I had an idea. A really, really cool idea. Inspired by a game I love and the general wackiness found in some anime, mixed in with a little mythology and spiced with my own flavor.
First I wrote the first chapter. Then I rewrote it. Then I tried a prologue. A few tries later, I had a first chapter with an MC who resonated with me.
Then I made up characters. A loose outline. The outline had some really cool ideas. It was comprised of scenes I was excited to write.
I started off on my journey. 40,000 words in, I knew I still had a really, really cool idea.
But it wasn't a story.
Sure, there were scenes. Awesome scenes. Some neat tidbits. A somewhat cohesive narrative that could be easily fixed in revisions.
It still wasn't a story. I was lacking that thing. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something was missing. It bugged me the whole 40,000 words I wrote.
Around 45,000 words, I had it.
The plotline tying these events together.
The concept that would build momentum to an ending.
I had The Motive. The Driving Force. The Desire Which Conflicted With the Protagonist's Desires.
You can have all the best ideas in the world, but without that one little string to pull them all together, you don't have a story.
Take as long as you need to find it. Maybe you know at the start. Maybe it's 45,000 words in. Maybe it's after revising a 90,000 word manuscript.
Once you find it, you'll know.