How To Go From Idea to Published Novel: A Timeline

NOTE: This is a guest post from my client, Zara Quentin, who just published her debut novel, Airwoman. Enjoy! –jen

How long does it take to write a novel? Years? Decades? You’ve probably been writing for some time–you may even have more than one ‘bottom-drawer’ novel (AKA: practice novel), right?

That’s how it was for me—years of writing drafts I couldn’t bring myself to revise, because I didn’t think it was worth the time or the energy.

In 2015, all that changed. I decided I was going to publish a book in 2016. I’d been fooling around with my writing dream for years, expecting a published novel to be many more years in the making—if it ever happened at all.

I remember making that decision—it changed the way I thought about writing.

Here is a timeline of how I wrote and published, Airwoman: Book 1:

The First Three Months: Idea to Planning (August to October 2015)

I distinctly remember getting the idea for Airwoman. My main character, Jade Gariq (though I didn’t know her name back then), came to me one dark and stormy night in mid-August 2015. She perched on my windowsill, wings and all. She was running from something, seeking refuge. She intrigued me.

Soon after that, in early September, Story Coach, Jennifer Blanchard, ran a free 7-day story planning challenge in the 1% Writers Facebook Group (which I’m a member of) and I started to flesh out my idea based on the character who had visited me that night. I really enjoyed the challenge and decided I’d try NaNoWriMo, which was a few months away. So when Jennifer opened up her NaNoWriMo 6-week story development course, I decided to get on board.

It was around this time that I made the decision to publish my novel in 2016. Call it a mid-life crisis moment, but I suddenly realized that, after having my third child, life wasn’t going to get any less busy. Not in the short term. If I wanted to pursue my writing, I just had to do it. I had to make time for it.

A few days after I’d made that decision, I got an email from Jennifer, revealing her Novel By Next Year course, which involved having her as a coach and guide through the planning, drafting and publishing stages.

It felt like fate. I was in.

So for the rest of September and October, I planned Airwoman: Book 1 until I had a scene roadmap of the entire novel. I had never planned to this extent before—but instead of being bored by the planning, it made me excited to get started writing.

At the end of October, I moved (somewhat unexpectedly) with my family from New Zealand (where we had been living for two years) back to Australia. With three young children, and a house full of stuff, it was full on. In consultation with Jennifer, I put the roadmap aside for a couple of weeks, let NaNoWriMo pass me by, and focused on the move.

Sometimes, life happens, right?

First Draft – Facing the Blank Page (November 2016 – January 2016)

It was about mid-November before I was able to focus on writing again. I took a week or so to look over my scene roadmap again and tweak it in a few places. Then I took a deep breath and dove into writing the first draft.

The first draft is a daunting time for a writer–facing the blank page. However, with a detailed roadmap, it was easier than ever. I didn’t wonder what to write in the next scene. Instead, I thought about the detail of it. I watched the movie of the scene inside my head, then transcribed it onto the page.

And so I wrote. Every day.

Every single day for about two months. I wrote every evening after the kids had gone to bed, during their nap-time (if they went down). I snatched whatever time I could for writing.

I had a goal of writing 500 words per day at least–a small goal, not too daunting. Usually once 500 words is written, I’ll write a lot more. But on an off-day, I gave myself permission to hit 500 words then stop.

I finished the first draft just after New Year, in early January 2016. The first draft came out to about 80,000 words.

My Manuscript Rested – I Did Not (January – February 216)

Although I already had some ideas about how I could improve my first draft, I was determined to give the manuscript a proper rest so that I could come back to it with fresh eyes. I had a six week break before I read through it again.

But I was not idle during this time.

Instead, I set up my author website, a blog and my social media accounts. I developed my brand and the focus for my blog. I worked on, not just creating the platforms, but being active on those forums regularly.

I announced to the world I was a writer and that I was publishing a book. This took a lot of courage–finally confessing to being a writer and giving myself a public deadline.

Suddenly, my decision back in September 2015 seemed to loom. October wasn’t all that far away and I had to finish a book. A whole book! What was I thinking?

