Outlining is recommended for a successful "big novel." (Albert Zuckerman, Writing the Block Buster Novel.) Outlining helps to organize the story so you can make it the very best it can be. It appears to me that a good outline makes the writing part SO much easier!
My DH has a tendency to say, "Writing is easy for you." To which I usually answer, "Yes, the writing is easy. The hard part is molding it into something an editor will want to buy." I'm thinking the outlining can make that hard part easier because:
1. I can develop characterization. Zuckerman writes that you can't just know your characters. You have to LOVE them. You have to know them through and through, their backhistory, their inner thoughts, why they do what they do, what can be expected of them, how they can surprise everyone. You need to know your characters thoroughly.
2. I can develop the plot and know where the story line is going. This allows me to write with the greatest freedom so I can fully develop the scenes I am writing and bring out the best and worst of my characters. I can see how that would create more tension in the story line and draw the reader more into the action of the plot.
3. I can tell a better, stronger story when I have a map to go by. That says it all. I want a strong story with strong characters. Even if it is far-fetched, I want it to be believable if not realistic. And I want my readers to think, "I have to watch for her next book." With a plan on the table in front of me, I can delve deeper into the interiors of my characters and write them stronger, better, more intensely.
I reread the chapter about the outline process last night. Today I will be rewriting my outline. My novel is about three women, three generations in a family whose lives are woven together into a tapestry. Not an unusual situation for a novel. But I can see from the first outline and from rereading Zuckerman's comments that I need more conflict. I need to clarify the principal characters and their conflicts. And I need to tie them together with more detail. I need to let my imagination run free as I brainstorm concepts for scenes that will let me do what Maureen advised long ago, "Just write a good story."