Novel outlines are great tools to help you maintain flow, pacing, and direction when it comes to any genre of novel writing. At the same time, you don’t want to be so constrained by your outline that you don’t allow your characters to develop in ways you never.
Some writers are very strict about their outlines when it comes to character backgrounds, mannerisms, habits, as well as their plots, subplots, and obstacles. Others just have a general idea and pretty much let their characters determine where the novel goes.
Outline or ‘free flow’?
You’ll find a number of strategies for creating novel outlines that are broken down into very technical aspects including number of plot points and/or subplots that should be contained your book. You’ll find story arc outlines suggestions chapter-by-chapter suggestions. You might be surprised to discover that some writers don’t care about all that but just have a general idea of the beginning, the middle, and where they want the book to end up.
Stephen King (Carrie, It, The Shining) claims that he doesn’t outline, and look how well his books turn out. That doesn’t mean that even a great writer like King didn’t have to learn through trial and error.
Ken Follett (The Pillars of the Earth, Edge of Eternity, Eye of the Needle) did/does spend a lot of time developing outlines.
It’s really up to you. Just remember that what works for one writer doesn’t always work for another. Even the greats differ in opinion regarding the benefits and/or drawbacks of creating an outline.
While an outline can help an author stay on track when it comes to the ultimate goal, whether the manuscript is character or plot driven, don’t let an outline box you in when it comes to developing your characters or those plots. Sometimes, the most unexpected things can happen in a book. A new idea, a road not taken (or vice versa) that can thrust your character into new challenges, adventures, or decisions along the way.
Writing is an adventure. Not a science. Do what feels right for you.