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My (General) Method of Planning a Story (Guest Post By Lillian Keith)

Updated: Apr 1

Hey, Visionaries! I'm so happy to present you with a guest post my dear, dear friend (who has put up with me for almost a year now via email) Lillian Keith!!! If you know her, you know she's the sweetest thing and an amazing Middle-Grade author! So, without further ado, I'm gonna turn the floor over to Lillian!


I say general because I’m most likely to switch things up if it will work for the story. For a long time, I didn’t have a ‘set’ method of writing. I think I ‘pantsed’ a lot of short stories for school, with a few being outlined in the process. It wasn’t until I got older that I started outlining more because I realized I needed a clear view of the direction I was going. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today, I want to share my main method of planning a story. Of course, everyone has different ways of doing this (and I would love to hear about yours at the end of the post!) so this is not a hard rule that everyone needs to follow. Rather, I encourage you to find what works for you, whether it be this way, another way, or a mix of whatever inspires you.

For me, it all starts with a ‘what if’ idea (haha, doesn’t it always?). Sometimes, that ‘what if’ is sparked by a snippet of conversation. Or an intriguing picture. Or a random character or real-life person that you cross paths with. However it starts, I usually mull it over and write the basic premise down in a story idea notebook (that is, if I don’t get distracted and forget… *oops!*)

If the idea won’t leave me, then I’ll start developing it. Here’s where it can vary a bit. Usually, I try to find some quiet time (outside on the porch swing is my favorite place). I’ll just let my mind freely explore the idea while jotting down random names or points of conflict on a piece of paper. Sometimes, I’ll think through different themes and figure out what types of situations or conflicts will enhance those themes.

At that point, I might start jotting down different conflict situations, either on a three-point outline or just list them on a separate paper. If I’m working on a three-point outline (usually for short stories), I write out the basics of what will happen in the beginning, middle, and end (plus the climax). I don’t really worry about the order of events in the middle because I can (and usually do) rearrange it with the final outline.

If it’s a longer story, like a novella, I list all the conflict ideas and scenarios in random order on a piece of paper (because I’m a professional organizer XD). Then I’ll type it all in Scrivener’s handy notes section.

From there, I work on creating a chapter-by-chapter outline by going over the list I made and figuring out which conflict scenario would go where.

(This is where Scrivener comes in handy; they let you refer to notes and the document you’re currently working on at the same time. Super helpful because you don’t have to flip back and forth between documents.)

When I use a scenario from the list, I cross it out with a highlight tool or a strike-through (that way, I know which ones I’ve used, and which ones are left). I don’t have to use it all. The list is just to provide ideas. The outline gives me direction and helps me see if the story progresses logically.

Once the chapter outline is done, I’ll sometimes step back for a day or so, then return to start writing the first chapter. And thus, I begin working through each chapter until the whole first draft is done!

And that’s how I usually write my stories. I hope it inspired you and maybe gave you a new idea to try. How do you like to write your stories?


About the Author

Lillian Keith (you can just call her Lily for short!) never grew out of her love for children’s literature. She has been telling stories all her life, first to her dolls, and then to her family, and hopefully to more kids in the future. She’s the author of the short story, An Apprentice Escapes, and the middle-grade novella, Should We Tell Her?

Aside from writing, you’ll often find her feeding wild rabbits, arguing with spell check on Google Docs, or talking with her imaginary friends *ahem* story characters. Feel free to drop by her site and say ‘hi’. She loves meeting new people, hearing from excited readers, and making new friends (be forewarned, though. She loves puns and may try to sneak one into the conversation when you’re not looking!)

You can connect with her via her blog:


I hope you guys enjoyed this post by Lillian! How do you plan your stories? Do you plan at all? Are you going to try Lily's method? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!


Kaytlin P.

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