Taking A Deep Breath. And Plunging Into Revisions (March to June 2016)

In March, I dared to read through my first draft. Happily, it wasn’t as bad as I feared, though it definitely needed work.

During the first draft phase, Jennifer had been reading through my draft week by week and sending feedback, which I’d held over for the revision phase as I’d wanted to just get the first draft down on the page. She then read through the whole draft again and provided me with copious notes, which I put together with my own to make my revision schedule.

After a first read through, I read it again and made more notes about what needed to change. Then I made a revision roadmap—listing each scene, the changes that needed to be made and a timeline of events. I also drew up some maps of my story world, which helped me to keep track of the action throughout the story.

I learned a lot from the revision process. Firstly, though I would consider world-building to be one of my strengths, more often than not, it didn’t make its way onto the page. I often had my characters moving through a blank canvas and, though I saw the backdrop in my head, readers wouldn’t have that advantage. During my revisions, I needed to set the scene.

I also had to flesh out characterization and character motivations in some cases. A few events needed to be switched around or fleshed out for greater impact.

I also learned that revision wasn’t a chore of a task, as I had always imagined it would be. I actually enjoyed the opportunity to improve the story. That became my goal—working out how to make the story better.

Once I had completed the revision roadmap, I dove into the redraft (the second draft). During this phase, I went through my manuscript scene by scene, taking what I could from the first draft and altering, rewriting or scrapping things depending on what needed to be done. This took most of March and April.

Once that was finished, I read it through again and fixed some consistency errors, made a few more tweaks.

Then, as luck would have it, at the end of June, my family and I had to move interstate (again, somewhat unexpectedly). That took another couple of weeks out of the writing process as I managed yet another move. Luckily, I was in a position to send what I considered the third draft to a developmental editor and some Beta Readers.

An Outside Opinion: Biting My Fingernails and More Revision (July to September 2016)

It was a nerve-wracking time, sending out my manuscript to people I didn’t know and who hadn’t been with me on this journey so far. When they didn’t immediately get back to me, I feared the worst. What if they hated it and were trying to find a way to phrase it nicely? I had to remind myself that they also had busy schedules.

In the meantime, I started to liaise with to my cover designer. It was an interesting process because-–despite wanting something amazing–I really had no idea of what I wanted on the cover. My cover was in his hands! Thankfully, he came back with a number of ideas, which we then discussed so that he understood what I liked and didn’t like, and where we would go with it.

One-by-one, at the end of July and early August, the editor and Beta Readers came back to me with their comments. Despite my fears, their feedback was encouraging. They’d liked the story, but showed me ways to improve it. I really grew as a writer through this feedback. In pointing out where the manuscript needed improvement, I learned both what I’m good at, and what I need to work on. Their advice helped me to improve Airwoman, but I believe it will also help me to improve my future writing too.

At this point, I set down to revise my manuscript again, and also set a date for publication: October 25th! The date loomed on my calendar as I realized how little time there was left.

I revised through August until I felt the manuscript didn’t need any more tweaking. In early September, I got to proofreading. In September, I also worked with the cover designer to finalize the cover. At the end of September the final manuscript went to the formatter to format it for print and Kindle.

a4-airwoman-coverAll Systems Go for Launch (October 2016)

When I picked October 25 for the publication date, I had hoped to have a month to promote the book before it came out. In the end, I had about three weeks as I waited until the final cover, the pre-order was set up on Amazon (along with relevant links) and a free preview was available on my site.

During this time, I went back and forth with the formatter, making sure the interior was as I wanted it, and correcting those last typos (always some!). I set up my author profile on Amazon and Goodreads. I also started blogging about the inspiration behind my book, sharing photos and contacting book bloggers and reviewers to garner interest in reviewing it.

I set up a Virtual Launch Party on Facebook and did some guest posting, trying to get word out about my novel. The marketing was new for me, but I found I enjoyed it—it was a challenge to think about ways to promote my book.

