I have mentioned before that I am not an outliner. I have outlined stories before and that stupid outline just drives me crazy the entire time and I usually never follow it. However, I do a fair amount of pre-writing before I actually start drafting?
What is the difference? I will tell you.
Outlining has more to do with plotting, sketching out what will actually happen in your story. Some do a chapter-by-chapter outline, others just write a basic synopsis and record the major turning points. Pre-writing, on the other hand, mostly concerns with certain elements of your story, but not a chronological outline of plot.
Characters Development: I flesh out character history and personality and their relationships with other characters. I do not have one of those lists that state your characters physical features, favorite color, movie, activity. Those are useless really, and most of those things will come out in a draft if they’re vital to the plot. What I try to do is get to know their quirks, what makes them tick, what has molded their personality and philosophy on life. I try to get to know them as I would a real person. Look past the physical features and surface answers. Those are all secondary to the real important stuff.
World Building: I also do a fair amount of work with my setting, the social norms, the landscape, and the technology (or lack thereof.) What are the rules? How do people live? What’s the government like (if applicable, sometimes that doesn’t matter,)
Often my pre-writing exercises result in snippets of dialogue or scenes that may or may not end up in the draft, but it definitely fuels my drafting process. The downside of not outlining, (and yes, I fully admit that there is a downside,) is that you really don’t know what I usually have an idea of where I want to go, but forcing myself to put it in some kind of order seems to kill the magic for me. I like to be just as surprised by my own writing as I am by others. It keeps the excitement alive.