Now that I'm coming to the end of a long and arduous revision process, and beginning to think about the new book I'm going to write, I'm wondering if flying without a map is the best idea. Sure, as far as being creative goes, and letting the characters guide the story, it's brilliant, but in terms of how long the rewrites take, it sucks.
I've discovered that while I have a very strong idea of what the story is in my head, by the time it reaches the page, it's not quite as clear. Character and plot arcs don't appear on the page they way they appeared in my head. The logic of their decisions is muddied.
The idea of outlining terrifies me. I know it's a guide, and not set in stone, but I know myself. If I veer off the road for whatever reason, I'll beat myself up about it, and I may miss the opportunity to find gold in a scene the character demands but doesn't exist in the outline.
But at the same time, this new book is complex. There are several plot threads that need to be addressed, and I have more central characters than I've ever dealt with before. I'm a little scared to dive in without a map because I may end up with 60 000 useless words that don't tell the story I want to tell.
If you're an outliner, explain the pros and cons to me. How lenient are you on yourself if you stray from the plan? And the big one, does it actually work?