Finally, the big day came. I held my book in my hands. It went out into the world where other people could read it. It was the height of vulnerability—allowing complete strangers to read and comment on my book which, as every writer would know, is like baring their very soul for others to comment o.

But I did it. In a little over a year, I published my debut novel, Airwoman: Book 1. It felt so good.

That’s Just the Beginning

It was one hell of a year! I’ve grown more in the last year as a writer, than I had in the many years of writing before that. By finally giving myself permission to invest in my dream, I took a big leap in learning—about story craft, about myself as a writer and about the publication process. I’m very lucky that I had Jennifer Blanchard to hold my hand throughout the process. Without her, I doubt I would have come so far so soon. Having someone to bounce ideas off, read my work, encourage and guide me has been invaluable.

I’m pleased to have achieved my goal, but this is not the end. I’m not a one-book writer. Obviously Airwoman: Book 1 is the first in a series. I’ve got a series overview fleshed out and have planned the second book. I’m itching to get started on it.

The writer’s journey is an exciting ride, and I’m only at the beginning.

Share With Us

How far along are you on your writer journey? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

About the Author: Zara Quentin is the author of Airwoman: Book 1. She inherited a love of travel from her parents, who took her and her sister on trips to the United States, Europe, and Asia as children. Zara now resides in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. She is currently working on the next instalment in the Airwoman series. You can read the first three chapters of Airwoman for free here.


If you want help taking your story from idea to published, just like Zara did, be sure to apply to work with me and my team of self-publishing pros. You can fill out the application here.

From Story Idea to Published Novel in 7 Months: What It Takes

In this Periscope, I cover everything you need to know to go from story idea to published novel in only 7 months (hint: it’s NOT what you think!!)

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Which of the three stages are you in?


Do you want to be a more effective storyteller and cut years off your learning curve, so you can write a kick-ass novel and get it out into the world in the next 12 months? Join me for a free Clarity Call.


Image courtesy of Pauline Mak

Story Coaching Case Study: Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer came to me at the end of 2014 with a story idea he’d been working on for a few years. But no matter what he tried, he couldn’t move past the plot problems that were holding the story back.

In his own words, he shares how my 90-day Author Intensive program helped him go from story idea to completed novel draft.


Glenn Dyer

Name: Glenn Dyer

Location: Park City, Utah

Occupation: Retired

How long were you thinking about/working on your story before you hired me?

Started working on the project back in 2000. Would pick it up for a while then drop it.

Where were you at with your story prior to working with me?

Back in 2004, I got about 190 pages into a draft but plot problems became a big issue and I dropped the project. I picked it back up around September 2014.

What fears did you have before you signed up to work with me?

That the plot problems were not solvable.

What finally caused you to say, “I’m ready to get support with writing my novel?”

I turned 61 in October of last year. No time to waste.

What did you like best about this program?

The specific feedback about plot, characters and other things that didn’t make sense to me [before doing this program]. The written feedback, which could be revisited as many times as needed. Also, that Jennifer were available via FB at anytime during the term.

How did you feel about the feedback you received from me each week?

I found it most valuable. In particular, the feedback received during the first six weeks was critical to being able to finish the draft.

How does it feel to have a finished draft of your story?

Tough to describe. I was so fearful that I would never get it done after wanting to do it for so many years.

I never mentioned this before, but back in 2003 I promised my son, Mike, that if he would go out for cross-country in his sophomore year, that I would finish my novel. He ran cross-country for three years. I just finished the novel.

It was important to finish it for many reasons, but that reason was the most important. When I told him that I was “slow” in meeting my end of the deal, he responded by saying that my end was harder. He’s a good kid.

How long did it take you to write your draft (in days/weeks)?

Sixty-two days.

What made the biggest difference working with me versus trying to do it yourself? 

Having someone to bounce ideas off during the first 6 weeks was critical.

Was your experience and results in this program worth the money you invested?

In my case, yes. Definitely.


Are you ready to discover what coaching can do for your story? Join me for a free Clarity Call and find out if The Author Intensive is right for you.

