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A Christmas gift for writers

Christmas gifts for writers can be hard to find, so why not give a year’s subscription to Story Planner? A gift subscription costs $40 and allows your writing friends access to online planning tools from character development to settings and story structure. 

If you’d like to buy a Story Planner subscription as a Christmas gift just email gift@StoryPlanner.com and we’ll send you instructions for PayPal payment. Then we’ll send an email gift card which you can print out or  send to your lucky writer friend. The card will offer a unique code to claim 12 months of Premium Story Planner access. That should be enough time for any aspiring novelist to plan a great work of fiction.

If you know a writer who is trying to plan a novel or screenplay then a Story Planner Premium membership may be just the Christmas gift they’re looking for. Give your writing friends a Happy Writing Christmas!

christmas gift for writers

How to use NaNoWriMo to create a fast but polished first draft

nanowrimo planningIt is nearly time for NaNoWriMo, the famous and popular National Novel Writing Month. Last year 431,626 writers attempted its crazy challenge to write 50,000 words in November.

We at Story Planner love the buzz of participating in this writing challenge. Here are a few of the reasons:

  • There is fantastic support  from the writing community at the NaNoWriMo forums.
  • Many towns and cities have ‘write ins’ in coffee shops where writers can get together and share news of their word counts, make new friends, and race to add words to their novel.
  • It gives a focus, and let’s be honest most of us need a kick to get going! NaNoWriMo helps writers get words on the page.
  • Progress is made for a whole month! Whether or not the 50,000 target is reached this is a great way of getting things done. And, of course, it is immensely satisfying if you do reach your NaNoWrimo word target. You’re a winner and you can say, “I did it!”

Some people shy away from this writing challenge because they fear they will create a first draft with flaws. It is true that speedy writing can lead to problems that take many rewrites to fix, but this doesn’t have to be the case. If you have a clear plan or story outline it’s possible to create a high quality first draft. Many writers do this, and many use Story Planner to help with their NaNoWriMo prep.

We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to writing, we know every writer is different, so Story Planner offers many varied planning. Here are some methods that NaNoWriMo writers might use to plan their novel ahead of November.

Know the bare bones of your story. Can you describe your novel in brief?

If you know your story well and can describe your story simply in short form it’s more likely you’ll stay on track. When the pressure is on to write 1,666 words a day you may be tempted to write anything, just anything..! but if you know the core of your story you’re much more likely to write plot that matters, instead of drifting off track.

Many writers like the simplicity of the Once Upon A Time method to create a summary of a story, or you might try our log line generator that turns a few details about your story into a log line pitch.

Write a novel outline or chapter plan. Can you draft a plan of your novel’s plot?

Some writers like to write a summary of their story before they begin to write, we have a plan for writing a novel synopsis here. Other writers like to write a few notes on each chapter, or to use index cards to write plot points and move these around until they are right.

Many writers like to plan story structure, and use popular methods such as Save the Cat story beats, or traditional three act structure. If these kind of plans for novel structure are your thing we have a varied collection of templates to ensure your story structure is right.

Know your characters and world. Do you know your character’s well enough?

Another way to be sure your NaNoWrimo project goes smoothly is to get to know your characters and story world. Story Planner offers a large range of plans to help you get to know your characters. You could outline each of your minor characters with our character blueprint, or explore your major characters in our most detailed character profile. If you want to think about each character’s journey of change you could try a character arc. 

If you are planning a novel set in the future, the past, or a fantasy world it might also be useful to explore Story Planner’s world building plans.  These will help you consider the details of your novel’s world before you start to write.

We hope these planning tools will help you write a great NaNoWriMo novel.  As a limited time offer we’re also offering a free story plan critique to every Story Planner Premium member who signs up for a year. This is only $40 and is another way to ensure you have an excellent plan ready before November. Story Planner is of course free, and always will be free for basic members, who can still explore and enjoy our novel writing plans.

Good luck to everyone in November!

