Begin Your Story Plan – lesson 1

Writing a story is easiest and more manageable when you follow a step-by-step writing process, or what I call, Story Plan.

Most writers get stuck in the middle of their stories because they did not plan out ahead of time how to end their stories.

A Story Plan will help you avoid writer’s block, getting stuck, and feeling frustrated with your characters and plot.

Let’s start with what we know:

-you know that you have to write a short story (or non-fiction narrative) with a complete beginning, middle, and end.

-you know that you can’t leave it off as “To be continued.”

-you know that the story has a word count limit of 4,500 or less.

-you know that the subject matter must be about some kind of current conservation issue.

-you know that you can write in any genre, create any setting and characters.


OK. With all that information, now you have an idea of your story’s boundaries.

Time to get to know your story.


STEP 1: Discovery

Set a timer for 10 minutes. In your favorite writing notebook or journal, begin writing down all of the ideas you have for your story. You can either write a running list, or you can write run-on sentences, fragments – any style that feels comfortable. Write whatever comes to mind about your story.

Include things like:

Characters, including a sidekick and the bad guys!

Possible names for your characters.

Settings—this includes weather, time of day, day of week, month of year, the year, town or city, country, planet. Is it based on our planet Earth, or are you making up a brand-new world? Describe anything that you see in your imagination.

What is the big story problem?

What conservation issue are you tackling?

Don’t forget to include all the senses: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures.

Descriptions of your characters + settings.

Plus anything else that comes to mind.


In the Discovery step, there is ZERO pressure. You can’t get anything wrong. ALL ideas count, so ALL ideas that come to your mind in these 10 minutes should be written down.

Do not cross out anything.

Do not second-guess your ideas. If it shoots through your brain, it goes onto the page.

Do not stare into space.

Write straight through the ten minutes until the bell rings.


Repeat this exercise as many times as you can over the next week. If 10 minutes is not long enough, set the timer for any length that feels comfortable. Always write without stopping, no crossing out, or second-guessing!

Each time you sit down to discover your story, you should be adding in new ideas and new information. Don’t worry right now if anything makes sense. We will deal with that later. Now is the time to make the MOST of your imagination.

HELPFUL TIP: Short stories that contain fewer than 5,000 words usually have ONE main character with ONE problem, a few supporting characters (sidekick and bad guy), and ONE main setting. Keeping the cast small, the problem specific, and setting changes to a minimum will make it easier to go deeper into your main character’s troubles. It will also stop you from writing a story that is too unwieldy.

Satao was poached for his magnificent tusks on May 30, 2014.

Let me know if you have any questions about this lesson! You can comment below or shoot me an email.

Have a writerly week!


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