Why I Need the Snowflake Method

In case you’re not aware of the “Snowflake Method,” this is an ingenious strategy for how to write a novel in an organized and methodical way– essentially how to Outline in the least painful way possible. Now, I’ve written four books, all using the “I’m just going to sit down and write whatever comes to mind” method, aka Pantsing. Let me tell you how that went (spoiler: I’ve been stuck in the revision stages forever!):

 

 

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Temporary Cover (Click to read Teaser)

 

Book 1: Fallen to Grace (Completed and FINALLY Query-Ready)

Book 2/3: Excess word count cut from the original (Heh)

Time to Write the First Draft: 4 years (yes I know… But realistically I spent one year’s worth of time actually serious about finishing)

Time to Revise: 2 mass revisions in 2 years (this can’t be normal)

Words Sent to the Scrap Heap: Over 100,000 (Definitely not normal…)

Of course, this was my first book. That’s always going to be a learning experience and the first thing you write most likely isn’t going to be anything close to publishable. To start with, my first draft ended up being over 170k words. Most debut fiction novels are around 80k words, so I decided to break it up into a trilogy. “Cool!” I thought. “Now I have a whole trilogy!” WRONG! I had a trilogy of crap, that’s all.

After joining a writer’s group and learning what’s-what from published authors, I completely revised the first book. After receiving beta feedback from the revision, I filled in a plot hole for its second major revision. Now I finally have something that resembles a readable novel and am currently seeking representation. That journey takes a year all on its own, so I’ll get back to you for when it’ll actually be available. But for the revision process, I had to basically write an entire new novel twice with massive changes to prose, plot, added characters, and removed/added scenes. And the two “sequels” I have for drafts will need the same level of revision. I feel like I did this the hard way.

Sanctuary
Temporary Cover (Click to read Teaser)

Book 4: Sanctuary (Undergoing a Mass Revision)

Time to Write the First Draft: 6 months (Way better!)

Time to Revise: I’ll let you know…

Words Sent to the Scrap Heap (so far): 15,000 (Not TOO bad)

Being my second attempt at writing a book, the draft spewed out like a fountain. That was a blast and I loved it! But now I’m having to undergo a major revision because of beta reader feedback singing a common lamentation. I was even stubborn about it and tried querying a few agents. While this novel was much better received (agents are happy when a book doesn’t have angels), they still had some complaints that jived with what my beta readers were saying. So. Okay. I’ll stop being a stubborn starving artist about it and do a rewrite.

I have been working on the revision for about 2 months and I feel like most rewrites take twice as long as it did to write the draft. With this logic, I should be done revising next year. While I hope I’m wrong about that, and I am trying to reuse chapters from my original draft, we’ll see how dramatic a revision this will turn out to be.

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Revision = Draft x 2 … DO THE MATH

So, bottom line, I feel like there’s got to be a better way. I had heard about the Snowflake Method when I started writing Sanctuary, but didn’t think much of it at the time. However now I want to be ready for a new strategy when I write my next book, be it a continuation of my current works or a new novel. The Snowflake Method is designed to cut down on future revisions by completely outlining the novel. Just so you’re aware, I’m not someone who is exciting about Outlining. Thus, understanding how the Snowflake Method worked piqued my interest. It isn’t that you start chugging out an outline like it’s homework– you first start with an idea. That’s how I work, great! I always just start with an idea.

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Start with an Idea

Once you have the idea articulated in one sentence, you expand it into a paragraph. Then you create character sheets that will fit this paragraph, complete with a synopsis of character arcs, where they start and where they end up, their motivations, everything that is going to drive the plot. The Snowflake Method has SO much focus on the characters, with multiple steps dwelling on this area before moving onto any type of Outlining.

What I find interesting about this level of focus on the characters is that it immediately zooms in on a major reason for why I needed to revise my works in the first place. My plot wasn’t character-driven, and it MUST be. If it’s not, the characters just float around, carried by the current of events and the reader is just going to be bored out of their mind by this structure. As a reader, we don’t always realize what’s grabbing our interest. We just know that THIS BOOK IS GOOD. As a writer, we must understand what latches a reader in like that, and it’s a character-driven plot with narrative thrust(explained in Senior Literary Agent Paula Munier’s Recent Book). It sounds so simple, but executing the idea is a lot harder than it sounds.

