I think of an outline like a road map of my entire trip. It can be as detailed or as flexible as I want. Discovery writing is more like climbing in a car and driving with no particular destination in mind.
I don't know a single author who uses the same process I do. If what they do works for them, then they've found their own "right way" and I don't question it. The thing is, you never know what will work best for you until you try it. I started out as a straight-forward discovery writer, but I'm not one anymore.
I've found the best method for me is somewhere in the middle. I do a very loose outline based on characters and plot twists. I know the beginning and end, the main turning points in the middle, and the basic character arcs.
And then I set out on my trip with my map in hand and ready for an adventure. I don't allow the road map to hinder me. If I want to take a detour, I do. If I want to change my end destination or drop a few passengers off a cliff on the way, I do. But I also don't allow myself to meander aimlessly through cities and towns that only lead to a dead end road.
This method seems to get me through the drafting process with as little pain as possible, and then I can focus on the part I really love: editing.
Yes, I really mean that. :)
Here are a couple of my favorite sites for different outlining methods:
The Plot Whisperer
Story Structure by Dan Wells
And of course, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It is based on screenwriting, but the first book and his "Beat Sheets" are extremely helpful for novel plotting.
What method works best for you? And who else is totally in the mood for a sweet road trip now?
J.R. Johansson loves reading, playing board games and sitting in her hot tub. Her dream is that someday she can do all three at the same time. She is a YA thriller author represented by Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.
Her debut novel, INSOMNIA, is a young-adult supernatural psychological thriller due to be released in June 2013 with Flux(U.S.), Heyne Fliegt (Germany), & Newton Compton (Italy). You can find her on twitter, goodreads, her website, or her personal blog.