Initially, I thought doing a detailed plot outline would rob me of creativity, but then, in a bout of writer’s block, I finally clued in that I was blocked because I didn’t know where the story was going. I started plotting more, and it made it so much easier for me to actually write.
Now, I write a somewhat detailed outline. At the start of this novel, I knew about 80% of what was going to happen. There were still some holes, but I didn’t worry about it. As I wrote, my plot outline changed – it’s just a guideline, after all – and the plot holes fixed themselves. For me, using an outline is absolutely essential. I can’t hardly get writing done without one.
Different people approach outlines / writing novels / writing in general in different ways. My suggestion is that if you’re still feeling frustrated, then play around a bit. Try an outline and see what happens. Try creating a list of possible solutions. Use index cards. Use sticky notes. Use a white board. Use color coded pens. Talk it out with a spouse / pet / stuffed animal – not so that they understand, but so that you do. They’re allowed to look confused. How about a wheel, put the possibilities around it, spin and see what happens? Whatever strikes your fancy. Basically, try something, anything until you find what works for you. If you’re feeling stuck, then it’s not wasted time because you’re not writing anyway. What do you have to lose?