When the Itch Hits

Do you scratch it?

I’ve been talking a lot online about the research & planning I’m doing for my YA historical novel. It’s been going great. I’m learning tons about my characters, about their wants and their conflicts, about their back-story and their future. I know there’s more I can learn.

Except I’m itching to put all this aside and get writing.

I promised told myself I would finish Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook before I started writing. I said I would do a bit of plotting before I dug in. There are at least a third of these


that I haven’t read yet, and more I need to add to the shelf.

I can hear you all now. “Just write it!”

And here are your very good reasons:

  • I’ll learn more about your characters as you draft their stories.
  • The plot will change no matter how much time I spend on it.
  • I’ll narrow down my research needs as I write.
  • If I do too much planning, I’m putting handcuffs and chains on my muse.

Yep. So I’m going to write.

Soon. I’m still learning from Maass, but I’m giving myself permission to go a bit more quickly through his worksheets. I’m putting a few more tags on pages that need to wait until I have a draft to revise. And I’m letting myself relax away from the research a bit, so I can keep my actual characters at the forefront of my brain, instead of too many historical details/facts. And, since I still will have revisions to do on the critique book, I’m telling myself that any plotting I do has to be fit in between those changes. I’m not allowed to put the writing off, just because the whole outline isn’t complete and comprehensible.

When? I’m thinking June. A few other writing friends have first drafts looming, and we may all hit the keyboards together.

I’ll be MORE than ready.

So when do you start? What’s your comfort zone between knowing any/all of your story and needing to get those people on the page and moving? I’d love to hear how you do the balancing act?

Posts may be a bit thin on the ground the next few days–we’re in the middle of spring break over here. I’ll be back in force next week, though, and I’d love to start doing a little more talk about critiquing and critique groups. So if there’s a topic you’re “itching” to dig into, let me know that, too!


  1. beth says:

    Yup! Just write! 🙂


  2. P. J. Hoover says:

    I hold off on the itch for as long as I can, but then I dive in. If timing is right, I think the itch is a way of saying so. It says, “Try this one from here and see how things work.”


    • beckylevine says:

      That’s what I’m trying–the “as long as I can.” I know I should be getting NF revisions sometime soon,so I’m trying to keep going on the pre-writing stuff till after that. Okay, I did a small scene last night! 🙂


  3. Jaimie says:

    Hi Becky,

    I am in a constant battle with myself over this very thing. So, when I have the itch it’s like a big red flashing light saying stop researching and get to typing. It’s all about finding the right balance — or at least trying too…

    Jme 🙂


  4. LK Hunsaker says:

    Oh, I don’t have that kind of patience. I always write it as it comes to me, or as soon as I can get to the computer or pencil & paper. Then I do my research as needed or after the first draft. I write notes within the text to remind myself what I need to look up. I don’t always even have the character names before I start writing. I use things such as texttexttext -find name- texttext as placeholders.

    I appreciate you stopping by my blog. I’ll be back to visit and look forward to hearing about your YA progress. I have one in the works that’s been sitting for some time. The itch to get back to it has begun, except I’m in the middle of two other novels.


    • beckylevine says:

      I’ll be doing all that in my first draft, too. I seem to need SOME solid info to get started, but I realize how much of it won’t be solid once I start writing and how much I’ll need to let go, let shift. It’s more of a security thing, I think, than a reality! 😉 Good luck on your projects!


  5. Shawna says:

    Hi Becky,

    I have to confess, I give into the itch almost immediately. I don’t write in order, I only write those scenes that prompted me to write the book. Perhaps an interaction between characters or something similar. When I’ve written the ‘inspiration’ down, then I do the research necessary for the book. This always gives me new angles and ways to deepen plot and characterization. After that, I write the first draft. Sometimes in the middle of a scene, I’ll recognize the need to do more research and I’ll mark it and come back to it later. (happened in my WIP with castle toilets ;0) ) I also tend to focus on character interaction more than place in the rough draft.

    I think this works for me because I write fantasy and much of my world is of my making so I have a little more latitude. As I’m writing the rough draft, I do make a list of all characters, places and delineate the ‘rules’ of that world. If I were to write historical fiction of any kind, I’d research the period first, take notes and then write it.

    As I wrote that I realized it didn’t sound very organized, but it works for me. ; )


  6. beckylevine says:

    I think this sounds great–it’s obviously a system that works for you. I love the toilet–I’m having trouble with a very specfic front door! 🙂


  7. Vivian says:

    I start off with the research and once I have a comfort level that I “know” what I’m talking about, I start writing. I add more research details the further along I get into revisions, to layer in the realism.


    • beckylevine says:

      I think it’s that comfort level I’m missing, but I think I’m going to have to start writing without it being complete. Which is probably sane, just me worrying! 🙂


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