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.


Overall

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 Finish Line

Well, it’s the last day of Camp NaNoWriMo, and I have met my goal of 40,000 words! I’m am now officially a 2016 Camp Winner!

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To everyone who participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, good job! No matter what your final word count was, you made the effort to write something this month, and to me, that makes it a success whether or not you met your goal. So pat yourself on the back and eat some ice cream.

Now, back to me because you know you all want to read about me instead of anyone else. So, after Camp, I have 40,518 words under my belt (well, 40,396 according to the validated count) but Cryonic isn’t anywhere near being done. Since it’s supposed to be of epic size when it is done, I’m thinking I’ll have a goal of 200,000 words, by far the longest novel I’ll have ever written. That means I’m only about 20% of the way there.

I’ve learned while writing Cryonic though, about what exactly is going to happen to my characters. A whole bunch of new minor characters popped up (and out of those, I may have killed about a fourth of them? okay not that many, but still) and I’m getting more in depth with the plot.

However, I’m kind of putting the draft of Cryonic away for a little while, ish. I’ll still be working on it occasionally, but I want to work on revising (well, rewriting) the first book in the series, Enhanced. (Cryonic is the second book in the epic sci-fi series.)

I finished Enhanced last October, and ever since then I’ve been thinking about revising/rewriting it, so I think that’s what I’m going to be doing next. There’s a lot that has to be done before I start though, including research, and, best of all, WORLD BUILDING.

Okay, maybe I’m really weird and crazy, but I love world building. Both for my own novels, and hearing other people’s world building ideas and how their societies work. I just find it all super fascinating for some reason, especially the religions. So I’m super excited for this next little bit in the process!

So what kind of posts will I be giving to you during the next few months? World building, character/plot development, revisions once I get to it, a special research project, and maybe a post about writing realistic prophecies. (I know, that has nothing to do with anything I’m working on, but still. I think it sounds awesome.) And of course, random ramblings about stuff.

So yeah, there’s your mostly meaningless post and update on stuffs. 😀


How did Camp NaNoWriMo go for all of you who did it? Did you meet your goal? Did you finish your novel/project, or do you still need more time? What is everyone planning on doing in May and the coming months (either writing-wise or otherwise)? Are you excited for summer? (I am–school will be out!)

A Timeline of Cartography

Since I’m too lazy to write an “actual” blog post, I thought it’d be fun to show you all the maps I’ve ever drawn for my stories and such. (I dunno where the idea came from, but it involves lots of pictures, and pictures make any blog post better.)

I’ll begin with the very first maps that I could find, drawn in the margins of one of my notebooks at about one square inch area each.

tarluun maps
From my very first novel, Raven. Pretty much, this just splits Tarluun (the country) into the four parts of the Barren, the Grasslands, the Jungle, and the Swamps. Creative names, right?
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This is actually one of my very favorite maps, drawn for my Nov. 2013 novel, Crystal of Shadow. In it, the characters had to travel all the way across Eridale from Creost down to Aelmoor, and I liked the challenge of having to put the map to scale, and I also liked the idea of all the regions and giving them names. I’m not really sure where the lines to split them are now, but I still like this map.
esclia map
A fairly simple map for my novel Eyes Closed and it’s sequel, and the sort of sequel series ish thing I’m going to be writing at some point.
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I made this while I was brainstorming my Zel novel, and it was really interesting as I tried to figure out Zel’s backstory while symbolically connecting it to the setting and her backstory. Only some of it is still relevant, but this was a fun map.
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This is the official map for the Zel novel. In Davacas, you can see the rivers and the canal system the people have created off of it, and in Araguie…you can see my attempt at creating one of those maps where they show elevation. It didn’t really work, but it adds some cool texture to the map. I especially like the compass rose on this one, as it relates to the story.
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And lastly, the map for the RP I’ve been planning, Bloodstone. This one might just look better than all the rest because it actually has colors, and the names were added online and are readable, but I like it for other reasons too. I mean, for one thing, I actually have roads on this map, which I didn’t have before, and all the cities have names. It even shows some of the dynamics between the three human kingdoms with the Scarlet navy attacking the Cobalt, and the Silver coming to the Cobalt’s aid. This is probably my favorite map out of all that I’ve done.

So there you have it–all of my cartography skills and the maps for quite a few of my novels. Do any of you guys make maps for your stories, or do you just wing it? (I’ve usually done the latter, and it really doesn’t end up very well for me….)