Review of The Snowflake Method

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As you may have known, I’ve been using The Snowflake Method to plan my novel, Battle Song. The Snowflake Method is a method created by Randy Ingermanson to design a novel outline. The idea is that you start small (one sentence), and expand it until you get to something large and complex (a fifty-page outline, then your first draft).

Here’s the link to his article about it: The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel

I haven’t yet finished all ten steps of The Snowflake Method, as the last step is to actually write the entire first draft, but overall, this method has worked quite awesomely for me. In this review, I’ll share some of my thoughts, including my likes and dislikes, about this method.

My Favorite Part: The Outlines

I know, I know, I told you that I wasn’t a planner, and I didn’t like outlines! Well, that’s just what I thought. I love my outlines. Why do I love them? Well, for two simple reasons:

  1. They organize my writing and plot fantastically. Previously, I’ve struggled with writing my middle…which then led to struggles in writing the climax and the ending. But having an outline makes it easy to see how the story progresses and will serve as a great guide as I draft Battle Song.
  2. They make me feel so professional! Which is definitely the more important reason, haha. But seriously, it’s so much fun to be making notes about a certain spot in the book and be able to say, “But wait, in scene #42, she says…” It just makes me feel like a real author, which is such a cool feeling.

In The Snowflake Method, you end up making two outlines. The first is in a spreadsheet, with just a short explanation of each scene. At times, it was hard to boil down the essence of a scene into 10 words or so, because there was just a lot going on in each scene. Plus, I wasn’t entirely sure what constituted as a scene. However, I love being able to see the novel at a glance. Instead of having to scroll through pages to be able to find a specific scene, I can just look at the spreadsheet and go, “Okay, that happens ten scenes later, in scene #35.” (And referencing specific scenes is, again, ridiculously fun.)

The second outline is an expanded version of the first, taking those few words you wrote and then making it into a couple of paragraphs. This is actually an optional step, but I’m loving it. It’s so fun to imagine writing these scenes later on, and since I’m not actually writing anything, the first draft will still be fun. And it will be easy to write, because I’m outlining every scene.

I made a google doc for this step only, with header links for each scene, which allows me to navigate the doc easily. Each scene has a little template that makes it easy to fill out, too.



I’ve just been having so much fun with the outlines! That being said, developing the plot enough to get to the point where I could make an outline was difficult, and I ran into several large problems. Now, however, I only have to solve little problems, so planning becomes a lot more fun!

What I Liked: Expansion of Plot

The thing I like the best about The Snowflake Method is this idea of expanding your novel from a tiny idea into an thought-out outline. And the best part about this is that you don’t expand linearly–you expand from the center outward.

To clarify, it’s not as if you start at the beginning of the outline, write the first scene, then the second, and so forth. Rather, you start with an idea that slowly leads you to create a comprehensive guide to the entire book. You have a beginning, middle, and an ending all the way from the second step, which is only a paragraph long.

Which was awesome! In previous novels, I hardly ever knew the middle or ending of the novel when I started, but by using The Snowflake Method, I was able to come up with an entire plotline that actually worked.

The organization of these plot-related steps is very cohesive and smooth. By the end of each step, I had enough information to move onto the next step. Rather than being daunted by the idea of creating an outline involving every scene, by the time I had a four-page summary of the novel, I was ready!

Here are all the plot-related steps:

  • 1 sentence summary (logline)
  • 1 paragraph summary
  • 1 page summary
  • 4 page summary
  • Spreadsheet outline (short description of each scene)
  • Expanded outline (longer description of each scene) (optional)
  • First draft

I loved how these steps fit together, and they helped me create a plot that I love.

What I Disliked: Insufficient Character Expansion

There are seven plot-related steps above. But what about the other three? Well, those are for developing characters.

  • 1 page character sheets (including a 1 paragraph storyline)
  • 1 page character storylines for major characters, 1/2 page for minor
  • Character charts detailing everything there is to know about each character

To me, these steps just aren’t sufficient to create an entire character, especially one who develops in synchrony with the plotline.

The first two steps work well together, but then, you’re suddenly expected to know “everything there is to know about each character” (the last bullet point is, in fact, a quote from the Snowflake Method article). I ended up skipping that step (more or less), as it actually seems impossible to me.

Rather than that step, I researched character arcs and developing realistic characters, and I found an article about a very simple yet emotional way to develop them: Creating Deep Realistic Characters

This includes only 4 steps:

  1. The Goal
  2. The Motivation
  3. The Deep Dark Belief
  4. The Origin of the Deep Dark Belief

It was difficult to figure this out so late in the process, so when planning another novel, I will definitely move this sooner. I still have yet to figure out how exactly I will alter The Snowflake Method to fit my character needs (perhaps adding more steps?), but I will.

Which is actually another thing I love about The Snowflake Method: you’re allowed to, even supposed to, alter it to fit your needs. You can add, remove, and change steps all you want, so that it works for you.

No Worldbuilding?

There is no worldbuilding, or even setting development, involved in The Snowflake Method. Which can be a problem, especially if you’re creating a fantasy world.

There are two sides to this issue. On one hand, you want to be able to develop your setting enough that it can take part in your plot. On the other hand, you don’t want the setting to be so important that it constricts your ability to create a good plot.

For me, this wasn’t as important. I’ve started writing Battle Song twice, and both times I developed the world and the magic a little bit more. I already had enough information that I could incorporate it into the plot.

