I’m not sure why it took me this long to realize this, but outlining should have come first. Perhaps it was because I enjoyed the escape from my professional life, which involves constant outlining and boundary-setting on my normally free-wheeling writing style.
Academic writing requires discipline, starting with some premise of a motivation or research question, anchored in empirical observations (or theory) , and organized by testable hypotheses (or theoretical propositions).
Fiction ain’t like that at all, and yet outlining is still a good way to set reasonable bounds on my writing even in pursuit of this ultimate novel I’d like to write.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Well, it sure took me long enough to figure that out.
Thankfully, I have plenty of material that will STILL work, and plenty of plot devices and back story that won’t change, but much of the overall outline is showing me that the ultimate focus of the novel, and the “endgame” I had planned on months ago will be very different.
Maybe I wouldn’t be at this point where outlining is making such a difference had I NOT gone through the process of writing a series of “snapshot” chapters or character descriptions-through-dialogue-and-telling-not-showing.
This “uncover the fossil I’m digging up” is the method that Stephen King uses, in which he claims he doesn’t quite know where the story will go until he begins writing.
Brandon Sanderson, by contrast, does the opposite–focusing on outlining first before writing the first draft.
After about 500 hours of work and about $3,000 invested in art and drafts (I’m finally serious about this, and wanted to “burn the ships”, in a way…#Project2020), I guess I’ve figured out that I’m somewhere in the middle.
So, we’ll see where this ends up.
TL, DR: I am now outlining and things look a lot different than I thought they would. But I like where it’s going.