Discover How Tiny Snowflakes Create a Story

Moonday Mania

a blog on the craft of writing

Snowflakes. Tiny crystalline forms that melt on your tongue. Pile enough of them up and you have a mountain of snow that you need to climb to get over. Writing a novel is like that. Each word a snowflake carefully chosen to pile in with the others till you have enough snow to make an Olympic skier happy. Or an editor.

Actually I believe Randy Ingermanson was thinking about how the crystal forms, one branch connecting to another and then back to a third till you have a uniquely beautiful structure, when he called his plotting method, The Snowflake Method. Last week I told you about my struggles with plotting (click HERE for the story). My resentment that anyone would even ask me to spend time in such a manner, and my realization that front loading the work is not such a bad idea.

Today I’m going to share with you why the Snowflake method works for me and why I think it’s a great way to plot. Especially for converting pantsers.

1. It’s easy.

There are no pages and pages of plotting. You start with an idea. Get your idea into one single sentence, and then expand it into a paragraph. When you are finished you have the entire story in a nutshell. And, by the way, a one sentence pitch for those times you are stuck in an elevator with a trapped agent or editor, and a blurb for your back cover.

Randy has designed it so that all of your steps can be used twice. Single themed sentence becomes one sentence pitch. Five sentence paragraph becomes the basis for a query letter or a back cover blurb. Expanded paragraph becomes your synopsis if you need one for following up that query letter. And so on. Each simple step is what Alton Brown would call a multi-tasker. (If you don’t watch Good Eats, you should. Alton is amazing!)

2. It’s natural.

Most plotting has you start by building your characters, but Randy has you go back and forth between the plot and the characters in an organic way. The plot helps shape the characters and the characters help shape the plot. So much easier for me than having to figure out who the heck these people are when I haven’t’ even seen them in action.

And just in case you were worrying, it is still character driven. Because you can always go back and change things if you need to. Find out your character wouldn’t end the story that way. No problem. You haven’t actually written the story yet, so changing that one sentence at the end of your paragraph is a piece of cake.

3. It saves time.

I have never had such an easy time plotting and in such a short amount of time. By the end of a week or two I have a plot, character descriptions, a pitch , blurb and synopsis all finished. And my plot is detailed. With scenes ready to go. No more floundering around wondering “What’s next?”.

4. Last, but not least, it’s flexible.

Change your order of scenes, no problem, you did them on an Excel spread sheet so you can move them by an easy cut and paste. Or even delete them. Or save them on a separate page, just in case you change your mind. All of this before you write the story. And then, as Randy says, you get to the fun part. Writing becomes fun. Why? Because you know where you’re going. And because you know where you are going you can take the short cut and get there faster.

Now you know the secret. Easy quick plotting and faster easier writing. That’s how those amazing series authors write six books in a year. This is why my killer goal list (click HERE) may actually be doable.

How do you plot? Are you using something like the Snowflake method? Have you ever tried it? Do you plot at all? Did changing your plotting methods cut down your editing time?

I’d love to know, so leave me a comment. And don’t forget to register it in the contest widget HERE so you can enter the Little Red Riding Wolf contest for fun prizes, including chocolate! And drop in and leave a comment on Wednesday on Gloria’s blog where I’ll be swinging in the hammock drinking sweet tea and answering Gloria’s interview questions. Wish me luck!


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11 responses to “Discover How Tiny Snowflakes Create a Story

  1. This was very helpful. I’m new at this writing thing. I’ve got some talent, but plot is so difficult for me! I’m so disorganized. I need to learn so much. Thanks for the links, too. 🙂

    • There are some great plotting workshops available. I took Randy’s at the Heart of Denver mini-con and it really was great. I know if you go to his website he usually has a list of places he is giving his workshops. Karen Docter’s The Other White Meat -the w-plot will be available online at Colorado Romance Writers workshops this year. Karen is going to be a guest here as well, soon! Good luck with you writing and keep trying at the organization thing. It gets better with time and effort!

  2. Brinda Berry

    Thanks for these explanations of Snowflake. I am going to check out the link now!

  3. Jessica,

    Outlining can be as individual as the writing process, so it’s great when you find a technique that works for you!

    I’m a converted pantster, influenced by Karen S Wiesner’s First Draft in Thirty Days, but adapted to suit my brain patterns, with slices of characterization lessons and whatnot from scattered resources I’ve come across over the years. I’m sure my process will become more refined as I continue to grow. Even lessons from a course on synopsis writing with Mary Buckham has filtered into my method of outlining.

    • I have that book, and I keep looking at it, but I get stuck on the character sheets every time. I think the Snowflake method is similar in that you build on an idea and when you are finished you have a good rough draft. It sounds like you have a good handle on the conversion from pantser to plotter. Good for you! And isn’t Carole St. Laurent teaching a class on that book? When is that?

  4. The Snowflake mehtod is extremely popular. I do something that’s similar in some parts, but I’ve never read a book or taken a course about plotting. That part of writing a novel has always come easily to me. Now crafting a query letter, that’s an entirely different ballgame! 🙂

    • Oh well, those query letters are a struggle for me too! I’ve definitely needed help when writing those. That is one of the benefits of the Snowflake method, when you are finished you have a five sentence plot summary and a one page summary, easy to slide into a query.

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