 

 

 

FREE Story Plan critique for Premium members

critique novel

Story Planner is now offering a FREE Story Plan critique for every Premium member selecting a 1 year subscription. A year of Story Planner Premium membership is only $40 and allows full access to our online planning resources to help you create a well structured novel or screenplay. As a limited time offer we are giving a free 1-2 page critique for every new member. Our Story Plan critiques will give you feedback on your story structure, and highlight strengths and weaknesses of your plot.

Many writers find it useful to get guidance on a story outline at an early stage. It can save many months of work down the line if plot or structural weaknesses are highlighted at the planning stage. If you spot a story problem once you’ve written a full draft it will require a time consuming rewrite to correct the story and revise your work. If you plan your novel or screenplay at Story Planner and share your outline with people you trust it can help you create a more polished first draft.

It’s simple to claim your free Story Plan critique. Here’s what to do:

Our Story Plan critiques are written by an experienced screenwriting graduate, a story structure specialist with a knowledge of constructive criticism gained by leading a popular novel and short story writing group for more than four years. Check back soon for sample Story Planner critiques for you to download.

We hope you will enjoy our new Story Plan critique service, and that it will help to guide you to writing success!

Essential Apps for Writing

It’s easy to get distracted from writing with constant access to technology and the internet (just how does it have the power to make you lose a solid hour to looking at a baby owl riding a toy animal around the house?) Rather than let this divert your attention from the writing process, why not use it to your advantage instead? Here are eight useful apps to help with productivity, time management and the writing process itself.

  1. Freedom: This is the nemesis of procrastination and a work of genius. You switch it on and it blocks your access to the internet for the time specified, or you can create a custom list to block certain sites. It also works as a smartphone app although the Facebook app is great at resisting it, hence the specific advice the app provides on ‘how to block facebook.’

writing freedom

2. Grammarly: This Google Chrome add-on works as a grammar checker and is much more in-depth than Microsoft word. It’ll highlight any mistakes no matter where you’re typing, handy if you’re in a rush or if grammar isn’t your strong suit. It can also be integrated into Word, the premium version offering other more in depth features.

grammar

 

3. Write or Die: Another enemy of procrastination and battles the fear of getting started. Enter a time limit and a word goal, then you choose between reward, consequence or stimulus mode. These either give positive reinforcements when you reach milestones towards meeting your goal or set off unpleasant alarms or images if you stop writing and become distracted. If you’re feeling particularly brutal towards yourself then choose kamikaze mode; which will eat your words until you start writing again.

 

writing on time

4. Novlr: This novel writing software was built by writers and allows you to log on and access your words anywhere. It’s user focused and the software is constantly improving and providing what its writers have asked for.  You can save individual chapters which makes it easy to navigate your novel in progress, rather than scrolling through an endless word document. It also provides offline writing, integrating with google drive to back everything up.

novel writing

 

5. Evernote: If you can never find which piece of paper or notebook you’ve written something down in then Evernote is the solution. It’s an app for notetaking and syncs between desktop and the app, meaning you can add whatever pops into your head no matter where you are.

 

writing notes

6. Dubscript: Dubscript is a screenplay app for Andriod which prides itself on being easy to use, giving you the ability to write in plain text without having to figure out the usual stuff which comes with screenwriting software. It saves to your device rather than the cloud and doesn’t require an internet connection to use.

script writing

 

7. Threadnote: This is another note taking app for iPhone; it records your notes and thoughts like tweets (although they are not shared with the world of Twitter, they remain for your eyes only.) It’s handy for jotting things down quickly and adding in a hashtag means that topics can be organised together and easy to find again.

iphone note writing

8. Be Focused: This is basically an app version of the Pomodoro technique which is a method for managing your time, following the logic that you can only concentrate on one thing for short bursts. For example the timer is set at 25 minutes which is your window for completely focused work and then you’re allowed a five-minute break. It breaks things up into small chunks, making a big scary task feel manageable.

pomodoro writing

 

Do you swear by any of these apps, or use any others to help you write? Let us know in the comments.

