Monday, January 4, 2010

That Snowflake Method

If you're a novelist, chances are you've heard of The Snowflake Method, Randy Ingermanson's proven suggestion for design and creation of a novel. I'd heard of it myself, but had never done much to check it out. Until over the weekend, anyway, when the new year and writerly goals hung all around me like so much... well, snow.

I have two novels-in-progress now, would you believe? (Would you think me crazy?) There's A Gradual Goodbye, near first-draft completion, that I've shared snatches of here and there. I'd wanted to finish by Christmas, but holiday demands were so full and draining, I couldn't. But I'm close, ready to just push on through.

The newest WIP, tentatively titled Celebration, is the one for which this character wouldn't let me rest. The voice became too loud, too strong, to sate with jotted notes in my notebook, so I swallowed doubt over starting another and cannonballed in. I wrote 9 pages and 2300 words in one afternoon, so I know that was the right thing to have done.

But this leaves me with two projects, see? As if it's not overwhelming enough to have one unfinished manuscript. And with the very real need to complete both stories, with no delay, I knew I had to try something more formal than my standard wing it method. Maybe I could give outlining--even if on some very small level--a try. That's why I began some online research, and it's how I gave The Snowflake Method a real-good looksee.

I haven't committed to the complete method. I relish the creative freedom that comes with flying by the seat of my pants as I write. I fear full outlines and formal formats would hinder me. But as I read down Randy's suggestions, Step 3 highlighted seven very crucial points (follow link and scroll). These are points any writer should work through (and revisit) as they craft a novel. (Randy recommends filing the info for each character, but I've found it incredibly helpful with just my protagonist.)

1) The character's name
2) A one-sentence summary of the character's storyline
3) The character's motivation (what does he/she want abstractly?)
4) The character's goal (what does he/she want concretely?)
5) The character's conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching this goal?)
6) The character's epiphany (what will he/she learn, how will he/she change?
7) A one-paragraph summary of the character's storyline

I think spending some time addressing these key points will help me keep both my protagonists and their stories straight, and ensure I'm headed in the right direction with each. I hope for that, at the very least.


Have you tried The Snowflake Method? Tell me about your level of success.

Do you think the points listed above would be helpful to you?

What about other methods?

50 comments:

septembermom said...

Janna, thanks for this helpful information and the link regarding the Snowflake Method. I have not ventured yet into novel writing. Poetry seems to be my home right now. However, I do have a character buzzing around in my brain lately who may need to hit the page soon. You know that I'll be referring back to the information in this post when I decided to "wing it" in my own way :) Good luck with both projects. You're amazing!!!

ralfast said...

I tried the snowflake method, but it's not my thing. However, I am a big believer in keeping notes while you write, too keep yourself on track and write yourself out of the occasional blocks.

Good luck!

Journaling Woman said...

I have looked at it but never tried it. I always keep a big binder on each project of information about my characters, plot and anything I have for a project.

I had to laugh a little when i read that you are working on two projects. I do that more than not. I also get a little overwhelmed when characters from each are playing in my mind as I try to keep them separate. I guess the key is to write it down and leave it there.

Woman in a Window said...

I think those points would be extremely helpful but I laugh as I get stuck right there. HA! I think marrying that with a loose outline might help. But me, I am right there examining the seat of my pants. Maybe that's why I don't get anything done.

Janna, all the best in the New Year!
xo
erin

Melanie Avila said...

I'm so glad you explained the method here. I saw you mention it on facebook but didn't feel like looking it up myself. ;) I think this is very similar to the way I already operate, so I'll definitely check it out.

Good luck with both wips!

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Thanks for your always helpful writing tips!

I'm not a "snowflake" writer. Tried it and instead of writing brief outline notes I found myself writing paragraphs and chapters under each heading! So my characters and I just plot along looking for direction and adventure. Just when I think we're on the same page...they take a turn and off we go to discover new characters and story lines!

Marybeth Poppins said...

I'd actually never heard of the snow flake method before...very interesting approach.

(PS my word verification was 'changes' I think that is the first time I've ever seen an ACTUAL word! And now I'm singing David Bowie in my head! UGH)

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I'm a pantser. I tried writing with an outline - I can only do it as I go along, just jotting down the ideas and path as they come to me, usually all over a page, not even vertically! I figure out things as I go, learn things about my characters I didn't know, they take me places I couldn't have imagined. I wish that I had the discipline to map it all out and stick to it.

I have first pages for 3 additional novels and have no idea what else happens in those stories!

Jill said...

I've heard of the Snowflake method, but I've never tried it. When I write I have a general idea of where I want the story to go, but often I don't know how I'm going to get there. I do need a good way to organize notes and details, though, so eye colors, height and such doesn't change between chapters, LOL.

Tamika: said...

