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Friday, 24 February 2012

No snow . . . how about a Snowflake

Alright it was a trick . . . this post actually has nothing to do with snow - it's about a method of writing, or at least starting to write a novel. So . . . if you must, get out now and head back to your happy facebooking :)
However - if you have the slightest bit of interest or are an aspiring novelist then maybe you might want to read on.

The Snowflake Method:

It seems logical to me that if you plan out a novel before you begin writing it, that it would come together more easily. With anything – an essay, a business, Christmas shopping . . . -  a good plan seems to be a key to success. I am going to try and put that to the test by using the "Snowflake Method" created by author/novelist Randy Ingermanson - known by some in the U.S. as America's "Mad Professor of fiction writing." I hadn't actually heard of the man before but from what I read he has written six fictional novels and two non-fiction works all of which are based somehow in Christianity.

I'm not here to proclaim my own religious beliefs or prop up the beliefs of others - it really doesn't matter to me - what I am interested in is his method. And the Snowflake method for which Mr. Ingermanson is known for seems to be pretty popular among authors and aspiring writers, such as moi. If you would like more information on Randy Ingermanson, his novels, other work or more in-depth information on his "Snowflake Method" visit,

To start - as anything starts – you need an idea. A simple idea that is then built upon until it becomes the bones of a decent novel. From there you fill in all the meat and potatoes so to speak. It reminds me of my early days writing essays in high school and university. I was taught to surmise a question, and then do my research - of which I already had assumptions (sometimes those assumptions were changed) - nonetheless you then have to go about proving why the answer you came to was the right one. You needed to have proof or support for your findings, and this created the body of the essay. A good essay, I was told should have at least 3 supporting points or proof as to why your statement and following conclusion was true - or at the very least plausible. You formulated your statement, gathered the research for your supporting points and then made your conclusion . . . there was a plan or framework in place before the actual essay was written. This for me anyways, made the actual writing of the essay that much easier. The Snowflake method is the same, just on a larger scale.

Ingermanson’s Method boils down to 10 steps - not 12 - 10. If you want 12 steps there are plenty of other sites for that.

Ingermanson's 10 steps:

1. Write a catchy one line sentence (15 words or less) that describes your story. It's suggested that one reads the one liners laid out to describe the books on the New York Times Bestsellers list.

2. Now, expand that sentence into a paragraph. Ingermanson likes to include "3 disasters and an ending. Each disaster should take a quarter of the book to develop and the end the last quarter." Sort of like a Shakespearian 3 Act play.

3. Design your characters. Ingermanson suggests writing a one page summary sheet for each major character that tells their: name, storyline, wants/desires, goals, conflicts, and how they change. Then write a one paragraph summary of their storyline. This doesn't need to be perfect, and may be revised as you progress with telling your story.

4. Now Ingermanson says that you should know your story. You should know the tale, its major players and how you want it to play out. From here he says you should build, expanding your short initial sentence into a paragraph. Then bring everything into a one page (approximately) skeleton of the book. This, or some variation of this, could be used as your proposal to potential publishers . . .

5. Write a one page character synopsis for all major and supporting characters.

6. The story of each character can be woven into the overall plot. At this time Ingermanson suggests the one page synopsis for each character be further developed and expanded into 4 pages.

7. Expand and chart each major character by outlining and describing every big or little thing there is to know about them, i.e. birthdate, history, how they change or will grow during the novel.

8. Create a spreadsheet of all the "scenes" of your novel. For each scene list the main character, what is to happen and how many pages you want the whole scene to take up. A computer generated spreadsheet would allow you to see the whole story at a glance and easily reorder things should you need or want to.

(above: a look into the mind, via spreadsheet of J.K. Rowling as she planned out one of her novels . . . pity she didn't make it very far.)

9. Write a "narrative description of the story." Expand one line to a paragraph etc. Include interesting lines of dialogue or conflicts you would like to use in the novel. Ingermanson suggests starting new chapters on a new page so they can be switched around or taken out with ease.

10. Start writing the first draft - At this point, according to Ingermanson, the story should come easily. . . I'll see about that . . . :S

Time to get started . . . I'll keep you posted!!

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