Story Planner: The perfect gift for writers

Finding the perfect gift for writers in your household can be tricky. Sure, they’ll gladly accept a new laptop, or maybe even a retreat to somewhere remote where they can focus on their new novel (or the scenery from the window).

But if you’re looking for something a little more useful than a simple notebook (it’s our experience that these also go down well), a Story Planner subscription will do the trick, making it the perfect gift for writers. Here are five reasons why.

1. It lasts a whole year

That’s 12 whole months, with full access to the Story Planner range granted to the owner. That’s more than enough time to go through dozens of plans to find the one that works best.

2. It’s affordable

At $40, that’s about the price of two hardback novels. Put another way it’s little less than $4 a month. You can’t even get a good cup of coffee for that (at least not one type with sprinkles, in the coffee shop where you like to write).

3. They’ll be all set for those New Year’s resolutions

Buy a subscription now and be ready for January 1, when the New Year resolutions kick in, as well as that firm resolve to finally get started on the novel. We know that the resolution to start jogging doesn’t always work out, but Story Planner allows you to hit the ground running without the need for spandex or training shoes.

4. It will help you take that first step

A resolution is one thing, but getting started is something entirely different, especially if you’ve never done it before. Story Planner is the perfect gift for writers not just because it helps new writers, but because it will nudge you towards starting regardless of your experience.

5. You can try it free for a week

If you’re still not completely sure, you can try Story Planner for a week, without obligation. If you’re not happy, you can cancel, and keep access to one story outline with our compliments. We also have three month subscriptions for $15.

Just a few reasons why Story Planner makes the perfect Christmas gift, or a welcome addition to your own Christmas list. Click here for details of our membership options and if you still have any questions, check out our FAQs page.


12 ways to help you get your novel finished

finish-writing-novelDo you want to get your novel finished, but find that your head comes up with excuses that get in the way?

We all do this. I sometimes think writing is hard… I’m not in the mood… I haven’t really time now… It will be better to write later, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year… It’s a dangerous pattern because writing a novel takes a lot of hours, and this kind of thinking will always stop us getting things done.

It’s true that writing a novel can feel like hard and unpleasant work, but actually when you think about it it it’s not like that at all. Have you ever experienced time passing in a blur when you’re lost in your writing? Have you ever felt playful or creative as you write? Do you sometimes feel productive or proud of your words? Isn’t it satisfying to write a paragraph or chapter that really works? So why don’t our silly heads tell us all these good bits instead of telling us writing is difficult?

If you’re the sort of writer that’s finding it hard to buckle down and finish your novel, here are some tips to help you get your complete your work in progress.

1. Notice the stories you tell yourself about writing, and then change them!

Change-your-storyIf you notice yourself thinking about writing as a chore realise that this is not fact. The ‘writing is hard’ line is an untruth our unconscious minds are spinning to us. We all tell ourselves stories about our lives every day, if your mind it trying to convince you writing is hard, boring, difficult, and the rest… rewrite that narrative. Tell yourself it’s fun sometimes, you enjoy it, it’s great to get things done. Know that lots of writers write when they’re not 100% in the mood and then get in the zone and enjoy it. Tell yourself you’re a writer who writes, even when your head tries to say you’re someone else entirely. The book Inner Story by Tim O’Brian is an excellent resource for the mental game of writing. I’ve learned to rewrite the stories in my head that sometimes put me off writing. Writing isn’t an easy hobby, but it is satisfying and enjoyable.

2. Find the fun bits of working on your novel

mythSo you’re tired, you don’t have much time, or your mind is on something else..? Don’t give up on writing, you can still make progress with your novel. There is always plenty to do with a project the size of a book. Think outside the box and find one easy task that you can work on that feels quite fun. Try something quite different from writing the next page of your chapter. Perhaps you could sketch ideas for the cover of your book? Draw a mind map of a plot element you’re working on? Write a few plot notes in a notebook? Write a character bio or interview your main character? Play with your novel’s log line? Or try The Hero’s Journey or another story structure template you’ve never used (with no pressure to finish it, you’re only playing!) Or maybe write a line or two blurb for the back of the book? Any small task, especially one that feels fun or different will work. It’s all progress and it will get your mind thinking about your story even when you feel like you don’t want to write.