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Plot Rule #1: Character-Driven!

So I’m going to try the Snowflake Method for my next novel and I am hopeful I won’t have to go through so many months of revisions. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes! (In a hundred years when I’m done fixing my pantsed novels of course.)

If the Snowflake Method is completely new to you, Randy Ingermanson made a free explanation on his website, or a complete run-down is available in his book. They both say the same thing, but the book just helps guide you step-by-step with no questions left unanswered.

Have you used the Snowflake Method? How did it work out for you? I’d love to read comments!

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Source: Amazon
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14 thoughts on “Why I Need the Snowflake Method

  1. I tried the snowflake method, but I found it so in depth that by the time it came round to writing the story, I was bored of it. I’ve decided I prefer working to a loose outline that allows flexibility.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting! I was worried about that too, that I’d already planned everything out so there was nothing left to surprise me. Though if it saves me months of rewrite it might be a trade off. If you had finished the story do you think it would have saved time?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes, if I’d followed through, I think it would have saved time on rewrites. I’m about to start the 4th draft of my current pantsed WIP. It’s getting in shape now but it could have done with a better structure to start with.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds sooo much like my journey. Going on year 3 for book number 2 (I put book 1 on hold, but who knows if I’ll ever get back to it) and I’m currently working on a few new things. But I’m a total Pantser. I’ve tried outlining various times, but I can never seem to keep with it. This method sounds interesting. And like you, I’m a bit desperate to try a new, more efficient process for the next go-around!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha. Yeah I think we all have to learn things the hard way. And I also think it’d be difficult to just start out by outlining. There’s so much I’ve learned through the pantsing and revising process that’s invaluable. But I’m ready for a simpler way.

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  3. “As a reader, we don’t always realize what’s grabbing our interest. We just know that THIS BOOK IS GOOD. As a writer, we must understand what latches a reader in like that, and it’s a character-driven plot with narrative thrust”

    THIS IS SO TRUE. And so phenomenally hard!

    I enjoyed this post a lot. I pantsed the novella I’m working on and it was a hideous way to do it. I once ended up with ALL my characters in jail cells at the same time and no way to get them out. How stupid! Never going to do that again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I think other authors can relate, as you’ve demonstrated. And that’s pretty hilarious. Wrote yourself into a corner! That happened to me too a few times haha. Just wrote myself into a dead end and stared at the page going “Seriously?”

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  4. I haven’t tried the Snowflake method before–I think it’s too in-depth for me. If there’s no surprise while I’m writing, I get bored and walk away from it. Pantsing has worked well for me… More revisions, certainly, but it’s a lot easier for me to revise than to force myself to follow an outline or keep working on a story that holds no more excitement for me. Everyone has their own method, though, and I find the different ways of starting a novel fascinating.

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  5. I’ll be interested to read how you go with it in a future post. I’ve always been an outline, but I often find that my characters only really develop their ‘depth’ once I start writing the story itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with that. And also after reading the instructions for the snowflake method it’s designed to do that. The character sheets get you started and once you start drafting you’re expected to change and update your characters to fit the story as you develop them. So it sounds like you’re already a snowflaker!

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  6. I’ve been through the hassle of trying to pants a revision of a pantsed novel. It is NOT working out for me. But I don’t want to give up on the story, I just know that I have to start over from absolute scratch if it’s actually going to be successful. So I might actually try this method…but only after I’ve given myself an extended break from the novel. Right now I’m focusing on a poetry chapbook and self-publishing shorter stories like you’re doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha so you feel my pain! I know. It’s rough. I also took about 6 months off from my novel and am tackling another revision. Distance really does help. I feel a lot better and more confident about my changes.

      Let me know when you publish some shorts! I’d love to check it out 🙂

      Like

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