The decision to create an outline for a work-in-progress (WIP) is truly an individual one. Most writers are divided into plotters or pansters. Plotters would not dream of starting their novel without first creating an outline. Pansters literally fly by the seat of their pants, preferring to let the muse run the show and wait and see how things turn out.
The Hybrid Writer
When I start a new WIP, I start out as a panster but then after the first draft, I morph into a plotter, creating an outline. That makes me a hybrid and I bet I am not alone.
While writing my first rough draft, I tend to just get the words out of my head and onto the written page. I find once I am at 70-75k words, the whole manuscript gets unwieldy. I do not usually assign chapters initially unless I see a good or natural hook to start or end a chapter. I was trying to figure out a way to get a better handle on the whole thing.
One of my writer acquaintances, Helen, posted her outline using sticky notes that I thought might work. I gathered some poster board and used different colored sticky notes. I alternated pink, orange, yellow and green for the different chapters and scenes.
Each scene in each chapter gets its own sticky note. That way if I have to move up a scene or move it back, I only have to move the sticky note. The outline gives me a bird’s eye view of the layout of the book. Some chapters have too many scenes and need to be split into two chapters. Some chapters do not have enough scenes. Or too many scenes slide by without one of the major characters being present. Then I use the blue sticky notes to mark what issues or concerns still need to be dealt with in the book.
Each day, I try to pull off two to three sticky notes and work on those issues for that day.
Whether you are a plotter or a panster or a hybrid, every writer needs to do what is best suited for them and their personality. Do whatever works best for you to organize the chaos that is the first draft.