Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Methods of Writing: #2 Snowflake

Methods of Writing: #2 Snowflake

     In my last blog entry, I discussed how I usually favored a Linear Writing style or method but that I was open to exploring other writing methods as well.  I also said that I despised people who referred to my typical Linear Style as being a Pantser, aka flying by the seat of our pants. It makes us sound like we are taking a plane with one propeller blade and ten ounces of fuel on a cross-Atlantic jaunt. Not so.  These people refer to themselves as Planners.  One style of writing especially favored by Planners is The Snowflake Method.  Since snowflakes are known for their uniqueness and individuality, I think naming a method writing system after them is odd but I'm sure there is a good reason for it.

      Upon investigating, I found out the following information about the Snowflake Method, invented by Randy Ingermanson. Namely, that it is a ten step process wherein the writer starts with a simplistic theme and then grows the novel out, in varying levels of complexity from there.  One of the advantages of this program is that it has structure and eliminates the writer losing steam on a tangent or a side arc that doesn't really fit in to the final picture. The biggest disadvantage, in my opinion, is a lack of allowing the creative process to have room to ebb and flow.  It feels a bit anti-creative right out of the gate.

     The ten step Snowflake Method process neatly breaks down to:

1.) Write a one sentence summary of the proposed novel.  (This isn't a bad idea as all good pitches should be able to be summarized in one to two sentences, a la an elevator pitch.)

2.) Take the one sentence summary above and expand it into a full paragraph detailing all of the main events in the story and what the ending will be.  

3.) Write a one-page summary of the main character. This summary needs to show the main character's motivation, goal, conflict, and epiphany (i.e. what does he or she learn through the novel). It should also include a one paragraph summary of the character's story arc. (Here's where planned methods such as these start to lose me. I feel, in my opinion only, that by the time I write all of this, I could have already had one to two pages of the first chapter done. After all, I already know my character in my head. But that's just me.)

4.)  Go back to #2 now and expand each sentence into a full paragraph.  (What? Why? I'm getting bored now.)

5.)  Now write a one page description of each other major character, telling the story from his or her point of view.  (Okay, now I'm going to start to mix up POV's in my head.  I do it easily enough in my Linear Method when I don't even mean to do it.)

6.)  Expand the one page synopsis of the story into four pages. (Sounding like an actor here, but what's my motivation for this? I could be finishing chapter one by now.)

7.)  Expand each of your character descriptions into character charts. (No. Don't want to.)

8.) Using the expanded synopsis from #6, make a list of every scene you will need to write to complete the novel.  (Every scene?)

9.)  Using the scene list from #8, write a page-long narrative description of each scene. (Am I shooting a movie?  If not, this just doesn't work for me. I seriously could be well into chapter two by now.)

10.)  Now it's time to (finally) write the first draft.

     I am not trying to diss a writing method that can very well work for others but this style just doesn't flow for me.  A basic estimate for me is that by following a Linear Style instead, I would be at least 40-50 pages into my manuscript by the time a Snowflake Method writer is ready to start his or her first page of the actual first draft.  Now, granted, I wouldn't have all of my scenes mapped out but because I find my characters have their own minds and go there own ways, I prefer to let them flow and not keep them trapped down into a specific pre-planned format.  But that's just me.

     Have you used the Snowflake Method and has it worked for you?


  1. No, don't want to! So funny! I tend to agree that the snowflake method sounds a bit long winded. I think I would turn to parts of to fend off writers block, when I just needed to keep my pen on the page.

  2. Martha - that's a great point. I do think that any of these methods have little bits and pieces that can get us through writer's block, even if we don't subscribe to the whole method. I'm planning to cover 7 or 8 methods in all in the series and maybe parts of each will be useful. But no, Snowflake isn't for me either. By the time I did all that, I'd be too bored with the project to actually write the book. LOL