I like to start with a timeline, much like an outline of sorts, but there are lots of holes where many things can happen depending on character choices and surprises on my part. I draw out a simple horizontal line and fill in all the parts that I know right now. For instance, in my current WIP I know the beginning and something in the middle and then I know the ending. Those are entered on my timeline and the open parts are filled in when I know them better. Occasionally, I have really nice surprises and I follow where those leads take me. Many times, I’m stuck at a dead end and I have to turn around. Once in a while, I think I know where the story is going but the characters don’t want to go that way so the voices in my head take me down a different path. That’s always the best!
The timeline helps me to keep the story in one piece since I don’t write from Point A to Point B. I enjoy writing on sections that I’m in tune with at the moment. The timeline allows me the freedom to move around in the story, an organic creative process without boundaries.