How are you all doing? As some of you know, I’ve been plotting my novel using the Snowflake Method (about 95% done). Since Camp Nano is coming up in July, I thought that it would be a good opportunity to share my experience with this method!
A few disclaimers before we start:
- You’ll find that I have more pros than cons, because I really love the Snowflake Method so far. I swear I haven’t been paid to say any of this! I am just a fan!
- The Snowflake Method is just one method for plotting a book. I am not too familiar with the other well-loved methods out there, such as The Hero’s Journey or The Three-Act Structure, so I can’t speak for any of these.
What is it?
The Snowflake Method is a method for plotting a book created by Randy Ingermanson. The idea is that you start off with a one sentence summary, expand it into 5 sentence summary, then a 1 page summary, etc, until you have a description of every scene of the book. There is also the opportunity to develop your characters by figuring out their values, and motivations.
For a full guide to each of the steps, take a look at the original article by Randy Ingermanson (available for free.) There is also a book titled How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by the same author. This book was helpful for me because it provides examples of how to use the Snowflake Method. However I feel that the online article is sufficient and you don’t have to have the book to be able to use it to draft a novel.
What did I like about the Snowflake Method?
1. Makes novel-planning less overwhelming.
I love that the Snowflake divides the huge task of plotting a novel into smaller, more manageable chunks. Outlining a novel is hard, but this method provides a step-by-step approach to doing it right. It is great for beginners to novel plotting and outlining (or more experienced writers who want to try a new approach.)
2. It’s efficient.
Don’t get me wrong: The Snowflake Method takes a long time. Even though the first 3 steps take around 1 hour to complete, the later steps can take days or weeks. However I find that I am plotting with a goal and a purpose with each step, so that it is faster than my previous novel-plotting attempts.
3. Helps you get organized.
Don’t know about you, but whenever I tried to plot and outline a novel before, I end up with a mess of character sheets and summaries and world-building tidbits (and the plot is lost somewhere in between). I love that this method offers a structured approach and that my summaries, character sheets and outline are focused and to-the-point.
4. Helps you structure your novel.
Confession: I gave very little thought to novel structure before. I never really understood how it all works. In the end I just wrote what I wanted to write. The Snowflake Method forced me to give my new WIP a structure, which is a godsend.
5. Makes you think about the characters (even your minor ones).
I have a habit of knowing my main characters very well, but neglecting my secondary characters. However secondary characters are important: We’ve all read excellent books where each of the characters are multi-dimensional, even the main character’s best friend’s mom. The Snowflake makes you to create a character bible for each character, even the secondary and minor character. This means knowing everyone’s hair colour, eye colour, family situation and what motivates them.
6. You get to figure out your whole story beforehand, not just the interesting parts.
I don’t know about you but I love to spend loads of time on the interesting parts that I know well when I am plotting a story. The downside is that I end up neglecting parts that are boring. I also tend to have a super detailed outline of the first half of the story, then a vague idea of the second half. The Snowflake Method forces you to examine each and every part of your novel, so that you have a clear idea of the plot before you start writing, and speaking of which…
7. You get to fix your plot holes.
Because I had to plan out each scene in the story, I found parts of the plot that didn’t make sense and needed more work. However frustrating this can be, I like that I am doing this now as I am still plotting, rather than after the first draft is completed.
8. There is some leeway for pantsing.
If you love your outlines, there is the optional final step to write a summary of each scene that can be as short or as long as you’d like. (This is what I am working on now.) If you prefer not to have super detailed outlines, you can choose to finish the Snowflake early with a simple list of scenes before beginning to write.
9. The promise of a good first draft!?
My first drafts are terrible and my second draft always been a complete rewrite. That is because I haven’t figured out my characters, my plot, and my story structure beforehand and I make these things up as I go along. Don’t get me wrong: First drafts will always be pretty bad. But the idea of the Snowflake is that you get all this out of the way and address any inconsistencies in the plotting process, so that the first draft will be a better one.
Will the Snowflake method live up to this promise? To be honest I don’t know! I’ll give you guys an update after I finish the first draft.
What did I not like about the Snowflake Method?
1. It is strict.
There are 9 steps to the Snowflake (10 if you count the last step which is writing the first draft.) You have to finish a step before starting the next one. Have no idea how your novel will end? Well, you have to figure this out before you move on to step 3. It is a rigid process which is not for everyone.
2. It requires a lot of patience.
As mentioned above, you need to figure out the interesting parts AND the less interesting parts. You need to write character sheets for your MCs and friend #3.
3. There is less improvising room for the first draft.
This might feel stifling for the pantsers out there. Though I am enjoying the plotting process so far using the Snowflake Method, I wonder what it will be like when I am actually writing the first draft. One of my favourite parts about writing is when my characters surprise me and the story takes an unexpected turn. Will I miss this part of writing now that everything is planned out? Or will I find it easier to write the first draft because I don’t have to figure out what happens next?
Are you a pantser, planter or somewhere in between? Do you rely on a method to plot your novels? How much in-depth do you go with your outline before you begin your first draft? Will you be giving the Snowflake Method a try?