Today at work, when I went to my break, I sat down with a legal pad to do a bit of outlining. Now, I've never been one to do a lot of outlining when I write. Mainly, I prefer to keep a few rough ideas in my head and then charge toward an ending, or I prefer to figure out my characters and then get them into a situation and see what they do. For the Space Opera project, though, I've found the going a bit rougher, to the point where a few months ago I realized I'd made the proverbial Wrong Turn in Albuquerque and ended up setting aside three whole finished chapters.
At that point, I decided to try an outline. Not a super-strict one, not a scene-by-scene and blow-by-blow accounting of everything that would happen, and not for the rest of the book -- just some brainstorming on the next two or three chapters from that point. It worked wonders, and those chapters have flowed pretty well. But now I'm where my last bit of outlining left off, so I sat down to repeat the process.
And suddenly...about eighty percent of the remaining plot of the book suddenly sprang into my head. I figured it all out, along with several plot twists that should lend excitement, and some character motivations that I'd been struggling with (one character in particular has to do something at some point -- this person just has to do this thing -- but I couldn't figure out why they had to do it, until now).
It's a heady moment, when you finally see the story in front of you. I haven't had that feeling in a long time. Back to the Planet of Mystery!
(No, it's not called the "Planet of Mystery" in the book. Nor is the book called "Planet of Mystery". Even though, right now, I kinda wish both of those things were true.)