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!)


The Snowflake Method (Becoming an Author, Part Two)


After much procrastination, relaxation, stress-ation (aka school) and vacation, I am back! At least for today. No promises for the future, but hopefully I’ll post during NaNoWriMo, which I am…not really but kind of doing? Essentially, I’m not starting a novel during November, but I’m going to be working on planning one.

Which brings me to the subject of today’s post…the Snowflake Method, which I’m using with Battle Song! Are you excited? I am.

(P.S. Want to see my first Becoming an Author post? It was ages ago, but whatever. You can find it here.)

So what’s the Snowflake Method?

The Snowflake Method is a way of planning or organizing a novel, starting from a tiny sliver of your story (a one-sentence summary) to the full complexity of a first draft. Successive steps along the way help you expand it piece by piece until you’ve created an entire novel.

This ten step method was developed by Randy Ingermanson, and you can check out the ten steps here at his website.

Why am I using the Snowflake Method?

The first time I heard of the Snowflake Method was when my dad and I did Camp NaNo together (my first NaNo experience) in April 2013. He used this method to plan out his novel, but I didn’t really know much about it except for the basic idea (from basic to complex).

I used to shun the Snowflake Method without knowing much about it because I’m not a planner. I didn’t want to be a planner. I thought it would limit my creativity, freedom, and enjoyment–and maybe it will, but I’m going to try it out.

But lately I’ve been frustrated with how I can’t seem to finish a novel. I’ll write a few chapters or even 20- or 30,000 words…and then it fizzles away. In the past, even when I have finished, the middle of my novel has sagged. I can write a beginning just fine, but the rest? Not so much.

So, I decided I’d just check the website out. If it helped me, I’d try it out. And when I read through it, I realized that it was exactly what I needed.

I needed something to organize my work, to help me develop a functioning beginning, middle, and end, and to assist me in writing a novel that would affect other people–and that’s what it’s for.

(I didn’t worry about buying the book or the software. Like he says, everyone will do it a little differently, and I don’t think I need those things to make it work for me.)

Is it working?

Yes…as far as I can tell. I’ve only done the first three steps, so who knows? And I’m not sure if I’ll know until I actually write the first draft. Or technically, third draft? Because it will be the third time I’ve started Battle Song. But for right now, it’s helping me.

It’s not that it suddenly made me realize what everything was supposed to be–on the other hand, it revealed the problems with my story–the lack of a specific conflict, especially. When describing your novel in such a short time frame–one sentence–you have to strip it down to its very essence and build up from there.

Here’s that one sentence (or logline) describing Battle Song:

In a reimagining of The Little Mermaid, a warrior mermaid seeks divine forgiveness for her murders while forced to fight in a war.

It took me a while to figure out what the central conflict was and how to make sure it conveyed the interesting parts of the ideas (not just the fighting but also the religion and Amrya’s conflicted nature throughout the book), but now that I took the time to figure it out, I really like the logline and how it will affect my story.

Also, if you’re interested in starting the Snowflake Method or just writing a logline for your book, here’s the two sources I liked the best. (The readability is awful with a black background, but the information was clearly stated and helpful for me.)

Building the Perfect Logline for Your Book, Screenplay, or Other Story

Logline Workshop: Jurassic Park

Your thoughts?

Have you ever used the Snowflake Method? Do you want to? How do you plan (or not) your novels? Do you think that’s the right way for you, or could you improve? Do you have a logline for your current novel? If so, please share it! And what do you think of the logline for Battle Song?

I “Finished” Battle Song–Writing With the End in Mind

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I know, I know, you got so excited when you saw this. “Whoa, she finished her novel in a month? Awesome!”

Well, not really…but I did finish the end of Battle Song(Which was only about 5,000 words long…so not that awesome.)

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was browsing on Pinterest and I saw a writing tip that said to start writing at the end, so that you know where you’re going with the story. Since I’m not an outliner, this sounded like a great idea to try. Normally, I never have endings planed out.

So I took some time to prepare (though, not too much, since I already had a basis of the world from last November, when I originally started Battle Song). I figured out a few main scenes I wanted to happen at the end, and then I decided to write it.

But every single scene didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.

Some might call it a waste of time because I’ll probably only use two or three paragraphs plus some phrases of that ending, but I thought it was rewarding, and here’s why.

