I have a general premise, I have characters, some pivotal scenes & a general idea of a storyline
What I do not have is a clue on how to start. When I wrote all my essays at Uni I didn't plan at all, the words just came to me & I wrote them & then handed it in, that was it.
This approach is not working for me in writing a book, I think I need to be more structured. It doesn't help that I don't have an ending. I was just going to see where it took me. I haven't even started writing it yet, just been procrastinating for 2 years, tried to write a few pages then dismissed myself as childish & shit at writing. It started off as a short story but the idea is turning into a novel so I need to make it more complex with a sub plot, but haven't got that far.
So. How do you plan? Do I need to get down & detailed & sort out my main plot & my sub plot & the ending?
(Plus if you include a bit of sex is it toe curling if you get published & your family read it?!)
Well, different people start in different ways. Some of us are planners, and some of us are improvisers.
Planners like to get it all down on paper before they start, know the whole structure, think about how it ties together, and know how it's going to end. They may well have a 'scene outline' for each scene, noting the characters, key bits of dialogue, the atmosphere, how it progresses the plot, etc.
Improvisers just grab a pen / keyboard and start writing. We go down wrong paths, we write inane scenes, we waste time, etc etc. But I can't get excited by a novel which is all planned out from the very start (I have tried this...) - for me, at the moment, it all has to be about what unfolds.
The important thing to know, though, is that (for the overwhelming majority of people) your first draft is only a draft. It doesn't have to be good at this point - it isn't going to be good. You just need to get something down to work with. When you've got a first draft, you can improve it, and improve it, and improve it...
But writing is a great way to discover whether you're a planner or an improviser.
My advice would be to write your first novel, put it away, write your second novel, put it away, and then go back to the first novel and start trying to improve it!
Also, of the people who plan, some people do it by instinct but others use a formal plot structure as a starting point - google 'three act novel structure' or similar and you will find lots of stuff about inciting incidents, major plot twists, reversals, etc. I have become a bit of a convert to formal plot structures since I used one to replan my work-in-progress.
If you haven't got anywhere by the end of the month you should join in with NaNoWriMo where people attempt to write a 50,000 word first draft in a month. A lot of people who have never written anything long before surprise themselves.