An Inside Look At My Story Creation Process

I spend a lot of time talking about how to write stories. I share the processes that I use and teach. But I wanted to go a step further, and give you an inside look at my specific processes and timelines for finishing my debut novel (ETA: May 2015).

I’m not gonna share all the specifics about the story right now (I’ll be sharing that info really soon), but to give you a snippet, this is the basic storyline: An employee and her manager engage in a secret relationship, but things take a turn for the worse when she breaks it off with him.

Stage One: Planning and Development (Eight Months)

The original idea seed I started with was inspired by a book I read called, Why Work Sucks (And How To Fix It), as well as my experiences working in Corporate America.

I wanted to tell the story of a woman with a tragedy in her past who is trying to make a new life for herself through her career as a music promoter, but she’s so out of practice at love that she doesn’t know how to handle it when the real thing shows up. And interspersed in this story I wanted to share my experiences in the workplace, and tie them into the Why Work Sucks book.

Except that wasn’t enough to make a story. I had a Concept, but no Premise

What I initially worked out was that the Protagonist’s boss would be out to get her, and that’s why her work was being sabotaged. But it just didn’t feel strong enough to me. She needed a much better journey to go on in the story (and a much more compelling reason for the reader to root for her).

That’s when I reached out to my mentor and colleague, Larry Brooks, to analyze what I had so far, and tell me which direction I should go in. Larry gave me some great feedback, as well as a kick-ass twist on how to make the story more conflicted and awesome.

I took everything I had figured out during my initial development of the story, combined it with the feedback I got from Larry, and I started planning out the specific scenes I needed in my story, to make it unfold in a compelling way.

I spent months working through the scene plan. I must have written up at least three different beat sheets and created index cards for every scene, twice. And then when I was so close to being finished, I found an even better way to amp up the story.

So I changed a good portion of it. Re-did my scene cards and took the story in a new direction.

This entire process took me about eight months. The planning and development process can be done a lot faster when you have someone to help you and keep you accountable.

Stage Two: The (Not So) Shitty First Draft (Two Months)

Since I did so much planning and development of my story ahead of time, I was able to bang out my first draft in two months, flat (and my goal was three months).

I had an accountability partner who I checked in with formally once a week via email, and also sent text updates about my progress throughout the week.

Having accountability on top of my story roadmap is what helped me get this draft finished so quickly. 

And because of all my planning this draft was decent. I knew right away I’d have to make changes, but I also knew I could use about 65 to 70 percent of what I already had. Which is pretty amazing, given it was the first draft.

Stage Three: Let It Sit (Three Months)

I usually recommend letting your first draft sit for a minimum of six weeks before you go back and try to revise it. You need enough distance to give yourself fresh eyes.

For me, that distance was about three months, because I had many other projects going on. So my eyes were really, really fresh when I finally went back to it.

Stage Four: Revision (Four Months)

I follow a very specific process for doing revisions on my storiesThis process includes multiple readings of the draft I have, three beat sheets and creating the final index cards I’ll work from when I piece together my new draft.

After I have all the revisions in place and on my revision roadmap, I start rewriting the draft. Since I was able to use 65 to 70 percent of what I already had, I basically spend a lot of my rewriting time copying and pasting from my first draft into the new draft, and then editing for clarity and connecting or changing information to match the rest of the story.

Once my revised draft is complete, I actually go through one final revision. At this point my story is in place and solid. The bones, muscles and joints are all there.

The final revision I do before sending it off to my editor and Beta Readers is on each scene. I go through each scene, one-by-one, and make sure it’s the best I can make it.

I focus on adding more descriptions (I tend to write bare-bones, it’s the journalist in me), fixing up characterization and making sure everything flows and fits together cohesively.

Stage Five: Off to My Editor and Beta Readers (Two to Three Months)

Now I let the draft I send off to my editor and Beta Readers sit for the time being. Instead, I’ll focus on building up my author platform and getting things ready for publishing the novel. I may even work on the early planning and development for my next story.

