I'm currently working my way through Dave Farland's new edition of Million Dollar Outlines.
He suggests, and rightly so, that there are two main types of writers: the discovery writer and the outliner.
Of course it's not quite that cut and dried.
Essentially, there are a hundred kinds of writers, but they all fall on a scale somewhere between discovery and outliner.
So what do I mean by those terms?
A pure discovery writer never thinks ahead about what he's going to write. He sits down, begins writing, and discovers where his writing will take him. A VERY pure discovery writer won't even have a preconceived story idea in mind when he begins writing.
A pure outline writer won't write a word unless he has a detailed outline of every detail of the story, from beginning to end, and will NOT deviate from that outline in any way.
But there really are very few pure discovery or pure outline writers. We mainly fall somewhere in between.
Even a heavy discovery writer will begin writing with a general story in mind, or maybe the end of a story in mind, or maybe a character who needs a story in mind.
A heavy outline writer (at least a smart one) will allow himself to let the story take him in a new direction, taking some time to readjust his outline to reflect that.
Each type of writer has his own challenges. For example, a discovery writer may end up with a mess of disorganization at the end of months of writing that will need so much editing that it hardly seems worth the effort; while an outline writer may be so wrapped up in the outlining that by the time it comes to writing the story he's bored with it, never getting beyond the outline in the process.
Personally, I can't imagine sitting down to write with no preconceived notions of what I'm going to write, though I'll suggest that doing such a thing is an excellent exercise for getting over writer's block or for getting the creative juices flowing at the beginning of a writing session.
But I do lack a certain amount of skill in the area of outlining.
That's why I'm reading Dave's book. I'll let you know how it turns out.