The other day, I had to reconstruct a chapter-by-chapter outline of my first novel. I found my chapter outline from the very beginning of my writing process; the outline basically consisted of a one-sentence description of plot developments in each of the 36 chapters. That original outline bore only a superficial similarity to what I eventually wrote as the novel progressed.
The discovery of the drastic difference between the original outline and my final product was reassuring to me as I start my second novel (or contemplate rewrites of my first novel). As an organized plotter, I want to have a perfect chapter outline in place before I begin. In reality, my writing process doesn't work that way. My characters didn't spring to life immediately for my first novel; I had to write them into existence. Only when my characters started to "live" in my mind--when they took on flesh and became three-dimensional--only then did the plot of my first novel start to work itself out in organic ways. Coming to this realization about my own writing process relieves some of my self-imposed pressure to design the perfect outline.