 

Planner vs. Pantser

Are-you-a-Planner-or-a-PantserThere are often two kinds of writers: the ones who plan out their stories in advance and know where the characters are going to take the plot, and those who fly by the seat of their pants (the definition of ‘pantser.’) Setting off on the page with nothing more than an idea allows you to discover the story as you write. While this can be exciting, it will often lead to time-consuming editing; particularly when things have radically evolved half way through the story as you’ve come up with new ideas.

To put it another way: ‘a panda with psychic abilities’ is an idea, not a story, whereas ‘psychic panda must save the day after discovering impending zoo massacre’ gives the character a dilemna and hints at the story’s structure: (impending crisis, character must figure out how to take action, saves the day.) *

If you’re not the planning type then the pre-writing process might feel like a threat to your spontaneity, however; a well thought out story means that you know where your story is going, and crucially, how it will get there. This is particularly the case with short stories, the point of them being to get to the ending. For instance Rob Shearman summed up the short story as answering a ‘what if?’ question, the story building up to a satifying end to answer its proposal.

 

For newbie planners, and indeed anyone who is unsure about where to start, we’ve narrowed down all of our story plans to the three below which take you through just a few basic questions, letting your story take a bit of shape before it meets the page:

http://www.storyplanner.com/story/plan/simple-story-structure This gets you to do a quick summary of the plot and what journey the character will undergo without thinking about acts or turning points.

http://www.storyplanner.com/story/plan/story-elements Story elements gets the crucial details down and serves as a very basic outline.

http://www.storyplanner.com/story/plan/jeff-s-character-plan  This is a list of one word prompts to help you figure out key aspects of your character.

We look forward to hearing about your story planning journeys in the discussion forum,

Thanks for reading!

*’psychic panda’ is a very rough idea plucked out of my brain for the purpose of an example.

Our May competition winners

congratulations-typewriter-card-3988-0-1435322087000Congratulations to Alice Russo whose well structured plan for hostage drama ‘Real Eden’ wins our screenwriting competition and a Script Hackr online course.The runners up were Poppy Damon with ‘She Was the Universe’ and Yasmin Howard-Spin with ‘Spark,’ they both win a year’s premium subscription to Story Planner.

The standard of entries was high, and we were impressed with many entrants who successfully showed they’d crafted an interesting and well put-together story in a short form.  Many writers chose to use our plan for classic three act structure with the Save The Cat beat sheet also proving popular.

We’d like to thank Script Reader Pro for providing our prize, and for offering a generous discount to Story Planners on their online screenwriting course. The discount will last for another week or so, so get it while you can! Script Hackr uses rarely talked about hacks and practical exercises to de-mystify theory. The course retails at $299 but Story Planner contest subscribers can get it for just $99 by using this coupon code at checkout: STYPLN3 

You can check out more details on the course here: http://www.scriptreaderpro.com/online-screenwriting-course/

We’ll announce our next competition very soon, and thanks to everyone who entered this time. It was certainly a difficult task to pick the winners when so many ideas showed such promise. Congratulations once again to Alice Russo for the win.

 

Simple screenwriting competition – with a great prize!

course2Our latest Story Planner competition has a screenwriting theme, and a great prize of a downloadable Script Hackr course created by the guys at Script Reader Pro. This screenwriting course teaches the fundamentals of screenwriting in 7 practical modules, and it’s bound to inspire better writing.

The competition is as easy as can be and completely free. Simply send a screenplay idea outlined using any plan from Story Planner’s Screenplay Structure category.

You might choose a Save the Cat!® beat sheet, you might like to use traditional 3 Act Structure, or perhaps you like a flexible structure with Index Cards method? Any plan is eligible, and the script idea that captures our eye will win. We’re looking for a screenplay concept with a well structured story structure and an intriguing idea.

Save and edit the  story plan as much as you like, and when your script outline is ready choose ‘Export’ and ‘Email’ and send the plan to the email address competitions@storyplanner.com. The deadline for entries is May 1st. There’s a first prize of a Script Hackr course worth $299, and two runner up prizes of a year’s subscription to Story Planner.

