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Free Planning Template for Your Story

December 18th, 2012 Matt Leave a comment Go to comments
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I like to think of every post as a little gift to my readers, but as it’s Christmas, this week you can download something you can use right away!

Skip straight to the bottom of this post for your free story-planning template, or preferably, stick around and read the following explanation. Remember, this is a working document, so if you have any suggestions on how it could be changed, please let me know.

So, now I’m over my fear of planning I can get down to doing it. But it’s handy to have an approach in mind when planning. So here’s my approach to planning.

The man with this plan is Jez Nicholson. It’s a programming plan, but you get the point! Click for original photo.

Failing to plan is…

I’ve never written down my approach to planning before, but it’s a good idea for several reasons:

  1. It gives you something to follow throughout the process, to make sure you’ve not missed anything out.

  2. It gives you a place to stop planning, and start writing. Sure you could wing it and try and get a feel for when you’ve done enough, but this means you’ve made the decision up front and objectively, so there’s less chance of procrastination.

  3. Writing it down means you’ve got a historical record – “this is what I did on the last project – was it enough?”

  4. Related to the last point – you’ve now got something to adapt for future projects. You can even make notes and adjust the plan as you go.

In fact, that last point is so useful I’m going to keep my planning document as a template separate from my project. And you can too.

If I get halfway through my project and discover I’m missing something, I can consider there and then how I would avoid it in a future story, and add that to my planning template.

That’s automatic improvement, right there!

A Man With a Plan

So with that in mind, here is what my template looks like. This is a result of what I have learnt about planning since starting GetMeWriting and going through a few projects. I have included links to other articles where relevant.

Planning Template

  1. Story blurt – This is a free write of the idea in my head. It’s just anything I want to get out of my brain tubes before I get to work. I’m guessing usually this would take the form of a summary with very few details, but honestly whatever comes, comes. The intention is to get something down in case I need it in order to do the next steps.

  2. Write out my sketch of the story – Step one may not be needed, or may be very brief if I already have a clear idea of what the scenes in the story will be. If so I can go straight to this step, where I write out a couple of sentences for each “scene” of the story. I’m using the term “scene” here very loosely as it may not refer to actual scenes that appear in the finished story. For example, it will almost certainly include backstory in chronological order, which may not even be referred to in the finished piece. This is a sequence of events for my benefit.

  3. Write out how the story will be told – A brief description of how the story is related to the reader, including:

    • When the story starts
    • When the story ends
    • The perspective from which the story is told (first person, third person omniscient etc.)
    • Whose perspective the story is told from i.e. what character(s)?
    • Where the story is set
    • And anything else that feels relevant at the time
  4. Identify areas of research and what I need to get out of them – This could be anything related to the story, but should be kept as larger topics I think – only choose things necessary to tell the story at this point. Small details missing from the first draft can be filled in later and shouldn’t stop you from starting your tale. I divide this section into two:

    1. Real-world stuff I need to research
    2. Stuff I need to make up – there are certain things I will need to know about the world before I can start, and in sci-fi/fantasy that may have little bearing on real-life.
  5. Write a list of characters – All the players.

  6. Decide on the one question the story will answer – This comes from this post on story focus. I write out a list of candidates at this point but I may not necessarily decide on one yet. However, by the time I’ve reached the end of my plan, I will make sure one has been chosen so I can start my first draft with this in mind.

  7. Decide on the biggest area of conflict – Same deal here – I write a list of candidates if it’s not immediately obvious and make sure I’ve decided before I start my first draft. I also include a list of “other conflicts” occurring in the story.

  8. Character work – I’m going to try using the “two-word” method, as described by Nick Thacker. In brief – take one word to describe your characters vocation, and one adjective to describe their manner.

    I will broaden this by creating at least one paragraph on their history in relation to how it relates to their vocation, and one paragraph about why they have the manner I have chosen for them. This should be a good start I think. The rest I expect to come from actually writing the story.

  9. Create each scene in Scrivener, giving it a name and two sentence synopsis – I do this in Scrivener (haven’t you bought that yet?) because it creates a handy-dandy synopsis card for each scene, and it helps to see it all laid out. But you can use whatever. Keep your synopsis short – it is a prompt only.

  10. Write the central conflict in each scene – As we’ve learned a scene is a moment of conflict. So, what’s the conflict? Also think about how this feeds into the main conflict.

  11. Write the damn thing.

planning template download

Click on the image or the text below to download your planning template.

This plan for planning is available in a ready-to-use PDF document, here. This was designed by me, primarily for me, so it may not suit everyone, but it’s always good to have a starting point, eh? Let me know if you think it’s missing anything.

Over to you:
What do you reckon, then? Good idea to have a plan? Do you have one already? What does your approach to planning look like? My comment gut is hungry. FEED ME!

And lastly, a small note to say we won’t be here next week, but will back on New Years Day with our favourite posts of the year! See you then!

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  • Andre Douglas

    I’ve never made a real plan so this is a good start. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tanner.pearson.94 Tanner Pearson

    i loved this it made my mom cry and take goofy smoke when i showed her my story

    • http://getmewriting.com Matt Roberts

      I don’t really know what you just said, but I’m glad it was helpful!

  • Corey Hemmerich

    This is a well-thought process, and thank you for sharing. I try to do bits of writing here and there in the midst of taking care of my four children, so having small, concrete steps like these are helpful. I have used a few different planning methods in the past, so after I use your particular method I will let you know what worked well or what I might change.

    • http://getmewriting.com Matt Roberts

      Hi Corey! Glad you like the download. I struggle with one child (and another on the way). My saving grace is the train trip to work. I can’t imagine what it must be like with four!

  • Niccole Rolls

    Excellent! I am embarking on my first, dedicated, NaNoWriMo adventure and was really at a loss for what my novel would be about, or how I was going to get to 50,000 words in 30 days. Thank you for sharing such an easy to use and understand tool. I am getting started right now!

    • http://getmewriting.com Matt Roberts

      That’s excellent Niccole! Glad you like it and I hope it’s helpful. One day I’ll give NaNoWriMo a bash, but at the moment I can think of too many excuses not to :-)