When the edits and feedback come back from my editor and Betas, then I can get back to work on the story.

Stage Six: Cleaning Things Up (One Month)

This time around it’s all about cleaning up the new draft by making the edits from my editor and Beta Readers. This is the polishing stage for me.

I’m not working on anything major, like structure, characterization, plot, etc. Those things have already been dealt with in Stage Four.

When all this is complete, there’s one stage left.

Stage Seven: Publish (TBD)

Right now I’m at Stage Four with my debut novel. I am more than a quarter of the way through the rewrites, and have a goal of getting the draft to my editor and Beta Readers by mid-March, latest. This is setting me up for a May publish date.

Since I haven’t gone through this stage with my novel yet, I won’t go into too much detail. But I will write another post telling you all about it as I get further along in the process.

I’ve gone several novels in different stages of this process, but so far I haven’t been inspired to take any of them all the way. Until this story.

This story, I’m publishing. (More on that soon.)

Three Things That Made the Biggest Difference For Me

So to wrap things up, here are the three things I did that made the biggest difference for me when it came to getting this story figured out, written and then revised:

1. I Got Really Clear On My Story–before I wasted any time writing a single word of this story, I spent a lot of time (eight months in this case) getting clear on everything.

Who is my Antagonist? What does he want? What does my Protagonist want? What’s her character arc? What’s my story structure? What happens in Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four? How does it end?

These are (just some of) the questions I knew the answers to, before I started writing.

2. I Got Feedback From A Pro Story Coach–I know it’s cliche, but you really can’t see the forest from the trees. Being so close to my story, I needed to get an outside perspective to help me make sense of things.

I would never take a story into Stage Two of this process unless I had my plan analyzed by a story coach.

3. I Made Writing A Habit–when I decided to bring this story to life, I knew I was committing a lot of time to it. And I knew how badly I wanted it.

So I found a way to spend a minimum of 30 minutes a day working on my story (regardless of which stage I’m in). Most days I found more time.

Having a daily habit of working on your story will help you stick with it and move through all seven stages.

My process for this story, from initial “idea seed” to final draft, has taken me about two years.

But it doesn’t have to take you that long.

Working with me, you can go from story idea to completed first draft in 90 days. (Or, if you already have a first draft, I can take you through the revision process in 90 days.) And then you’ll be thismuch closer to publishing your story.

My work as a story coach is all about:

  • Efficiency–we get down to business and get shit done. You won’t spend eight months planning (like I did)
  • Saving time–you won’t waste time writing a single word until your story plan is intact and you’re feeling good about it

Ready to explore what working with a professional story coach can do for your story? 

>> Join me for a free Strategy Call

CONTEST: Winner Gets 90 Days of Free Coaching

Back in 2008 when I started my first blog, Procrastinating Writers, with the goal of writing one blog post a week for a year (and writing the first draft of my novel), I had no way of knowing where I would land all these years later. In the beginning, I just wanted to learn how to be consistent as a writer, and to put my voice out into the world.

There have been a lot of twists and turns in this journey of mine, but it’s all led me right here, where I am now. A writing coach. And more specifically, a fiction-writing coach.

My mission in this world is to serve and support novelists in writing publishable stories.

With that, I give you my new website. It’s chock full of everything you need to write better stories.

And to celebrate the launch of my new site, a contest.

The Prize

The winner of the contest gets a 90-day Idea to Draft coaching program with me. This program will help you take the story idea in your head and turn it into the first draft of a novel.

The Rules

Here’s what you have to do: Grab your iPhone, Flip camera, whatever you’ve got, and shoot a quick video of yourself (Two minutes or less) telling me:

  1. Who you are–name, location
  2. What your story idea is–pitch it to me like you’d pitch an agent or editor at a writing conference
  3. Why you are so ready to finally write this story–why should I pick you?

Upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo (be sure to set the video to “public” so I’ll be able to view it). Then email me a link at: Jennifer(at)JenniferBlanchard(dot)net with the subject line: Pick Me, Jennifer.