I did try the Snowflake Method in snipets. The getting to know your characters aspect was very helpful. As the plan progress though the detailed spreadsheets turn me off. That is just not my cup of tea.

Terri Tiffany said...

I never heard of this method--where have I been? I too have two manuscripts going at once. I think I've addressed some of those questions by setting up my first three chapters correctly.
I get overwhelmed at wrting huge outlines--
Good to hear I'm not alone.

Tess said...

I've inspired to try it, but always peeter out. Your idea here of a brief sketch is closer to what I do. Sometimes it changes, though -- as I write through the novel.

And, how wonderful to have your next work knocking on the door so quickly. :D

Slamdunk said...

Interesting and organized approach to writing--thanks for linking the Dr.'s snowflake method. I can understand how it would not work for everyone as each of us need differing amounts of structure.

Kristen Painter said...

I've never tried it. I have my own method and it works, so no point in looking for anything new, you know?

Michelle Gregory said...

i'm a pants-er and a plotter. i've heard of Randy's method, never tried it, but as i'm stuck on my 2nd draft, i may try a little of it just to see if it jumpstarts my writing.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I'm editing one while taking furious notes on another and then the other night God had to go and give me an idea for another! Man. How to keep it straight? I find I need to keep most of my focus on this current MS (editing) while allowing the passion/ideas to blossom on future ideas. I like the snowflake method.

~ Wendy

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hey, Janna! I've never tried it... never heard of it until now. But I'll have to check it out. I'm a panster and my stories usually don't even give me that much information to start with. But it sounds interesting enough to me to try it!

Deb@RGRamblings said...

I've looked at it a few times and I think it has a lot of merit. Like you, I'm a panser but I have serious outliner envy!

I still can't describe my WiP's with a sentence or a paragraph.. something I have to work on.

JLC said...

I tried outlining once and by the time I finished the outline, I was finished with the story and never completed the rough draft. This method would be good for me to read, but not necessarily put into practice. I think it would be good to have those questions and points floating around in my sub-conscious while I wing it. :)

Jody Hedlund said...

I've perused his method and pulled a few good things from it. Seems like my current method is a compilation of a hundred different systems that I've read over the years! And finally have come up with a plotting method that seems to work for me! Hope you can land on something that helps you!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Janna -

Randy sent me a special offer on his Snowflake software. I purchased it about a month ago.

I'm a SOTP writer like you, but felt the need for some plotting. The editing process is too daunting when I "wing it."

I'm on step 3, and have completed a character profile for my protagonist. I'm chomping at the bit to sit down and write, but want to complete the Snowflake.

I hope you'll give us updates on your progress.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I have tried this method, but usually after I've written the story to come up with a needed synopsis. I'm a sotp writer too. But you're right, I do need a few basics to get myself going.

Lady Glamis said...

I love the Snowflake Method. It has helped me out of some tough spots. I've talked about it in these posts on my blog.

In the end, I only portions of the method now that work for me, but it has made a huge difference in my writing and planning. Good luck with it! It can be...intense. :D

T. Anne said...

I've tried it but unfortunately it didn't stick around long with me. I guess I encompass most of the principles anyway? Thanks for the refresher, I tried to copy that section but the font was white. I had to laugh because it took a while for me to figure out!

Susan R. Mills said...

This is perfect timing for me. I've decided one of my goals for 2010 is to become more of a planner than a pantster. These tips will come in quite handy. Thanks for sharing.

Jessica said...

I looked it over several times a few years ago, but it was like math to me. Or directions. Completely boggled my head. LOL I think those points you mentioned, though, are extremely important, even for pantsers. I don't like to outline anything at all, but I do write notes and I've found that thinking about GMC and backstory strengthens my characters while still allowing me freedom to pants my way through the manuscript. LOL

Thanks for the links! And how fun to have two stories vying for your attention. :-)

Cindy said...

I've tried versions of the snowflake method before. I like those questions Randy suggest to answer about your protagonist. I find one of the greatest tools of advancing a plot is to really know your characters. Instead of winging it like I used to, I've become more of a planner.

Nadine said...

I've never used the snowflake method before but I do like the seven crucial points you listed. I'm going to try them for my current WIP which is currently a mess.

Angie Muresan said...

I write notes. Tons and tons of notes. Fill notebooks with them. Then I sit down, read over them and make my outline.
Thanks for sharing, Jana!

june said...

The only method I follow is letting my characters bully me. They rarely listen, but they seem to know what they are doing :)

Melissa Marsh said...

I always, always figure out my characters' GMCs - goals, motivations, and conflicts. This is from Debra Dixon's excellent book by the same name. I don't necessarily plot out every last deatail, but I absolutely have to have the GMCs in place before I start writing.

Kathy said...

I've never heard of this method, but I'll try to check it out.

Janna Qualman said...

Hi, all! It's so great to see there are many other SOTP writers out there. Good to know I'm not even close to being alone.

