As I’ve mentioned previously, I listen to a number of podcasts about writing. Some are exceptional, some are great, some are just good.
Several like to talk about beats, structure, theme, and spine. The arc of the protagonist is mentioned, along with conflict, and where you can place hints, foreshadowings of what’s to come, in your story. In some cases, they go so far as to specify that such-and-such needs to happen on page 30, with the next event on page 100, and so on and so on.
While such talk can be helpful, and taken as a whole should be kept in mind when putting a story together, when you’re writing your first draft, it reeks of putting the cart before the horse.
Just get your story on paper. Finish it. You can fix it later.
If you worry too much, in the early stages of your project, about where something happens or when it occurs in the timeline, you get bogged down in dealing with it now rather than getting it written. Once it’s on the page or in the word processor, you can tinker with it to your heart’s desire. But you have to have it finished first.
For now, just write it. If you think of something that you want to change, or add, or subtract, make a note of it and push onward. Keep that creative part of your brain that has something to say energized by bulling ahead and getting it done. Write a crappy first draft. Who cares? No one needs to see it, no one should see it, but you.
During your ‘fermentation period’, when your manuscript is festering away in a drawer, that is the time to listen to advice, or read books on formatting, or whatever, and add that to the mash. When you’re ready to bring your work back out into the light of day, all those things – the story, the book learnin’, the advice – can be brought together and used to do what you want or need to do next: make the story better.
I’m not saying you should write a script in prose, or use a play’s format to write your novel, but in the early stages of the game, focus on getting the damned thing written. Worry less about how it gets done than that it gets done.
If you can do that, you’re well ahead of your ‘competition’.