When I wrote my first novel, I pants it. I had a handful of milestones that I knew I wanted to hit and the story meandered to those milestones. Frankly, looking back on it, it’s unreadable. I liked the concept and characters, but the execution was terrible.
For my next novel, Shifting Mars’ Sands, I outlined it. I knew my world and my characters. I knew what they would do, why (mostly, see below), and when. In fact, I wrote to the outline, and it worked well. It had much better pacing , and it held together much better.
That is until I came to the emotional component of the story. By this, I mean how one of the protagonists changed her mindset from a work-first attitude to a work and love in balance attitude. Little in my outline pointed to where or how her attitude would change. As it is a driving point for her character at a certain point, the story switched gears without warning!
For me, it wasn’t a surprise because I knew that’s where I wanted to go. For the reader, I think it’d come unexpectedly. I went back, on the fly, and layered in the proper groundwork, which was in my mind but not on the page. In other words, for a good portion of the story, I was back in the business of pantsing it (flying by the seat of your pants or having no plan). The lesson is if you’re going to outline, then outline everything in the story. A partial outline merely provides the illusion of completeness.
Regarding my first novel, I’m taking the concept along with most of the characters and start over from scratch. This time, I’ll outline it, including the emotional, character change portion, probably using a different color for the text.