A method of writing that I've been using
I'm working on a new novel. I posted some parts in a couple of threads a while back, and got some great feedback on them, but right now I'm in the part where the first draft is almost done, and I need to draw back a bit and read other books to separate myself from it for the second round -- the editing and welding and filing and grafting and hammering draft.
But what makes this novel different is that I've found a middle path between outlining at the get-go (which drives me nuts) and simply plunging in headfirst with no idea where I'll wind up, which makes for too convoluted a plot with an unsatisfying ending.
In this novel, I had a pretty good idea where the story would end up -- the climactic scene is almost required in this sort of book -- and a good idea where to begin, so I loosely imagined an arc for each character, and then wrote the scenes out of order. For example, I might sit down and happen to think of something for the scene where Brian is trying to tell Sarah how he feels, does it very badly, and leads to a break-up between them. Or the scene where Brittany is in the library and runs into the professor.
By taking the scenes out of order, I never have that feeling of slugging through the boring scene to get to the good scene. I can go back later and weld the scenes together, and then in the second draft I'll worry about getting the continuity right, keeping the timeline straight, and all the details like that.
I've got a folder on my desktop, and as a scene occurs to me, I write it as a new document and drop it into that folder. Then to compsoe the first draft, I just welded together all those fragments. I'm kind of happy with this method. There's always been some debate among writers, between those who outline religiously and those who fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants, but hopefully this will make a bit of a common ground, or a middle path.