Everyone is always telling you what to do, aren’t they? How to build your story, how to develop your characters, and what you need to know about your characters before you can safely start writing. But no one ever wants to admit that you don’t need to know EVERYTHING before you begin. So today we’re going to talk about what you DON’T need to know to start your novel.
Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly believe you should know your characters inside and out. But that doesn’t need to happen before you start. A better way to look at it is to make sure you know your character completely by the time you’re done.
Sounds a little backwards from what you’re used to hearing, huh?
It’s not a typical way to think when it comes to writing. And that’s okay!
The thing is, when a lot of aspiring writers start doing research and reading articles about how to start their novel, build their characters, etc, they end up being swamped with too much information.
These articles tell you everything you need to know to get started. So much so that you might end up feeling a tad bit overwhelmed.
I’m here to help. Below I’ve broken down some things you DON’T need to know before you start your novel.
Okay, seriously, why? Why is this such an important thing for developing your story?
Obviously you’re going to want to know some things about your character, but you don’t need to know everything.
I know that archetypes are important for a lot of writers to begin with. It helps you get to know the overall character of who you’re writing. But that’s not always important for everyone.
Not everyone needs to know how to categorize their characters into neat little files.
Sometimes it’s best to throw the typical character type-casting aside and just write the character as they are in your head. It will give you a chance to get to know them in a more organic and natural way. You’ll get the chance to be surprised by how they react in certain situations. They’ll do things you didn’t plan for.
It’s much more enjoyable for new writers to ignore the nitty gritty details and write for fun. That’s why we all get into it to begin with, right?
Allow yourself the freedom of not thinking too much about what category your character fits into.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know your characters at all, just don’t worry about knowing everything up front before you even begin. It could take a good long while to learn all of the details about your new character. That means it could stall your writing for much longer than necessary to focus too much on archetypes.
I know that this is one of the fun parts of developing new characters, but sometimes it’s hard to find the perfect name.
Don’t worry about it too much. Find a name that can act as a stand in until you find the right one.
The perfect name may take a while to show itself, and you don’t want that holding you back.
I realize that a lot of people actually really enjoy naming their characters, so this might not be a big problem for many of you. But for those of you who still haven’t found the right name for your protagonist, or you villain, don’t let it get in the way – start your novel anyway!
On that note, you don’t need a name for your book, either.
By all means, go ahead and write down names as they comes to you, or have a working title. But don’t feel too bad if you don’t have the work titled when you start your novel. It’s not a big deal to figure it out later.
And in my experience, titling you story later on is actually a better option. It gives the story more time to evolve into what it’s meant to be, which gives you more time to find the title that best suits the work.
It also means you aren’t pigeonholing yourself into writing a story around that title.
Sometimes when we choose a name for something too early, we try to force the story to adhere to the title we’re chosen. The name is just too good to use anything else, so we make it work. That could be the thing that breaks your story and makes it fall apart.
If you have a title that you are really attached to right now for a story you’re just starting, consider using it as a working title. Tell yourself that it’s temporary until you decide it’s perfect. That way you can avoid being stuck with an amazing name for your project that just doesn’t make sense to the story.
There, I said it.
You don’t need your plot.
I mean, not really. Obviously you’ll need a plot for a finished story, but you don’t need it to start.
If you have a scene in your head that needs out, just write it. Worry about where it goes later. Worry about the rest of the story later. Just write what you want and the story will figure itself out.
Okay, so that’s not always the case, but consider this:
If you just write out the scenes as they come to you, without knowing the overall plot of your story, it might help you FIND your story.
By that I mean the scenes you choose to write, the ones that are begging to get onto paper, will dictate the overall story. And thus will help you figure out your plot.
Lucky for you, that means you can start writing now! No need to figure out your plot, or how each scene will impact said plot.
So don’t waste your time figuring out the main objective of your story if that’s not really important to you personally. Just write what comes to mind and go from there. The story will show itself eventually, and it’s up to you whether or not you’re going to cut some of the scenes that maybe don’t work when it does.
While it’s nice to know where your story is going, sometimes it’s even nicer if you don’t know.
I’ve read too many articles to count that suggest you write your ending first. Or that you should write around the ending that you want.
What no one wants to tell you is that you don’t actually need an ending figured out to start.
Maybe you’ve got a few variations in mind and can’t decide, or maybe you just haven’t thought that far ahead. Either way, it’s okay. You don’t need it.
Like the point above, just write what you feel like writing. The rest will come later.
You do not need a plan for your entire book before you start writing!
Planning is not for everyone, and it’s okay if it’s not for you.
So many people get caught up in planning their books that they never get around to writing them. (I am definitely guilty of this at times.) They plan and plan and plan, and two years later, they still haven’t begun writing.
You don’t need a plan. Some of the best scenes I’ve written were spur of the moment things that had never even crossed my mind until I started writing.
Trust yourself. Seriously. Write when you think you’re ready to write. Plan or no plan. Partial plans are also good.
Just do whatever works for you. What works for some people won’t work for others, so if you have a lot of trouble planning your novel, then don’t! It’s that simple!
Write what comes to mind, even if it wasn’t planned.
The thing no one wants to tell you about planning your book is that it can actually hinder you just as much as it helps. A scene that isn’t in the plan can’t be written without guilt a lot of the time. It’ll make you feel like you’re cheating on your story if it wasn’t part of the plan.
If you go in without a plan, you won’t feel that guilt. You’ll just be in your happy place and getting something done for your book.
Too many author and writer websites out there tell you that you need to write every day to be considered a “real writer”. WTF does that even mean?
Some of the pros don’t even write every day unless they’re feeling inspired.
Don’t force yourself to write.
DO NOT FORCE YOURSELF TO WRITE IF YOU ARE NOT FEELING IT.
A schedule can be an amazing thing, but it’s not for everyone.
If you are just hoping to write a novel in your spare time, like in the evenings after work, then work on it when you feel inspired to do so. Don’t set up a schedule for your writing unless you want to. If you do it for the “author cred”, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
Schedules for writers are best left to those who do it professionally and full time. Unless you have deadlines to meet, don’t worry about it.
I’m not saying you can’t plan for a night each week, or certain days or times, but you don’t need a full work schedule for your writing just to get started.
Dabble a bit and figure it out. Do what works best for you.
Your Marketing Plan
Almost all writers are guilty of this. They daydream about the movie deals and the cool products and merchandise. They think about their book cover and website, they imagine the book signings.
What you need to remember, though, is that before you write a book, those things are nothing but daydreams.
You need to get the book done first! The marketing will come later.
It’s not worth wasting your precious writing time on a marketing plan for a book that doesn’t exist yet.
So what’s stopping you? Start your novel!
The thing each of the points above has in common is that they all prevent you from starting your novel.
It might feel like planning if you’re a planner, but not all planning is necessary so early in the game. And sometimes planning can take over and become the thing that stops your novel from ever happening.
Don’t let anything get in your way if you want to write. Just write! The rest will come later.
Sometimes it’s best to just write until you figure it out.
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