Script Reader Pro are currently running a discount on Script Hackr for all Story Planner contest entrants, and we think it’s a great deal for this unique downloadable course! Forget all the confusing and vague “fluff” found in most screenwriting courses, coverage and books. Script Hackr will skyrocket your screenwriting skills by utilizing rarely talked about hacks and hands-on practical exercises to de-mystify theory. The course retails at $299 but Story Planner contest subscribers can get it for just $99 by using this coupon code at checkout: STYPLN3 

You can check out more details on the course here: http://www.scriptreaderpro.com/online-screenwriting-course/

Good luck with the competition and happy writing!

Here are the simple rules to the Story Planner screenplay plan contest.

  1. A story plan from  must be submitted to competitions@storyplanner.com before midnight GMT on May 1st 2016.
  2. The prize of a Script Hackr downloadable course plus year’s subscription to Story Planner will be given to the best entry in the opinion of the judges. There will be two additional runners-up prizes of a year’s premium subscription at Story Planner.
  3. We will not publish any of the created plans and the full copyright for all submitted ideas remain with the author.
  4. There is no minimum or maximum word length, but entrants should bear in mind that all Story Planner plans are devised to showcase a story’s structure in a brief format.
  5. Writers can submit as many competition entries as they wish.
  6. The judges decision is final. And we hope you find it a useful exercise to think about your story with our online plans!

Once upon a time… A great planning method and our first competition.

Once upon a time story planNote: Thanks to all writers who entered our first Story Planner competition. Well done to  Anna Fusté, the winner who wrote an atmospheric plan for her story, ‘The Cure.’ Our latest contest has now launched and seeks a screenplay plan, check the details here screenwriters! 

We’re going to offer regular competitions at Story Planner. We feel the planning stage of writing a novel or story is important, so we’ll be offering many small, free, competitions for writer’s using the plans at the site. The first will be a competition for the best plan using the Pixar ‘Once upon a Time’ plan. This is my new favourite plan. I think this planning method is so easy that it works even if you don’t think of yourself as a ‘planner,’ or have no interest in story structure. The Pixar story  spine is a ‘fill in the blanks’ way to outline basic structure. It’s based on a formula that’s stood the test of time and can be seen in the structure of many classic stories.

It goes like this…

Once upon a time_____  And every day_____ Until one day_____  And because of this_____ And because of this_____ Until finally_____ And ever since that day_____.

This is the shape of many a fairy tale, and follows traditional three act structure, although it’s presented in a way that avoids knowledge of turning points and acts. No one seems to know who first devised this story spine, but Pixar Story Artist Emma Coats tweeted it as one of 22 #storybasics storytelling tips from the studio. You can read the full list of Emma’s writing tips here. There is plenty of great advice in that list.

As a story structure geek I will explain how it fits three act structure, with those beginning, middle and  end acts. You don’t need to know this to use the plan well, but I think it shows why it successfully structures a story.

Act 1 : The set-up, the character at the start of the story.

Once upon a time…

And every day…

End of Act 1 : The turning point.

Until one day…

Act 2 : Complications on the character’s journey to reach a goal.

And because of this…

And because of this…

End of Act 2 : The turning point.

Until finally…

Act 3 : The resolution, the goal won or lost and the character changed.

And ever since that day…

THE END

I think this planning style works well for any story, from a short story to a novel, or a screenplay. That’s because it follows the character journey, and leads from one thing to the next in a satisfying way.

Pixar story spineSo all you need to do to enter our competition is to write a story plan using the Pixar Once Upon A Time template. You can use it for a novel, screenplay, or short story, either one you know well, or try to use it to develop a new idea. Or you can try a few, there is no limit on the number you can enter.  Save and edit the plan as much as you like, and when you’re ready to enter the competition choose ‘Export’ and ‘Email’ and send the plan to the email address competitions@storyplanner.com. The deadline for entries is March 13th.

