First time Schengen for 30+ days
Since it was the first time that I was applying for the Schengen and that too for approximately 2 months, I had to be extra careful .
Get a travel agent-
I would definitely recommend the help of a travel agent if your travel period is longer than 20 days. I was working a regular job and was happy to have someone look at the documentation, here
I knew that I wanted to do 1.5–2 months since this was probably the only certain long break I would have in a very long time. I was not willing to do for any shorter than that.
Most travel agents were skeptical of applying for a first time Schengen for such a long period. They suggested I applied for a 20–25 day period fearing a rejection for anything longer than that. To solve this, we decided that I would show my Europe trip broken into two legs with a travel to the US in between.
So my route would look like- India- Europe (12 days)-US(20 days)- Europe(13 days)- India (but in reality, I did not go to the US. It was just a way to break my trip and ensure that I was given a visa for the entire period).
My travel agent and I were hoping that the visa authorities would grant us the Schengen for the entire period (including the US travel time).
In case you are wondering how I could lie about my itinerary and flight bookings, let me tell you that this happens all the time. Your itinerary for the visa does not necessarily have to be the one you have to be following.
Easy to read itineraries are made so the visa authorities do not scrutinize the itinerary too much and process the visa quickly. What one might actually end up doing on his/her travels can be absolutely different from what is mentioned on the itinerary.
US Visa is a good to have
I had to apply for a US visa before the Schengen (Having a US visa helps a lot- for obvious reasons-the American consulate is one of the harshest in rejections. There is a good chance that your odds of getting the Schengen are high if you have a US tourist visa).
I did not have an American tourist (B1/B2) visa so my first step was to apply for that. I used www.travelassist.org for this (fully internet based) and had my visa back to me in 15 working days (including the biomertrics, interview and processing time etc.)
Once I had the US visa, my travel agent formed up an itinerary to show the Europe-US-Europe route. Fake flight and stay bookings. I had my Schengen back to me in 18 days.