Writers: How do you plan your stories?



Then that makes you a plaster. You write as you go!


I don’t really plan my books beyond a ‘what if question,’ and maybe the initial assessments of my two main characters. Other than that, I just write and let the scene drip where it may.



I am writing my first ever “long” story. And It’s a mess.
I wrote down in a book a very large outline of the chapters I wanted to write, then added a few details. Transfered everything in Google Docs and I’m now in the process of writting.

But I got a problem: I can’t think of an ending. And the more I write, the more it’s getting difficult to actually think of one. I thought I had an idea, but it was too cliché, and I wasn’t feeling it, but now that I scraped it, I can’t seem to find something that makes me go “Omg yes, this is great!”

How do you guys manage to find a good ending? Do you already plan it or does it just come up while you guys are writing?


For me, it’s a little bit of both. I had a for sure scene I wanted to be near the end of my last book. I had put it as a little bit of a ‘sneak peek’ at the beginning of the first chapter. It was basically a flashforward then I went back so I could start the book. I did this so I knew I had to hit that plot point because it was already written and people had already read it.


… Wait … people plan their stories here?!

image https://media1.tenor.com/images/79b0f5d59a03bdef45adf6a87997adf0/tenor.gif?itemid=5610222

Okay joking aside. I let my characters run the show and take notes and fix their things up and add some outlining to create some sense and structure amongst the chaos, lol.


Literally just Google Docs. I plan chapter by chapter. I have A, B, C, the beginning, middle, and end of the chapter. Then I write usually 5 things that happen in each of those categories.


So, I start by writing little blurbs and scenes on small sheets of paper and then, depending on how many sheets I have for the same “story”, I take those and just start writing. I’ll make some notes in TextEdit and hope for the best.


I’m a pantster. I don’t plan.


With a vague outline.


It depends. When I was younger I used to brainstorm on an easel and I had different sharpie colors for different connections I wanted to make. Then I storyboarded the whole thing and taped it up on my wall using notecards. It was an intense process.

Now, I spend about two weeks just dreaming about it before I do anything. Because it’s in that time that more connections are made, and more ideas swarm, and more happens. Then I start planning. I have a ton of different resources, and sometimes I don’t use any of them. For the most part though, I have at least a beginning, a twist in the middle, and an end before I start writing. The ending, I believe is the biggest part. The middle, however, I’ve grown to desperately need while writing, because I need a temporary goal before the endgoal, otherwise my characters tend to just… float, for a while anyways.

If I’m feeling inspired to write a separate scene that isn’t in chronological order, I don’t let that stop me. I open up a new tab and title it “extra scenes” (I use Evernote which makes this super simple) and write what i want to there. Once we get to where it fits, then I plop it in and check to make sure it still flows logically in the sequence, and tailor it to how my story has developed.

This is mainly just because when I was so rigidly structured, I couldn’t handle when things didn’t go the right way, or when characters didn’t come off as I initially planned them. It’s a faux pantster method. My favorite description was: I’m more of a gardener. I have seeds, I put them in certain plots, and how they grow depends on how I tend to them, but they grow in their own way. In the end, though, I do indeed expect a garden.


I like to make sure I start with an ending in mind. It may be subject to change, but it’s because I often have the same issue you have. I would say, even if it’s cliche, in order to get the story working towards an end goal it may be a good idea to stick to it. You can edit later once you’ve thought of something. Like an essay, it may be that you have to write the whole thing and go back and change it after.

What you can also look at: what do your characters want most in the world? Is your story a success story, a moving on story, or a tragedy where they don’t get what they want and less?

It might be useful to look at traditional genres (I recommend Shakespeare for this). Look at tragedies, comedies, etc. Where did your characters start? Where is it logical for them to end?

Hope that’s helpful!


I generally don’t get to writing my stories for months/years after I first have the idea. First off I’m just a slow writer lol, but also because some ideas come more fully formed to me than others. Depending on the book and the draft number, I’ll change my system. For my current first draft, I had done some initial brainstorming on paper, had one false start, and then based on my notes and what I ‘discovered’ from the first attempt, made an outline in Word. I started with the most basic points, and then expanded on them until I had a few paragraphs. Like a redux snowflake method, haha.

My current posting project is a third draft, so I did my brainstorming on paper (I always do this bit, writing it longhand helps me generate more ideas), described briefly in neatened notes my characters and their arcs plus links, and then started writing. I keep two word documents open as I write, one with a brief summary of each chapter as I’ve written it, along with plot stuff I need to remember, and then another with more general notes in it for stuff I came up with unexpectedly (e.g. location names, unexpected character additions, etc.) and need to keep track of. This method works better for this project because it’s just so damn fiddly that I can’t predict exactly where it’ll go and when, and I need to be able to see it all at a glance :joy:

For one of my stories in the past, my first draft was my outline. I ‘pantsed’ the book technically, but then used the results of winging it to structure the second draft better. I don’t think I’ve ever used exactly the same method for any two given stories lol :rofl:


Planning? What’s that?
Kidding. Kind of.
I was the kid that wrote essays without ever needing to go through the outlining process unless it was required by the teacher, so outlining is a bit foreign for me. It’s becoming necessary as I’m now aware planning a long term story is a much more involved process than writing a grade school paper and keeping track of things is a bit trickier.

I had a story that I was just kind of writing as it came with a vague plan of how things would go until one day I decided I needed two particular people to die… for reasons. For whatever reason, I decided the best way to kill off these characters was with a war. I just had to write the war into the story to kill off the characters. It didn’t take long before I realized I’d need to keep track of this war- when did it start? Who all is involved? How many people died?
All of a sudden, I had to draw up a bunch of timelines just to keep up. One timeline for the war in relation to history, another for the war in relation to the lifetime of the characters, one for important events during the war… and, of course, I’m incapable of keeping them on the same page, so I had to hunt through pages to find the right timeline anytime I wanted to confirm something. And I had to draw a map. I’m an idiot.
Also, don’t write a war to kill off two characters. As is the nature of wars, a lot more than two people will die. Mine crashed through the backstories of half my characters and left me with a horrid cast of orphans. I probably deserved it.

Something else that almost worked for me was writing something like a quest log. I’m very much stuck on paper writing for pet projects (I can carry them with me and such) so I’m very much stuck on paper planning. In the back of one of my notebooks are various scrawled tasks like “Talk to this person”, “Obtain this object”, “Go to this place”, “Have a serious conversation about that thing”, arranged in a way that vaguely follows my disorderly master plans for the story. It helped me stay on task and it helped me consider which things actually needed to happen to further the story.


I just don’t plan it
I just basically go with the flow
So what ever comes to my mind I just know it is how I will write it
And voila
There I have it