My first few books (long ago and never available) I just sat down and wrote from cover to cover without ever looking back. Later I learned it’s called discovery writing. It’s a rush. I recommend it to anybody. The problem is that it is really emotional and exciting for the writer, but not cohesive for readers. So after writing a dozen books that way (translation, SLOW LEARNER) I reluctantly tried a few loose outlines. Then I even tried writing with a formula. Much better results for the readers. And not much less exciting for me, either.
But I can’t start with an outline. Once I get an idea I let it foment for a long time (usually because I’m already writing other stuff). And when I have some free space I let the best idea to date surface. Then I sit down and just start writing. I write chapter after chapter until I get “stuck”. Usually that means I’ve run aground with plot or characters. Then, I turn to the tools. I make character sketches and character arcs and plots and an outline. Then I go back and fix all the fun I had. Then I get to work on the rest of the story (whatever size).
I can’t believe how many books I wrote before I found out there is a “Hollywood formula” for movies. It works for plays and books, too. I first heard about it from Lou Anders. And since en I’ve looked around for anything I can find on it… Even whole books. I really helped me to focus, so I highly recommend it.