There will be a prize of a copy of the Pixar Storytelling for the winner, plus a year’s free subscription to Story Planner.  I will be very honest, the site is new so we’re not expecting  too many entries… BUT if you think this a good plan, or like the competition, we’d appreciate you sharing news of it on social media. If we get ten tweets or facebook posts about the competition then we’ll be able to give away three prizes not just one.

So, what are you waiting for…? To find the Pixar Once Upon A Time plan click here. 

 

There are just a few rules and ‘small print’ details.

  1. A Once Upon A Time story plan must be submitted to competitions@storyplanner.com before midnight GMT on March 15th 2016.
  2. The prize of a Pixar Storytelling book plus year’s subscription to Story Planner will be given to the best entry in the opinion of the judges. Two additional prizes will be added for every ten social media shares spreading news of this competition and/or the Once Upon A Time writing plan.
  3. We will not publish any of the created plans unless the author gives permission for this, and like every plan devised on the site the full copyright for the idea remains with the author.
  4. There is no minimum or maximum word length, but entrants should bear in mind that this plan is devised to showcase a story’s structure in a brief format.
  5. Writers can submit as many competition entries as they wish.
  6. The judges decision is final. (And if you don’t win we hope you find it a useful exercise to think about your story with this planning method.)

Happy writing, and good luck!

 

Story planning is now easier than ever at Story Planner

door-672999_960_720We want story planning to be as easy as it can be, so we’ve made a few changes to the Story Planner site. Most of these changes were suggested by you, the writers who use our site.

We added features to guide you to choose the right plan for your writing, a step-by-step planning system of our own, and much more.

We’ve also added a blog (you’re reading it now!) this means we can tell you what’s going on, and  detail tips for planning novels, short stories and screenplays. We’ll also offer regular prize competitions for everything from log lines to story outlines.

Here’s a round-up of all the changes at Story Planner.

Feedback forum and community 

We’ve added a forum for chat about all things writing, but we think the neatest thing is that you can choose to make any of your writing plans public to publish them on the forum. This means that you can seek feedback on your plans from friends or fellow writers. Plans are still private by default, but now every plan has a ‘make this public’ button, for those times when you want advice.

I know I’m  looking forward to reading plans and sharing thoughts on novel act structure or screenplay beats. Check out the new forum here.

Story Planner Helper

filtersSome writer’s told us there were too many plans and said they didn’t know which one to choose. So we’ve added filters so writers can sort plans more easily.

You can now filter plans by popularity, difficulty, whether they suit a new idea or a developed one, or how long they take to complete.

We’ve also made ‘Story Planner Helper’ a check-box guide to lead you to the right plan. Just answer a few simple questions and Story Planner Helper will show you the most suitable plans for your project. Check it out here.

Our very own story system – Novel Launcher

If you’re writing a novel we’d love you to try our Novel Launcher system. It offers 6 steps which take you from the initial idea, to exploring your concept and characters, and will finally guide you to create a full story outline. You’ll find this here.

New plans and categories

You’ll spot a few new categories. The ‘Ideas’ category offers plans to help you note and store your ideas. The non-fiction category aims to help with everything from articles and essays to blogs and press releases. You should also check out our new Pixar ‘Once upon a time’ story plan, we think this will be very popular, it’s such a quick and insightful way to plan any story. We also know planning with Index Cards is popular, so we made a plan that replicates planning using cards and lets you reorder your plot points. Try the Index Card plan here.

Even more

blog-logoThere are many more smaller tweaks. There’s a new export option so you can email a story plan to your inbox, or to a friend. We’ve added links to relevant books to give further information. We’ve also changed our logo. We did like our old book logo, but many screenwriter’s use the site and a novel doesn’t fit their writing style!

Anything else?

We hope you like all these changes, and find they make story planning a little easier. Of course we’re not done yet. If there’s any new feature you’d like to see at Story Planner  let us know, there’s a ‘Suggestions and improvements’ forum thread waiting for your ideas.

Good luck with your writing plans, and happy story planning!