I'm always interested to see other writer's creative process. I've learned that as writers we share so much, yet there is so much individuality in methods. This post may be more for me than for you, but I would like to document my own creative process.
*I find my stories start in different ways--sometimes it's a character, sometimes a setting, sometimes a song inspires me, or a book or funny anecdotal story.
*Writing the first chapter almost always reveals the arc of my novel.
*After I know the arc, I write down an overreaching, very broad outline in my notebook.
*I think and think and think about my characters motivations. I ponder them when I'm washing the dishes, folding the laundry, laying in bed at night, listening to music.
*The nuances creep in at random times (often early morning or right before I fall asleep), and I must act. I keep notebooks everywhere. At the beginning of the school year Walmart had one subject notebooks on sale for .05 each. I bought one hundred of them, literally. I use the notebooks to write down details of my story, or I go to my computer if I can and type them at the bottom of my manuscript to use like a checklist.
*I would say, in general, by the time I've reached ten thousand words I know all the major plot twists and the ending of my story. At which point I may, or may not write a chapter by chapter outline.
What about you? When do you know the whole story? Do you outline everything before writing it? Are you a free-writer who discovers your story all along the way? What works for you?