3. Make it impossible to do anything except write
writing-cafeIf you’re finding it hard to buckle down to your novel then why not put yourself in a position where it’s hard to do anything else? Take a notebook or laptop to a beach or cafe for an hour or two, with no one to chat to it’s highly likely you will write. You can also switch off distractions at home to get more done. Email, social media and websites often take me away from my writing, so I use Freedom on my laptop. This is a small app that switches off the internet for a set time. I mostly use it for 30 minute bursts of productive writing. You can also use Freedom to block specific sites such as Facebook or Twitter if you need internet for research. (Though be wary of research that distracts you from getting words on the page..!) It might seem easy to just not look at websites for 30 minutes, but I seem to get more done when I know Word and Scrivener are the only things I can use on my laptop. Freedom’s 30 minute timer also convinces my resistant head that it’s not much writing time so I can manage it.

4. Try a productivity app

pomodoro-writingThere are many goal setting apps and websites out there which you can use to nudge yourself to get things done and plan novel writing goals. There are websites like IRunURun, Habit List or Habitica which turn to do lists into a game, or try Focus Booster which is based on the pomodoro technique for maintaining focus, plus StridesLifeTick or  Goals On Track can help you complete goals. There is even a new goal setting app aimed at writers, Prolifiko offers 5 days of writing goal setting free if you want to see if it suits you.

5. Remember the good times

nlp-anchor-writingThere is an NLP technique called anchoring that can be useful for writers. It involves establishing an association between an external cue and an internal experience, a bit like Pavlov’s bell with salivating dogs! Pick some small visual token, or make a sign, like holding your thumb and forefinger together, and close your eyes and focus on remembering positive writing feelings. Practise this a few times while holding the token for the best effect. This will anchor that feeling so that the token will become associated with it. Writers might find there is some symbol in their book that they could use for this, maybe a small figurine of an animal that plays a part in the story, could work. Then holding the figurine will trigger positive feelings of writing flowing and going well. Why not try it to see if it motivates you to write? There is more on NLP anchoring here.

7. Think small

Think_SmallIt never helps to think of a great big novel that will need writing and then editing! It is much better to focus on one small achievable next step. My goal is usually just 300 words a day. This is achievable even on a busy work day. It means I can take a few minutes while I’m at work to write a paragraph of my novel in an email, and then I send it to myself.

I don’t like to wait for a big block of writing time, such as a day off, so I’ve trained myself to work in shorter bursts. Habits can be learned, so even if you think this wouldn’t suit you it could be worth trying it for a few weeks. I now open a chapter of my novel and find I can focus on it for sessions as short as 10 minutes. I’ve discovered that 30 minute writing bursts work best for me, I often work on my novel while my husband watched a dull 30 minute TV program!  All these 300 words and 10 minutes of writing time do add up! If I say to myself I’ll write ‘just 300 words’ then I often keep going and end up with 500 or 1000… One Small Step Can Change Your Life is a brilliant little book that explains why setting extremely small goals is a great way to accomplish big tasks.

8. Make goals with deadlines

nanowrimo planningI find it helpful to always have a long term and a short term writing goal. My long term goal right now is to finish my novel’s second draft by the time I go to a writing festival in June. My short term writing goal is to edit one chapter each week. One chapter a week plan feels achievable, but I know I’ll manage a bit more some weeks. An easy goal motivate me because I know I can do it. I probably can edit two chapters a week (and may some weeks) but if this was my goal I’d feel the pressure, and I could be setting myself up to fail. I think all progress is good, and it’s important to be easy on yourself and not get discouraged!

Holding yourself to account for the goals also helps. NaNoWriMo offers a community of writers all working to the same deadline with writing challenges throughout the year, it’s not only for November. My writing group meets once a month, this gives me a reason to write as I have to show them progress each month. Writing Festivals and competitions also give deadlines and a reason to make progress. Competitions often ask for the first three chapters and a synopsis. I don’t particularly like writing synopses but creating them has helped me to sort out many plot issues. I didn’t win the last competition I entered, but I’m glad I got involved because it made me work on my synopsis and opening chapter! If you want to think about writing goals there are a couple of Story Planner goal templates in our Writer’s World category, and here’s a detailed plan to consider your novel tasks this month, and set deadlines.

