Thoreau once said, “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”
Writing can involve a lot of meandering, a lot of throwing out of material. A lot of what feels like wasted time. The trick, I’ve begun to think lately, is to just accept it, to say to yourself, “I will try this. I will set aside my outline for a few hours and see where this new idea leads, even though I may waste the day on it and throw it out.”
If you can do this, you open yourself up to surprises. The surprise might be a character. The friend of the sister of your main character pops up like an unwanted guest on page five, and she wants to stay. She wants to take over. Or it could be the setting. You have pages of heavily researched description of life on an ocean liner, but you realize that what your character truly wants and needs most, lies at the end of the Appalachian Trail. It might not work, but then again it might. Because sometimes a good surprise can be better than a road map. Sometimes it can be exactly what you need.