Planning A Story

boat and pier at night illustrating an article about planning a storyPlanning a story is one of the best things you can do if you want to finish your story.

I know some writers don’t plan at all.

They just follow their muse, or their creative genius wherever it takes them.

If it works for you, that’s great but many writers find that without a plan to follow, their story falls apart before they get to the finish line.

Personally I don’t have a muse, so I have to work out my stories in advance.

To me, the idea of not planning a story is equivalent to a slow descent into hell!

A writer who has lost themselves in the creative writing process can produce a confusing and confused story.

I have read a lot of pieces where I know there is a good story in there somewhere but the story is lost among a confusion of disjointed scenes that go nowhere, characters who are disconnected and tangents that beat a confusing path towards a whole different story.

At the very least, planning a story will stop you getting stuck, and at the very best, it will enable you to structure your story coherently and let your narrative flow.

Whether you begin with a story idea, or a character idea, it is up to you. If are just starting and are stuck for ideas try some creative writing exercises.


In its simplest form a story is something that happens to someone – this is important and forgetting this is one of the most common mistakes writers make.

Your character can be very interesting but unless you reveal that through story, nobody will ever know. There is more help with planning a character here.

If you don’t remember that simple rule you will produce reams of descriptive scenes, or big chunks of dialogue with nothing much actually happening to anyone at all!


Heron in flight illustrating an article about planning a storyPlanning a story can be easy or complicated.

I write a chapter plan of a novel with each chapter represented by a couple of lines about the action of each chapter. I add to this gradually.

Usually I start writing the project and add to the plan as I go. This makes it easy to manage and helps trigger ideas for new developments.

Not everyone can map out every character, event and obstacle in their proposed book from the get go.

That’s okay – just make a loose chapter plan and add events and place obstacles in your characters path as you go on.

Use your plan as a guide, not a bible and remember to keep adding to your plan as you write – this makes it easier to manage a long project.

I use Scrivener software for writers, all the time. It makes my life much easier.

I can create chapter plans, cork boards, outlines and much more. My favourite feature is the ability to see all the chapters and their headings at a glance.


You can and should keep character notes. It is very easy to mention a minor character’s luscious red hair in one scene and yet later on in the story there they are – leaning against a bus stop patting their bald head!


There are lots of people who spend their days trawling through books and films, looking for mistakes like that so that they can post them on discussion boards all over the internet.


Keep notes on locations used and remember if you are mentioning real locations you must be accurate in your description and your depiction.

Keep notes, or learn to enjoy blushing.

Don’t worry though, as long as you have some form of plan you won’t go too far wrong.

But, without a plan you could go so very, very wrong.

It is very disheartening to find you have somehow written a large quantity of pages that add nothing to your work – except confusion.

Believe me I’ve been there.


Without a plan you might find yourself with a whole lot of middle, a whole lot of muddle and no ending.

What’s so heartbreaking about this is that sometimes writers get to this point after a couple of hundred pages and then find themselves unable to end their story. For more about this see tired of your own story.’

Planning a story means you can work out whether a viable ending is possible before you are a couple of hundred pages in and that’s worth doing.


Good luck with your story planning and all your writing.


white owl with daffodils illustrating an article for writers about planning a story

Copyright symbol in an article for writers about planning a storyP.S. All the information and creative writing tips are provided here free for you. All I ask in return is that you comment in the box below, like and share this article so that others may enjoy it too.




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