I didn't plan.
You see, I had originally thought to write this wonderful, insightful, and inspiring post using a really crappy passage of mine and the new improved one that I recently edited.
But last night, when I sat down to write the post, I realized I deleted the crappy original.
So there went my idea. And my chances for being wonderful, insightful, and inspiring.
But then I realized that I was just a perfect example of what often goes wrong. When an author neglects to plan, they end up with pieces missing, or never getting started at all.
Now, before you start yelling about the joys of writing by the seat of your pants, remember that I have a whole feature dedicated to that. I'm not saying that you have to do an in-depth planning session for every short story or poem you write, but you do need to have some basic things in place.
Even if you just plan in your mind, you should have the following things planned out before you start writing:
- Who is your protagonist? Don't worry about the details of physical description, unless they're important to the story (a la Harry Potter's Scar). Instead, think of who they are and what they want.
- What is your conflict? Every good story needs a conflict at the heart. No one wants to read about a character that's perfect in every way and never runs into any trouble. Conflict is what gets us initially involved in a story.
- What's your endgame? Even if you do change the ending while you're writing, it's useful to have the final goal in mind. It gives you a destination, so you can focus on the journey while writing. Otherwise, your characters and plot will wander the desert, trying to find some kind of meaning.
Those are the barest of bones when it comes to writing. What other "musts" are there that you must plan before you need to get started?