Novel Planning and Procrastination

Appropriately, I’ve been putting this post off for days.

Are you a chronic procrastinator? I am. I’m guessing a lot of you are too. For many of us, the best we can hope for is to be really productive while we are doing something other than what we ought to be doing. You know, like organizing your closet when you should be making phone calls. Or better yet, organizing your kitchen.

With eighteen days left in October, I’m betting that a lot of NaNoWriMo participants are starting to feel like it’s all well and good to know where all the tupperware lids are, but what about the book?

I’m here to warn you that procrastination has an even sneakier side. You can be working on the book, but getting no closer to an outline. You can have thousands of words of notes and still not know how your story is going to end. And it might take you valuable days to realize you’re doing it.

The main pitfall is worldbuilding. If your story takes place anywhere other than here and now, you have to invent the setting. Sometimes it’s a simple adaptation of reality, other times you’re building a whole universe from the ground up.

Writers can work on worldbuilding for months. Everything from the legal system to the decorations for the military (or other) rank. Fauna and flora.

The thing is… the setting isn’t the story.

Yes, for your finished product you might want to get all those details nailed down. But not for your first draft.

Character development has some of the same pitfalls, but usually on a lesser scale. Don’t spend hours and hours writing a character’s backstory at this stage in your planning. You should understand your characters to know what they are going to do and why they are doing it, but you don’t need to know the name of their third grade teacher (most of the time).

So focus on your story. Figure out what’s going to happen. Make sure it makes sense. Fill in plot holes. If you don’t have a story, your beautiful world is useless.

Now… wasn’t there something else I was supposed to be working on…?

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