"Plotter or Pantser?"
I get asked this question a lot and I always answer, "somewhere smack in between, and it involves a giant notepad and smelly markers."
One of my best friends writes beautiful annotated outlines with bullet points and varying fonts. Another goes from a tight, chapter by chapter synopsis, while a third has everything neatly ordered in the three-act structure. I prefer a grape Kool Aid smelling explosion on paper. I can't help it; I'm a visual person and my thoughts and characters climb over each other trying to lead me in varying directions. If I were an accountant, it would be called multiple personality disorder. Thank God I'm a writer.
I like to let things marinate in my head before starting to work and then I just love to dive in. And that worked for a while. But after several books and editors who like to know what my next book is going to be about (trust me, I've tried the, "you'll just have to be surprised!" tactic--it doesn't work), I've learned that plotting is imperative. It helps you write your novel faster and more precisely. Having an outline or a road map also helps to keep a tight tension line and toss in red herrings appropriately.
I tried to write clean, orderly outlines which always came back from my agent with indentation B circled and the note: "This stopped being an outline and started being chapter two 10 lines ago." I tried the three act structure worksheets but always abandoned them after act two, certain that I needed a musical number and should get started on the Fosse-like choreography right away. I tried to be professional, I did. But I like bright colors and things that smell like delicious fruits one could never find in nature.
Oh, and TWIX. TWIX is plot food.
I need to see my novel and my plotlines splayed out so I can tease one into the other and write the scenes of intersection.
It doesn't work for everyone, but it works for me. And it's so darn pretty!