- Decide on the overall development of a plot or character arc - main points, where it might lead afterward, implications, thematic aspects, etc.
- Consider how to show it in scenes. Sketch scenes in as much detail as you need. If I'm lucky, they jump into my head all at once. Otherwise, I need to hammer at them by brainstorming about the intended feel, finer points of content, and dialog hooks - which help me conceptualize tone and character chemistry, even if I don't use them all as originally conceived. If I'm struggling with an opener or ending, I brainstorm it separately, and perhaps alter or redo the scene to fit.
- Save every dialog snippet and scene idea that comes to mind, even if you don't have an intended home for it. If you're ever stuck, go through the list for inspiration.
- Lay out your scenes and notes on events that haven't yet been sketched out thusly. Is the pacing too rushed? Think about what other conflicts are going on - whether strongly pertinent to a main plot thread, tangential, or worth including to reinforce a theme, add depth and nuance, etc. Is the pacing too bogged down? Think about what could be cut or compressed - for instance, development might be better incorporated as exposition instead of shown in a scene. (Though you might not want to get too cut-happy before your rough draft is even done. If in doubt, make a scene and deal with the streamlining afterward.)
- When you have a compelling scene concept, write it out. This is where the Just Write Crap concept can help. Sometimes your first whack at prose will fall flat on its ass, but you can't improve it if you're afraid to try in the first place.
My outline has begun to split itself into acts separated by time, which is helping me organize those main points and build out the requisite subplots around them. There's the initial challenge, the delicious optimism, swimming in the proverbial money pit, and subsequent danger and resolution. Act 1 is mostly planned into scenes, Act 2 is getting there, the last act is vague but has a known general outcome, and the rest is main points that need to be nestled among that subplotty awesomesauce. And this provides some metric of rough draft progress far more meaningful than raw word count, even if I don't yet know how many scenes I'll need. At least I feel like I'm going somewhere substantial and sustainable.