I've heard many authors talk about how their writing processes change from book to book. It can even happen from book one to book two in a series.
For some, they swear by outlining and rigorously keep up the same format. For others, it changes from outlining to pantsing and so on and so forth. I am one of the outliners. I love to outline my books because it keeps me going on a straight trajectory. My books tend to run on the long side (hello 106,000 word revised manuscript...*gulp*) and so I need to have a map of sorts to keep me from going on too long.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
For THE WAYWARD DARK (the book I signed with) I started with a seven point plot structure for each of my main characters (of which there are three). This helped me to map out the hook, the beginning arc, the midpoint, the ending arc, and the resolution. I then followed that plot structure to make my outline, mushing together each of the main characters' stories into one flowing outline. If I recall correctly, it was ten or eleven pages of handwritten notes with occasional quotes or reasonings interspersed throughout. It was easy to write the book with this plot structure and outline.
I'm finding that with my new WIP, the one I intend to work on while THE WAYWARD DARK is on sub sometime in the near future, is...a whole different ball game. I've started several seven point plot structures and gotten nowhere with them. I've tried outlining with my tried-and-true bullet points and dashes flowing down the page. They aren't working, so I decided to try something a bit different: I broke the book into four separate parts, and jotted short notes down for what I intend to have happen within each part of the book.
Now that I have that down, I intend to make each part a separate piece of paper (because I have to outline by hand. I find my writing flows better that way, though everything else [drafting, summaries, synopses, etc] works best when typed out in a Word doc). On that paper, I'll go into even more detail about the beginning, middle, and end of each of the four parts.
It's not the normal way of writing. In fact, I don't even know of anyone who has outlined this way before (if you do, don't hesitate to let me know!) but I'm equal parts curious and excited to see how well this way works out. Because sometimes books just refuse to be traditonally outlined. It's weird to say aloud and accept, but it's so strangely true.
I, for one, often feel the pull of pantsing a book but 99% of the time I resist it. It winds up making my books a mess (and again, they tend to run on the long side. Better for everyone that I outline so my thoughts remain cohesive). It's interesting to see how certain books (things we come up with out of our own heads) demand to be written differently from others, even if they're in the same genre, world, or even series.
And this is just how I outline. My world-building, social structure, culture, and magic systems documents, as well as drawn maps of the world, help but always follow different paths to completion. Sometimes the world comes to me before I even start outlining (as was the case with my new WIP), and sometimes I figure the world out as I go (as was the case with THE WAYWARD DARK).
But that's enough blathering. Long side, remember? :)