You can’t argue with Mr Sheldon’s success, but not all authors would agree. Many prefer to begin with a clear picture of the book’s plot from beginning to end. Sometimes a character or a secondary plot line may not work out the way they envisaged, but overall they know where they’re going and how they want to get there.
For some people, particularly beginners, having a plan, knowing the goal, is the only way they can hope to finish the project. If you decide to plan your ending, remember you can always change it if you don’t like it. If you decide not to plan and you don’t like what emerges, you can always change that too. All that matters is that you provide your readers with a satisfactory conclusion. Even at this early stage, second opinions can be valuable, but you need to get the opinion of someone you trust.
Friends and family members may not be able to give you an honest reaction, for fear of hurting your feelings or because they are so impressed that you are writing a novel at all. Joining a reading or writing group can be a wonderful way to get feedback on your work, but can also be a disaster. Be sure that you are in sync with the people who will be helping you shape your work. It’s not true that a bad critique is better than no critique at all.