Writing a Novel Using the Snowflake Method

There are several blog posts about using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method for developing novels. I thought about doing yet another post on it, but maybe in a little more detail than some of the other bloggers, as I develop my storyline and characters for The Perigee Moon. Step by step. This will be the first, and Step 1.

You can tell by the diagram that it starts out very general and is refined over time, until the whole novel is conceptualized and the writing of that first draft becomes easier, and it is more unlikely that there will be unwanted gaps or errors or inconsistencies with characters or storyline.

This is the first time I’ve used this methodology. I bought the Fiction Writing for Dummies book (also by Randy Ingermanson). An aside here, who came up with the phrase “for Dummies” anyway? I don’t think a person who wants to write a novel but doesn’t know how to go about it, is necessarily a “dummy”. I wonder if there is a book called “Rocket Science for Dummies” or “Brain Surgery for Dummies”. But from a marketing perspective, it sure works, I have a lot of these books, Quicken 2011 for Dummies, Unix for Dummies, Excel for Dummies, Photoshop for Dummies, to name a few. The characteristic yellow and black cover for every Dummy book makes it instantly recognizable and the common formatting of the interior is kind of soothing to me. I know what to expect, and the books are usually tinged with humor, or at least a valiant attempt at humor.

The Snowflake Method is used in Mr. Ingermanson’s software called Snowflake Pro, and I’m using it and it is easy to understand. By that I mean the software is easy to understand, what you need to do to design your novel isn’t necessarily.

In the beginning, I witnessed the full moon in February of this year while on Clearwater Beach. The full moon, over the water, with a few clouds that would temporarily obstruct the moon, or part of it, or where you could see part or all of it shining through, was breathtaking. I took pictures of it and a story idea started.

Sometimes that stuff happens to me, I looked at that moon and just let my mind take me wherever it wanted to go and a novel idea (pun intended) was birthed.

The Perigee Moon was in March, so back in Ohio, I took pictures of that, with the moon through the trees on the exact night of the full moon. I think I have the cover designed already and the title is set, although I also like February Moon. Even though the actual Perigee moon happened in March, I doubt anyone will care about that detail, to point out that the month is off by one.

I started using the software and have completed Step 1.

Step 1: Summarize your storyline in one sentence. This isn’t easy to do, but is a valuable exercise. It should be no more than 25 words, closer to 15 is better. I got mine down to 19. In the beginning, I thought it would be the story of a guy who is in a bad marriage, and how he finds a new relationship and the problems he encounters along the way. And it is still about that, but upon dissecting the character, Luke, I discovered a lot more about him. That it’s not just the marriage, but his whole lifestyle that he wants to alter. The corporate job, the commercialization, the fact that you can drive for twenty minutes and not see anything that isn’t ugly.

Remember Bonnie in Second Stories, who laments what America has turned into by describing gas stations and fast food restaurants? It’s like that, only a whole book about it, more or less, and his marriage and his job, how nothing in his life seems right. Classical mid-life crisis stuff, only on a grander scale, as he contemplates turning into a minimalist. And I expanded it even further to include the notion that he wants to be more spiritual, he wants to grow things, understand what he’s only touched on before. He desires serenity, he wants to contemplate, explore ideas, read, learn, experiment. And he wants to give up his day job to do it.

This sounds heavy, and parts of it will be, but I hope to make this book funny, with hints of sarcastic humor which I do pretty well I think (shameless non-humility). I know a bit about big corporations, and dead end jobs, and the desire to do something else. Along the way, there will be the breakup of a long-standing relationship, and the start of a new one, and family issues to take care of, and a bit of suspense, as some psychotic behavior is observed from the woman who no longer wants Luke, but doesn’t want anyone else to have him.

Here’s the final summary sentence:

One man’s struggle to cast the urban corporate lifestyle behind him and pursue a life of serenity through spirituality.

14 thoughts on “Writing a Novel Using the Snowflake Method

  1. I have personally benifitted from this method. 🙂 When I was much younger (and more full of myself/naive) I thought that planning and structure were counter to the creative process, and now realize that an organized plot is neccesary to good writing. It has only been in the past few years that I have started to think of writing as (enjoyable) work, and have found that this method is useful for staying organized. Anyway, nice post!

    • holygpa, this is good to hear. I am a little intimidated by it, but I do think it starts a process within my own head, that might end up being very worthwhile. I too, alway thoughst that authors (REAL authors) are so creative that they pound away feverishly, caught up in the words that will make a best selling novel. Not so much. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Sounds really interesting; both the software and your WIP! It’s a great summary sentence BTW. I’ve been to courses where they’ve said similar. I’ve heard it described as the elevator pitch; that is, if you happened to find yourself in the elevator with a hugely successful literary agent, how would you summarise your book? Of course it’s not just about marketing, it’s also about keeping you, the writer, on track.

    • Benison, I do like the software so far. It’s has started up a thought process for me. Randy Ingermanson says the same thing, that you can memorize the short summary sentence and it becomes your elevator pitch. How many times has someone asked me, “So, what’s your novel about?” And I mumble, “Well, uh, it’s about, well…” That’s no way to create any interest.

      I’m having trouble leaving comments on your blog. I’ve tried twice now. Once Thursday, and once today (Saturday).

  3. Although I know I’ll never write a book, I enjoy reading how you are doing yours. I think this sounds like a great book and can’t wait to read it. Cathy

  4. Nice summary! And I can confirm that you do sarcastic humor extremely well!! Spent most of high school laughing at your notes in one class or another!! Am really looking forward to this next book!

  5. Boy, do I remember that!! Wasn’t there another word in there? Think it was the 4 Latin words, then, ‘heave’, but can’t remember the 4th one: hic, ___,
    hoc, hunc, heave. May have to drag out my old Latin books!

  6. In re “xyz For Dummies”, IMHO, it aligns with an underlying current to dumb-down the general populace. Watch TV? Least common denominators (sex, violence, vampires), in massive doses. Novels on the shelf at Kroger? Mostly noise and drivel, again, with least common denominators. And the purchasing public happily plays along. It’s not a conspiracy (sorry, David Icke, the reptilian aliens are not behind it all); it’s the invisible hand of free-market forces at work, despite how much I gag at the very thought. As long as Joe Six-Pack believes he is a dummy, he will remain so, and spend his money accordingly. The rest of us just get drowned along with him in the flood of non-ideas.

  7. Joe Six-Pack is influenced by commercials, and so they are geared towards him, and embedded in programming he likes to watch. Or Josephine Six-Pack. Reality TV shows. Gag me with a really dirty garden shovel. The Bachelor? The Biggest Loser? The Biggest Race? or whatever that one was. Can we not come up with better than this stuff?

    TV sucks anymore. 24 hour news channels have ruined news, and politics. People probably stay out of politics because they know they could never stand up to the scutiny their private lives have to be put through on three all the time news channels with nothing to talk about except gossip about stars and politicians and stories about hurricanes which turn out to be nothing more than a big rain storm.

    So I agree with everything you’ve said here, and thanks for the plethera of comments today!

    • Yah, I caved and joined Facebook, to participate in a discussion group for a seminar I enrolled in, and suddenly I caught the bug to POST POST POST. You were way high on my list of Folks I Want To Post To. I miss our talks in cube-land. I have one more thought on this topic… I wonder if we are actually caught in a Chicken / Egg type of game, where Advertisers promote what they think we will buy, while the Public buys that stuff because they are told to by Advertisers. As seen on TV. Wait, there’s more. We’ll double the offer. bark bark bark.

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