A lot of writers want to dive right into their first drafts and start amassing pages. Though there are those novelists who claim not to outline, upon questioning (and I’ve asked many of them) I usually discover that they do outline in some form, though they don’t always write it down. Or they do write it down, but they don’t consider note-taking to be outlining.
The value of an outline is that it allows the writer to explore the most dynamic way to tell his story, without spending days and weeks writing hundreds of pages and committing to story elements that may not survive the next draft.
When we don’t outline, we are at the mercy of our immediate impulses alone, without the basic confidence that comes with ruminating over time on the most dynamic version of a story.
Outlining is often misunderstood as “figuring the novel out beforehand” — but this is not the case. Without the element of surprise, we’re not making art, we’re making widgets. The process of outlining involves developing a relationship to what you’re attempting to express through exploring characters in conflict.
Without doing this beforehand, the writer is often in bondage to his thinly explored idea of his story.