Because the ending turned out so much what I didn’t want, I figured out what I did want.

I took a few notes while I was writing, and here’s a few of them to show you what I mean:

When this is rewritten I need to do better at the dagger her sisters giving her being more tempting or something…this is a bit not intense enough, as if everything is already decided. There’s not enough realization.

Ugh, there’s so much explaining in the scene. I want Amrya to figure almost all of it out, if possible, and have <spoiler> be the cinching moment when it all comes together. So I’ll need more stuff throughout the book.

(And a good one.)

Ooh okay so she has this ancestry line… <spoiler spoiler> So as she’s learning more about them, she’s thinking about her ancestors, realizes that…interesting, hehe. Yay!

It was a great learning experience for me. These last few scenes were supposed to be pivotalintense scenes, and they just really weren’t. Writing them told me that I needed to bring more elements of the ending throughout the entire book, so that there would be traces and hints to what would happen from the very beginning.

Basically I need to foreshadow.

Additionally, writing the ending first helped me figure out what I really wanted with this story. What I wanted the reader to feel, to come away with. I’m still figuring it out, but I have a much better idea.

In the first version I started (that is, Battle Song 1.0, (this is 2.0)), Amrya trades her beauty rather than her voice. I realized that, as I was writing 1.0, I didn’t want that. It didn’t affect her enough.

As I tried to figure out the exact aspects of her deal with the sea witch, I was having a lot of trouble, but I came up with a few ideas. Writing the ending scene, when it came up again, helped me figure it outEven though I’m still not sure about it. But it’s better.

And religion! In the original story by Hans Christian Andersen, part of the reason the little mermaid wants to become a human and marry the prince is so that she can have an immortal soul. (The mermaids don’t have souls–they drift into seafoam at death–but marriage to a human would combine his soul with hers.)

It came up in 1.0, but I didn’t really realize how important I wanted it to be, and how much it affected the story. I was really intrigued by this aspect that Disney took out (well, they took out a lot of things), and as I planned and wrote this ending, it became a very integral part of the plot line.

(Not to mention that there was a little scene that was like a fluffy bit of goodness and I love it to death.)

Writing the end was pretty awesome, and it’s also helped me as I restart with Battle Song 2.0! I’ve written one chapter, and it’s pretty great, mostly because of the development I did. Everything is a lot more important to Amrya as a character and expressed in much better ways.

So, writing the end? I’d call it a success.

let us speak to each other wonderful words

Well…that was kind of a rambly post. What did you think? It was supposed to be a writing advice post but I think it turned into more of an update post, so…oops.

Have you ever tried writing/planning out the ending to your stories/novels first? How do you plan for your ending? How do you plan your novel–or do you? What things are absolutely essential to figure out before you start writing?

Oh, and check out Battle Song‘s new pageIt’s even got a synopsis and everything. *wink wink* Don’t ask me why I winked there. I just did.

Ready or Not, Here I Come!

I think I’ve finished the prep for my Zel novel. Over 50 pages of handwritten notes, plus 20 typed, as well as many rambles written to my friends on the YWP site. Worldbuilding, characterization, a few preliminary scenes here and there, and a very basic plot.

Okay, so maybe the plot could still use some more work, but I don’t want to wait while claiming “I’m not ready” if I’ll never be ready. I’ve already found things that need more development, and I haven’t even started yet. I could take ages working on the prep for this novel, with meticulous world building and fully developed characters, and still never get to a point where I felt ready to begin.

Of course, most of us do need to prep, to a point. I’ve written plenty of novels where I haven’t done any prep at all, and to be honest, they didn’t turn out as well as they could have, if I had just planned a little bit more.

But, at the same time, we can’t stay prepping forever. I’ve heard that there’s a fine line between editing your novel and just procrastinating doing anything with it, and I think this applies well to novel prep as well. Once you’ve reached a certain point, you just have to dive in instead of testing the waters with your toe.

I’m not sure where that fine line is for me. Maybe I could continue prepping a little longer and then begin, but I’d rather err on the side of having a little bit more revision to do than on the side of procrastination.

So I’m going to start writing the first draft. And if this one doesn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, there’ll be room for a second draft, and a third, and a fourth, and as many drafts as are needed to fix it up and make it right.

I’ve decided I’m finished counting down. So, ready or not, here I come!