Here's to finding the method that works best for each of us, and having a productive 2010!

JKB said...

I haven't tried it but I do something very much the same.

I'm glad you've found something to work for you, tho! WIN!!

WendyCinNYC said...

I haven't tried it, but I've been tempted. Perhaps next time.

Carla Gade said...

I'm pretty much a panster or wing it woman. I've tried the Snowflake Method and have gleaned some good stuff from it. When I first tried it I got a little bogged down, but Randy does have some great advice. I wondered about his new software and if that would benefit me.



Blessings,
Carla
http://writingtodistraction.blogspot.com

Jill Kemerer said...

Oh! Two projects--you're going to be so motivated to write!

I modified the Snowflake Method to fit my life. I do the one-sentence wrap up, then expand it into a paragraph like he recommends. I follow a few other points, too. It's very helpful.

Heather Sunseri said...

I've always liked several aspects of the snowflake method. I like to pull things that work for me from many methods and settle into a path that's right for me. But who am I kidding? I haven't written enough novels yet to know what my method is. Trial and error.

Good luck keeping those projects straight! That's exciting to have stories brewing in your head.

Katie Ganshert said...

At first, the snowflake method intimidated me. But that was only because I didn't really understand it. After researching it a bit, I realized that I sort of follow the structure.

destrella said...

Love it when a stroy flies out of you like that. Great job! :O)

Patti Lacy said...

Janna, like you, I've committed to a mutation of the snowflake method, perhaps a snoke method!!

A frame really adds the structure my racing mind needs, yet other ingredients can help build the story (like moral premise, killer hooks, that unforgettable image).

GREAT post!!!

Do you have a few hours to read all the comments????????????????

LOL
patti
www.pattilacy.com/blog

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I admit I'd never heard of this method, but I will check it out. Thanks for the information! I'm glad I've found your blog.

Elspeth

Flory said...

I came across this method during a search myself. I read through it, and also found that this step was the most helpful for my memoir manuscript.

colbymarshall said...

I haven't ever tried this method, though I've expiremented with a few. Honestly, I always come back to my ragtag sort of hodgepodge method that works for me: outline characters, skeletal outline as I go (like, always keeping my outline two chapters-ish ahead of where I am at the time). It, er, seems to work for me ;-)

Carol J. Garvin said...

I gave the Snowflake method a try some time ago but the lengthy mechanics of its plotting bogged me down until I quit writing. I eventually gleaned a few useful elements from it and created a system that worked better for me. Jordan McCollum did a series and invited me to do a guest post about it on Oct. 1st, (http://jordanmccollum.com/2009/10/personalizing-snowflake-method/) and then Joylene Butler also ran a guest post on my adaptation of the Snowflake method on Oct. 14th. (http://cluculzwriter.blogspot.com/search/label/Carol%20J.%20Garvin). Sorry for the long URL's but I thought the articles might be of interest as a followup to this. Thanks for your post. It's great to see how many people are trying various ways to find a system that will work for them and help organize their storytelling.

Carol J. Garvin said...

A quick added note... it appears that last link was too long and was cut off. A better link to the guest post on Joylene's blog might be: http://cluculzwriter.blogspot.com/search/label/plotting
Hopefully this one will work. I'm clueless at imbedding links in Blogger!

Creative A said...

I've heard of the snowflake method, but I can't get myself into it. There's something too abstract about it. Besides, outlining kills my stories. The only kind of outlining that has ever worked for me is the block method--you cut the story up into blocks of related sequences. Instead of focusing on one scene or chapter, you focus on one block of action: this block covers the time period when A meets B, this block covers the period when A gets attacked and runs away...

This helps me because it organizes my thoughts and I can plan a whole story this way without getting too detailed. I know the gist of things, and I can reorganize or plot that gist as much as I like, but it never takes away my drive for the story the same way that outlining does.

Not that you asked what outlining methods we use. But I always like building my own methods from the pieces of others, so hopefully this will be of some use to you that way :)

-Mandy

Diana Black said...

This is my first visit to your blog, and find it to be a great one. Look foward to reading more from you, Janna.

I'm really encouraged by the snowflake method (read your post and followed the link)! I have two projects that are just ... okay...a mess. They are basic first drafts but I can't wrap my brain enough around the plot (I'm more of a character writer). This, I think, may just do the trick. At least parts of the method.

Thanks so much for sharing! ANd good luck with your writing!

Diana
http://www.DianaBlack.net
http://www.WoofersClub.blogspot.com

Kendall Wiener said...

Does anyone know how to purchase a download for Snowflake Pro? I have tried and don't seem to be getting very far. I even purchased a book on Amazon to get a discount and now I am still not able to get to any purchase download point. Thanks Kendall Wiener

Janna Qualman said...

Hi, Kendall. If you follow the first link in this post, I think you'll find what you're looking for.

Thanks for visiting!
Janna