The deadline to submit your video link to me is Thursday, January 1, 2015 at 10 p.m. EST. Submissions received after that won’t be considered (so no procrastinating!).

I’ll announce a winner on January 5, 2015 (and, of course, notify the winner via email).

So Much Gratitude

I am so excited and thankful to be able to launch this new website, and I had the best team helping me out. I’m so thankful for the work I get to do in the world. And mostly I’m so grateful to you, for being here with me.

This contest is a little way for me to say thank you.

(And now for all the boring legal stuff…)

Legal Disclaimer

Jennifer Blanchard, its staff and owners reserve sole and final judgment as to all matters concerning contests and interpretation of contest rules. By entering any contest run by Jennifer Blanchard, you agree to abide by the following terms:

How To Enter/Eligibility 

No purchase necessary to enter our contest. Only one (1) contest entry per person. Contestants DO NOT need to be Jennifer Blanchard affiliates or associates.

Entries must be sent to the correct email address, using the format listed above. If we cannot contact you by email, you forfeit your winner’s status. Make sure your email filters do not prevent us from contacting you.

Contest Deadlines

All entries must be submitted on or before Thursday, January 1, 2015 at 11 p.m. EST.

Winner Selection and Notification

The odds of winning vary from contest to contest due to the number of entrants and the quality of entries.

The winner will be notified by email only.

The decisions made by the judges regarding the contest are final and binding.

Winner Disqualification

If a winner cannot be reached after a reasonable amount of effort has been made to notify the winner of the prize, the winner forfeits his/her rights to the winning prize.

If winner does not get in touch with the prize sponsor within 21 days of winning, the winner forfeits his/her prize.

If an email returns undeliverable, the winner forfeits his/her rights to the prize.

While we do send emails requesting follow-up information to each winner, Jennifer Blanchard, assumes no responsibility to ensure winner a response.

General Conditions

No purchase necessary. Making a purchase will not increase your chances of winning a prize. Void where prohibited by law. All decisions of Jennifer Blanchard, are final. By entering, participants warrant and represent that they agree to be bound by these contest rules and the final decisions of Jennifer Blanchard.

All taxes on any prize won are the sole responsibility of each winner, including, without limitation, any federal, state, or local taxes, which may be deemed applicable in such winner’s jurisdiction of residence. Winner(s) shall be solely responsible for the reporting and payment of all taxes incurred by acceptance and use of the prize(s) (or any portion thereof), if applicable.

Jennifer Blanchard reserves the right to substitute alternate prizes of equal or comparable value.

Prizes are offered “as is” with no written, express, or implied warranty. Jennifer Blanchard is not responsible for replacing prizes as a result of events beyond the control of Jennifer Blanchard.

Jennifer Blanchard. is not responsible for late, lost, illegible, misdirected, mutilated or incomplete entries.


Jennifer Blanchard. reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel, modify or prematurely conclude a contest should any computer virus, malfunction, fraud, tampering, unauthorized intervention or other cause beyond their control corrupt the administration, security or proper operation of the contest.

In the event a contest is canceled prematurely for any reason, Jennifer Blanchard. will use reasonable efforts to pick an alternate winner, but in the event an alternate winner cannot be determined, the prize(s) will not be awarded.

Contestant Releases

Acceptance of prize constitutes permission to use winners name, city, state, and winning entry for promotional purposes.

Contest entry constitutes permission to use winning submissions on Jennifer Blanchard’s  website and its affiliated websites without further compensation. Furthermore, entry constitutes permission to archive your winning entries indefinitely on any webpage on this website.

Contestants agree that the sole and final judgment as to all matters concerning contests and interpretation of contest rules are at the sole discretion of Jennifer Blanchard, its owners, and its staff.

Contestants agree that the American Arbitration Association shall have jurisdiction over any dispute or litigation arising from or relating to the contests sponsored by Jennifer Blanchard, should any part of this agreement not be legally binding.

