A few years back I thought a lot about whether one should outline a novel or not -- that is, whether it's best to figure out the plot in advance...
Stephen King, in On Writing, says he never outlines his novels. I believe this, ideally, to be the best way to proceed. However, if you've read several Stephen King novels, certain structural similarities become apparent. So some form of outlining must be taking in place in Stephen King's subconscious mind.
The first few dozen times you drive a car, or ride a wave on a surfboard, your conscious mind has to treat the task as a set of ordered instructions to follow. But once you get good at these activities, your unconscious mind handles the mechanics of what you're doing. Is novel outlining sort of like that? Is breaking the task down conceptually a good idea for beginners?
Norman Mailer, in The Spooky Art, wrote, “Over and over again, I discover that my unconscious is going to disclose to me what it chooses, when it chooses. You can, to a limited degree, force it to respond, but that rarely occasions much happiness on either side. Sometimes I think you have to groom the unconscious after you've used it, swab it down, treat it like a prize horse who's a finer animal than you.”