comical approach bubbled up that I think is much more interesting.
This month, I've given myself the goal of writing the first draft of "Anonymous Blog of Mrs. Jones." I struggled against my outline last night but this time, I pushed through and told myself to see the outline in a fluid state--when I come up for air, I'll check the outline, like spotting the shore when you're swimming in the deep. I'll write for now with the shore insight, and use a timeline to bring order.
Just do it.