Releases/Hold Harmless

Jennifer Blanchard, its owners, its staff, its affiliates, its advertisers, and its prize donors are not liable or responsible for:

•any claims, damages, losses, injuries, or death including any third party claims, arising from or relating to, in whole or in part, any contest, including entry and participation in any contest and acceptance, possession, use or misuse of the prizes.

•entries that do not follow guidelines.

•entries and responses to winner notifications that are illegible, incomplete, late, lost, mis-delivered, marked postage-due, or undeliverable.

•any technical or human errors, malfunctions, failures, etc. resulting in participation of contests.

Prize Releases

Jennifer Blanchard, its owners, staff, affiliates and its advertisers are not liable or responsible for:

•donors (sponsors) who do not follow through with delivery of prizes.

•prizes lost in the mail, arrive damaged, are defective, or have other unforeseen problems.

•substituting another prize in lieu of the original prize.


We will not sell your personal information ever.

Image courtesy of mpclemens 

Idea to Draft Case Study: Christopher Y.

Christopher Y. joined the Idea to Draft Story Intensive with a story idea in his mind… and today he’s a few thousand words away from being finished. In his own words, here’s how the Idea to Draft Story Intensive has helped him take his story from “idea seed” to (almost) completed first draft:

1. Where were you at with your story before joining the workshop?

I had a fairly complex story idea, and was struggling to apply Larry Brooks’ “Story Engineering” principles to it.

2. What challenge did you have/what was preventing your from writing your novel prior to joining Idea to Draft?

My approach to writing fiction lacked structure and discipline. From reading “Story Engineering” I knew what an outline should be like, but had trouble applying it to my own story. I would sit down with my story idea in mind and type out sentences, hoping that the various milestones would emerge from them.

3. What, if any, hesitations did you have about signing up for this workshop?

Well, there is a twelve-hour time difference between me and Jennifer. So I did wonder whether the logistics would work. As it turned out, there were no problems on my end at all.

4. What changes have you noticed in your writing? In your story? In your life?

I’ve become a “butt-in-chair” fiction writer, which is great. Professionally, I have over 20 years of experience as an advertising copywriter, and I never had any trouble applying that mindset to my commercial writing; in fact, with deadlines and my paycheque at stake, it was the only way to get things done. When it came to fiction, though, I still clung to a romanticised ideal of the writer who produced stuff strictly through inspiration and spur-of-the-moment insights. Not any more, thank goodness.

My story, while still complex, has a definite shape to it now. You can see the skeleton where all the other bits need to be attached. I am still working on my first draft but I have no doubts about whether I will finish it. I will because at every step, I know exactly what the next step will be. No more feeling around and hoping. This is very liberating.

And as far as my life goes, I am beginning to allow myself to think of myself as a fiction writer. This is because I know now the things that a fiction writer needs to know to get the work done. You cannot put a price on this.

5. What specific feature(s) of this workshop did you like best?

This workshop is all about helping you put Larry Brooks’ principles to work. It’s the practical application of theory, if you like. This is never easy to do without knowledgeable guidance, in any endeavour. More specifically, writing a novel can seem like a huge, overwhelming undertaking.

Jennifer’s step-by-step approach breaks it down into very manageable individual tasks. You just lay down one brick today, another the next. Anyone can do that. Then one day you look back and realise your wall is already half built. The intimidation factor is completely gone.

6. Would you recommend this workshop to other writers? Why or why not?

I’d definitely recommend it. But only if the writer is committed to the idea of structuring and outlining the whole story before writing the first draft. This is not for writers who write to discover their story’s ending, or to find out who their characters are.

>> Learn more about Idea to Draft

How To Plan Your Story In 30 Days

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.

>> Learn More About Story Roadmap

Take A Tour of the Idea to Draft Story Intensive


Learn More

You can learn more about the Idea to Draft Story Intensive by downloading a copy of the workshop guide (it’s got all the info you need to know in order to decide if this program’s right for you). To sign up (or join the wait list), visit the Idea to Draft page.

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