When you develop and plan your story before you write it, you’re going to end up with a much better first draft than you would if you just sat down and started writing. Without a clear idea of where you’re headed, you’re guaranteeing yourself a full-draft rewrite.
Story planning is by far the best way to save time, make the writing easier, and ensure you end up with a draft you can actually use.
But you’ve gotta put a timeframe on the planning and development process, otherwise you could spend years of your life doing it and never actually get to the writing.
There’s no set amount of time that it takes to plan and create your story. It really just depends on a couple factors:
- How much time you have available to dedicate to your story
- How developed your story idea is (or how willing you are to let it grow)
If you’ve got the time, you can have your story planned and ready to write in 30 days (or less). Here’s the process and time schedule to help you do it:
Week One: Idea, Concept and Premise
The first seven days you’ll want to work on taking the idea in your head and turning it into a Concept and Premise.
Think of a Concept as the landscape—or setting—where your story takes place, and a Premise as the Antagonistic force (AKA: “something happening”). The story idea you have in mind right now isn’t a story, unless it has something happening—a problem to solve, a journey for the Protagonist to go on, a bad guy who needs to be stopped.
If you don’t have that yet, you don’t have a story.
The best way to find your story—to really dig deep and develop it—is to ask questions. To consider all possibilities. To step outside of your original “idea seed” and see what this story could become.
Once you’ve found your story, then you can move on to the next seven of your 30 days.
Week Two: Character Creation
The next seven days should be spent getting to know your characters, especially your Protagonist and Antagonist.
Who is your Protagonist, really? What does he want? What’s his backstory? His beliefs?
During this week you’ll want to create the three dimensions of character for your Protagonist, as well as build his character arc—how he’ll change—in the story.
When you have a clear picture of who your two main characters are, then you can move onto the next seven days.
Week Three: Story Structure
The next seven days should be focused on creating your story structure. Your structure is the core story—main plot—in your novel.
You’ll need to figure out your First Plot Point (FPP), your Midpoint (MP) your Second Plot Point (SPP) and two Pinch Points (PP).
Your First Plot Point is the most important moment in the entire story—it’s the moment the real story starts. Everything that happened before this moment is just set up for it. This is when the Antagonist enters the story and shakes things up for the Protagonist.
Then your Midpoint occurs—a moment that shifts the story in a new direction.
After that comes your Second Plot Point, the final piece of new information to enter the story.
And in between your FPP and MP is Pinch Point one, and between your MP and SPP is Pinch Point two—both of these moments are reminders of the Antagonistic force and what’s at stake in the story.
Really take some time to think your structure through, making sure you’ve chosen the most optimal path to telling your story.
Once you have your structure nailed down, you can move on to the final part of the process: building your story roadmap.
Week Four: Scene Building
Your final seven to nine days should be spent coming up with the scenes you’ll need in your story in order to connect the plot points together.
The scenes in part one of your story are Set Up scenes. Once your FPP hits, then you’ve shifted to part two of the story, where all the scenes need to be Reaction scenes.
Then the MP hits—you enter part three—and all of these scenes are Attack (action) scenes. Then the SPP comes along and the story moves to part four, which are all Resolution scenes.
Think about what needs to happen in each part of the story in order to reach the next story milestone (plot point). Make a list of all the potential scenes, and then organize them by which part of the story they belong to.
When you’ve got all your scenes figured out and connected to your plot points, what you’ll have is a story roadmap that you can use to write your first draft.
Making the Most of Your 30 Days
This story planning process is going to take some effort, so here are suggestions for how to make the most of your time and get your roadmap finished:
- Spend 30 minutes a day, minimum, working on it
- Block time in your schedule—you have to make time for doing the work
- Use a timer—you’ll be surprised how much you can get done in short 20- to 30-minute work sessions
- Say no—tough, yes, but it’s only for 30 days. Make your story a priority
The Self-Paced Story Roadmap Workshop
You can use the self-paced Story Roadmap Workshop to work through this 30-day plan and come out at the end with a detailed roadmap you can use to write your first draft (and every draft you write after that).
Each module will walk you through using the planning process on your specific story idea. There are videos, worksheets, a cheatsheet and everything else you need to plan your story.
Best of all, you get a free 45-minute coaching call with me included with this workshop, so you can get help planning your story—use it whenever you’re ready.
If you’ve ever felt frustrated trying to write your story or unsure how to make your idea work, the Story Roadmap Workshop is for you.