So it's finally happened... I've taken a step that part of me secretly hoped would never be necessary.
I've created an outline for my novel.
It might not seem like a big thing to a lot of people--it probably is even how a lot of folks would start off a project like writing a book. However, it hasn't ever been my way of approaching it. A lot of that comes from the fact that very often when I've started my novels I don't have all the mechanics/geography/history of the world worked out, and writing the first draft is kind of like exploring a new country.
That's a lot of what makes this different. I have a "complete" novel... I'm working on completing the gaps I've found in the world and don't really need the wide-open expanse before me to settle in. What I need now is to get a firm grasp on the story-line, how each piece builds into the plot and drags the reader along. The outlining is going well from that vantage point--I'm finding the chapters that just don't go anywhere, determining what needs to happen instead, and shoring up the smaller gaps in other areas.
Does this mean that my next novel will start out life as an outline in Word? I'm not sure yet, but it just might happen. I do know one thing--whether it's an outline or just some basic notes, I will be writing a lot more before I sit down to really get going on the next one.