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How To,  Writing Tips

How To Plan a Story Plot + Best Apps to Use

Often, the most challenging, frustrating part of writing a story is developing and planning the plot. Not only must you decide what happens in the story and how it ends, but you also need to properly pace the plot—that is, decide how long each event lasts, how fast the story progresses, etc.

When I develop a story’s plot, I like to break the process into three steps. Yes, that’s it—three steps is all it takes to form a complete and detailed plot. And, in the end, if you use this method, it will leave you with the perfect outline so you can begin the actual writing process, pitch your story, or whatever else you’d like to do with it.

Following these three steps will allow you to push past the pre-writing phase with ease and get to work on writing the story you envision.

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How To Plan a Story Plot

#1 – WRITE THE PREMISE

Writing a story premise may seem like it has nothing to do with developing the plot of your story, but this step is essential, so don’t skip it.

Your premise will give you a solid foundation from which you can build your story in a clearer, unwavering manner.

This all comes down to summarizing your story in a few sentences in a way that would entice a potential reader. You should give enough information to understand your story, the genre, possibly the protagonist, and their primary obstacle. However, don’t give too much away. Anyone who reads the premise should feel engaged and curious.

Example: As the killer slowly reveals their identity, a stubborn detective discovers absolutely no one is who they say they are.

Genre: Mystery

Obstacle: The killer

Protagonist: A stubborn detective

Though this premise is only for you, write it as if you’ll use it to sell your story. It will help to keep you on track with what your story is about. Referring to the premise throughout the writing process will ensure you don’t stray too far from the main purpose you intended.

#2 – MAP OUT THE BASIC PLOT POINTS

Basic Plot Points:

  • Exposition
  • Inciting Incident
  • Rising Action
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Resolution

Start of with focusing on the three major points: inciting incident, climax, and resolution.

Decide what the inciting incident in your story is—this is the point or event that sets the story in motion. After, think about the climax, a.k.a. the point of no return. You could have a big plot twist here, or it may seem that all hope is lost for your protagonist, anything that resembles the turning point goes here. Don’t forget to decide how the story ends. Does the protagonist win and achieve their goal? Or, perhaps maybe they lose. Do they end up dying? Will you have the story end on a cliffhanger or another more open-ended design?

There’s no need to go into complete detail, just make a bullet point of each event.

Example:

Inciting incident: the killer leaves the detective a letter with a hint of who he is

Climax: the detective comes face to face with the killer, his identity is revealed

Resolution: the killer kills the detective

From there, you can go back and decide on the events for the rest of the plot points.

#3 – FILL IN THE BLANKS

Now it’s time to go back and fill in the rest of the information. What are the main points in the exposition? Do they happen before or after the main event you already listed?

Start with the most prominent events and add any ideas you have. Then, continue adding points in between, and eventually, you’ll have a solid, detailed, complete outline documenting the entire plot of your story.

Best Apps Plan a Story Plot

Notion

Notion is my favorite app to organize pretty much anything, but especially for writing. It’s free, super customizable, and easy to use. You can add tables, lists, files, timelines, tables of content, and so much more. In fact, I’m using it right now to draft this blog post!

Trello

Another free app, Trello, is excellent for list-makers and anyone who switches their plans around a lot. You are able to label information, add due dates, and move boards and lists around as you want.

Goodnotes

Goodnotes is an app that I use on a daily basis. However, it does cost $7.99 and, to use the app to its fullest, you’ll need a tablet and stylus. I use this app on a 2nd generation iPad Pro with a 1st generation Apple Pencil. It works basically like a notebook, but as it’s digital, you can move information around, add photos, add stickers, switch from text to handwriting, and more.

Google Docs

Google Docs is a staple for so many people, so I’m sure you either use it or have at least heard about it. Again, this one is free and is easy to use. I use Google Docs to write outlines, make spreadsheets (which I use to plan out blog content and story progress), and take notes.

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