9. Look for opportunities to write

Write-novel-on-a-TrainConsider the times in your life that give you opportunities to write. I take my laptop every time I travel on a train so I can write on the journey. It is slightly inconvenient carrying my laptop around when I reach my destination, but worth it for the boost it gives my productivity. My regular train journey is 1 hour 20 minutes, and I find I really focus on my novel when I’m travelling. If I take my son to the playground or swimming I take a notebook and use the time to brainstorm plot points, or to make notes on characters. If I’m walking to the shops or can’t sleep, well that’s a good time to think about my next few chapters. If all this sounds obsessive, well, it doesn’t feel it..! It’s become a habit, and writing in different ways (notes, chapters, structure templates, daydreaming…) makes writing my novel feel less like ‘work’ and much more interesting.

10. Make writing time fun

Hemingway-writing-plansIf I have a Friday or Saturday night home alone I sometimes make it a ‘writing fun night.’ I buy a nice bottle of wine, sometimes even a little box of chocolates, and I give myself permission to play with my novel. There is never any word count set on these special evenings, because this is weekend fun time not productive novel working time! I know that any words achieved on these nights are a bonus, because they’re more than I’d have achieved if I’d just put the TV on. I just love my Friday night writing nights, and yes, the wine probably helps! Some famous writers of the past did seem to use alcohol to help the words flow….

11. Chat to a child about your novel’s plot

creative-child-novelHave you ever tried discussing your novel’s plot with your hairdresser? Or with your friend who doesn’t write and works in a bank? Mostly these conversations are embarrassing and I do anything to try to avoid them. Yet I always love chatting about my novel with an eight year old.

Children are curious and creative, they live in a world of imagination. If you’re stuck in your Sci-Fi novel and don’t know what the alien overlord does next, try this tip…  Find a child and tell them your plot problem. I guarantee they will enter into the spirit of things, they will throw in ideas about spies, monsters, or even glowing green sinking sand… You won’t ever use any of their suggestions, but your own mind will be working on ideas as you chat to them. This tip isn’t just for Sci-Fi, I ask my kids about friendship and relationship issues in my YA novel. They relate to my plot dilemmas and tell me about things that happened at school, mention films they like, or tell me how they’d feel themselves. Children seem to enjoy any sort of creative chat. It’s another way to inspire my writing enthusiasm, my grown-up friends don’t share my interest in my plot, but kids get it. Kids don’t think it’s weird to make up stuff and care about your made-up stuff.

12. Plan, plan, plan!

story-plannerI created Story Planner so obviously I think planning a novel is important. Plans help me know where I’m going, so when I sit down to write it’s not quite a blank page to fill I have an idea of what I need to write.  I will usually create a structure plan so I know the main thrust of plot (I like Save the Cat) and then a synopsis or chapter plan. Some people think planning kills creativity, but I find there is always enough that I don’t know to keep it interesting. I do veer from my plan if a new and better idea pops into my head. If I have ideas that change the plot I keep going then tweak my structure plan later. Changing my plan helps me see where I might need to change other bits of story to fit my new idea.

Some writers don’t like to plan with a structure template, though might write character notes, or just have ideas in their head. Every writer finds the method that works best for them..! The important thing is to keep going, and try to enjoy the process.

mountain-stepI’ve boosted my writing productivity with these methods and managed to write a 95,000 word first draft in 3 months. I’m hoping to keep to have a second draft by June, but if I don’t I won’t beat myself up! All that matters is that I make some progress each week. Focus on the progress made, and not on the work ahead…. I like the corny self-help quote, ‘A mountain is climbed one step at a time, take a step today.’

A novel is written one word at a time, write one word today.

Write that one word then tell yourself well done. You’re a writer who writes, you get things done and you will finish your novel. You can do this! I hope Story Planner might be some help on your journey, try it here.


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 cialis generika deutschland.

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

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.



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 cialis 5mg erfahrungenBe 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 cialis 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. Story elements gets the crucial details down and serves as a very basic outline.  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

<img class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-154" src="×300.jpg" alt="congratulations-typewriter-card-3988-0-1435322087000" width="300" height="300" srcset="×300.jpg 300w,×150 potenzmittel im vergleich cialis bestellen.jpg 150w,×200.jpg 200w, 520w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” />Congratulations 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:

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 <a href="http://www cialis” target=”_blank”>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 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:

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 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…


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.

<img class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-122" src="×300.jpg" alt="Pixar story spine" width="226" height="300" srcset="http://blog.storyplanner cialis×300.jpg 226w, 253w” sizes=”(max-width: 226px) 100vw, 226px” />So 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 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 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 cialis 25 mg. 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!