My views on the Snowflake Method
So…it’s occurred to me that I probably should have waited until I wasn’t so busy when I started this blog. Furthermore, I probably should have made sure I had some sort of buffer. Ah, the benefits of hindsight.
I’m currently working on the next part of my Farhome House story and plan it to be a fair bit larger than the scene I posted the other day. So to keep things moving in the meantime, I thought I’d talk a little about Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method.
Before I came across this method, I had been of the opinion that the best way to write a novel is to plan loosely and then let the story evolve as you write it. While this may work for some people, it certainly hadn’t worked for me: all four of my attempted novels had crashed and burned in various states of completion. Last winter, feeling more than a little frustrated over my fourth failure, I decided to go and google for some advice on the issue. Very soon, I came across this.
The article is quite extensive and is well worth a read. Below, I will briefly summarise the method’s steps:
- Describe your novel in a sentence
- Describe the plot of the novel in one paragraph
- Write a one-page summary sheet for each major character
- Describe the plot of the novel in one page
- Write a one-page description of each major character and a half-page description of each minor character
- Expand your plot summary into four pages
- Write detailed character charts for each character
- Make a list of all of the novel’s scenes. Randy Ingermanson recommends using a spread sheet rather than a word processor for this.
- Write a description of each scene.
- Write the first draft!
Having spoken to a few people both online and off about it, it seems that several writers don’t like this method. Many find it to be overly restrictive and time-consuming; indeed, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to follow the method all the way through, and this is all time in which you could have spent actually writing stories.
I, for one, have loved it.
Admittedly, I’ve taken quite a bit longer to work through it than I probably should have done: when I recently finished the 8th step, I had been at it for well over two months. Furthermore I ended up making some fairly big changes during this step, as I realised that my original plot was too unwieldy in practice. This might sound as though filling out the first seven steps was therefore a waste of time; it wasn’t. I genuinely feel as though I’ve learned a lot about my story’s world and characters over these last few months and I doubt that I would have been able to produce a coherent list of scenes without having fleshed out my story beforehand. Without the list, meanwhile, it would have taken me a lot longer to see the problems that my plot had.
I’m still debating with myself whether or not to include step 9. Randy Ingermanson himself states that he considers this one optional and that he doesn’t do it anymore. My current idea is to carry out steps 9 and 10 together, by writing a brief summary of each scene and then immediately writing that scene before moving on to the next one; that way, I might start feeling as though I’m making progress a little bit sooner.
If nothing else, I would wholeheartedly recommend giving the eighth step a try. It provides a very convenient way to get an idea of your novel’s size, reorder your scenes and, finally, check whether all of your scenes are actually needed.
Having worked through the snowflake once, I should be able to do it a lot quicker in the future. With that said, I will almost certainly use this method the next time I decide to plan a novel.