I don’t think there’s a way to include worldbuilding into the steps of The Snowflake Method, though. Character and plot are very much intertwined, while the setting may only have a minor effect.

I’d assume this is part of the “composting” that Ingermanson talks about: the time before you begin The Snowflake Method, where you spend time just thinking about your novel, collecting ideas. Doing some development beforehand gives you a solid backdrop while you create characters and plot, but you can always change it later on, if needed.


I love how The Snowflake Method helped me organize my novel into something cohesive and understandable! It needs a few personal tweaks and alterations to work for me, but there is definitely a solid foundation.

I would definitely recommend this method to anyone who:

  • doesn’t already have a planning method that works for them
  • wants to become more serious about writing
  • wants outlines that make them feel professional (obviously important)

Your Thoughts

If you’ve tried The Snowflake Method, what did you think of it? What were some things that you would change?

If you haven’t, how do you plan your novels (or do you)? What is your favorite part of the writing process (planning, writing, revising, etc.)? What do you think is the most important element to develop when planning a novel?

(P.S. I started drafting Battle Song the other day! So you should see a post about that soon!)

8 thoughts on “Review of The Snowflake Method

  1. Kellyn Roth January 5, 2018 / 7:03 PM

    Whoa, this was sooo thorough and detailed. Did you outline the post, too, because it was super professional!!! 😀 I really enjoyed it and I learned stuff, and I’m tempted to give this a try. Maybe with That Plot Bunny. 😉

    ALSO, congratulations on starting drafting Battle Song! I’m excited to learn more about it! 🙂

    If you’ve tried The Snowflake Method, what did you think of it?:
    I haven’t yet, but from what you said, it looks great! I love the details and the thoroughness of it. I’m not sure if I’d have all the info I’d need, though … recently, I’ve been struggling to figure out all the details pre-writing. And even then it’s not working out. Oh, well, an outlining slump can be born for a while …

    What were some things that you would change?:
    Oh, definitely character development! That needs sooo much work. I spend a ton of time on character development, and narrowing it down to that would be ridiculous! I feel like this is for super plot-strong novels and I’m a very character-based person? 😛 But my plots need work, tbh.

    If you haven’t, how do you plan your novels (or do you)?:
    I usually do several outlines, getting more detailed and making changes every time. I work on it for at least a month. (Reasons why Beyond Her Calling needs work: I didn’t spend a lot of time on the outlining, haha. I just went with the second draft outline and yep. *nods*)

    What is your favorite part of the writing process (planning, writing, revising, etc.)?:
    Hmm … all of the above? I love planning because all the details being up in the air and I can make the book be anything and it’s so much fun and then it’s so satisfying to get details pinned down and have it all come together … and then writing is amazing because I love writing and it’s like feeling in a paint-by-number and it’s sooo satisfying to see it filled in. Then revising is … okay, my paint-by-number metaphor-thingy doesn’t work, but y’know. My least favorite part is probably revising. Working with beta-readers is fun, though!

    What do you think is the most important element to develop when planning a novel?:
    Uh … for me it’s plot, but that’s only because I already know my characters. If I don’t know the characters, it would honestly be them instead. But my plots need work!

    Oh, that article on character development was honestly a big help for me! I mentioned before that I was having some trouble with a main character in “That Plot Bunny,” Linda, and when I asked myself some questions from that article I understood her a little better.

    1. The Goal: To take care of Patty and turn her into a perfect little lady.
    2. The Motivation: She believes Patty needs to be a perfect little lady? Especially since she believes that what Patty is isn’t proper or acceptable.
    3. The Deep Dark Belief: If she’s not perfect and prim, no one will love her/she won’t be good enough.
    4. The Origin of the Belief: Her parents have raised her to believe this. (Though I don’t know … maybe something more should go into her backstory? I’ll make a note to think on this.)

    Okay, that was a little vague and origins needs work. But y’know, that’s more than I had on motivations!


    • Lana January 6, 2018 / 11:50 PM

      Thank you! 😀 No, I didn’t outline the post, but I did kind of plan it out in my head, so it is more organized than my other posts.

      Characters are so important, so I feel like I need to change it so I can develop them more. But if your plots need work, I think this definitely helps. 🙂

      I feel like revising is going to be my least favorite part, too. I haven’t actually ever revised an entire novel, though, so it will be an adventure when I come to it… 😛

      Yay, I’m glad the article helped! And the questions are kind of hard to answer, right? I mean, I thought they would be easy, but it’s hard to make them all fit together.

      *is excited about That Plot Bunny*

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Julia January 5, 2018 / 7:38 PM

    I’m going to have to try out The Snowflake Method now! 😄


    • Lana January 6, 2018 / 11:50 PM

      You’ll have to tell me how it goes for you if you do! It’s a fun method.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Zielle January 6, 2018 / 12:30 AM

    Great review! Very thorough. 😉 I’ve been looking at this, but I need to put it into works now!


    • Lana January 6, 2018 / 11:46 PM

      Thank you; I’m glad you enjoyed it! You should! What’s the novel idea that you have, if you don’t mind me asking? (I just love to hear about what other people are writing, haha!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Zielle January 6, 2018 / 11:50 PM

        Hehe it’s about someone who goes back in time to make sure Hitler was never born so that the holocaust would never have happened. I’m not very good at expanding plots, though. 😛


      • Lana January 19, 2018 / 2:42 PM

        Oh, cool! 😀 And yeah, if you need help expanding plots, the Snowflake Method is a really great resource to use!

        Liked by 1 person

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