What is the Snowflake Method?
The snowflake method is a way to brainstorm a novel by starting small and making it bigger and more complex. It's based off of a concept called the Koch Snowflake, a type of fractal. Without getting into math stuff (yuck), here's a good little illustration:
Math and fun shapes aside, the Koch snowflake uses the same ideas as the Snowflake method. You use a big idea (like a triangle) and then keep expanding upon it to get a more complex story.
Snowflake Method Steps
(Information was taken from here. I don't claim to have come up with this, because I'm a recovering pantser and still experimenting with plotting. The link has more detailed info if you're interested).
- Write one sentence that sums up your novel.
- Expand that sentence to one paragraph.
- Write a skeleton outline of each of your big characters--motivation, description, one sentence character arc etc.
- Elaborate on your paragraph of plot and turn it into a page or so outline.
- Flesh out your skeleton character outlines.
- Continue to flesh out your plot using info from your characters so that you have a several page long plot summary.
- Write a super detailed outline of your characters.
- Make a list/spreadsheet of every scene in your novel.
- Take that spreadsheet and write a paragraph of description for that scene. You'll have a skeleton book now (one paragraph for a scene).
- Write the real rough draft, using your notes.
Pros and Cons
I didn't quite follow the above instructions, due to the fact that I started too close to NaNo to complete all the steps. I basically did steps 1-5 and then wrote my rough draft. I'm considering trying to do an entire book this way at some point (perhaps for one of my novel re-writes). Maybe I'll meander less from my intended plot. I basically re-designed my story halfway through NaNo (my perpetual problem with plotting; I never seem to follow my plot).
- I actually knew a bit about my characters. This is abnormal for me. It was wonderful to have an idea of how they should behave.
- My plot wasn't a complete mystery. I had a beginning, climax, and ending planned out. Again, this is abnormal for me.
- I spent less time brainstorming while writing. I mainly had to figure out the little details between point A and point B, rather than trying figure out what point B was. This made NaNo less stressful.
- I still managed to deviate from my plot line. I realized that, if I followed my outline, I'd get to the climax far too quickly. So I added in a bit of pre-climax action...and it took over the story. For like 30,000 words. Maybe this would change if I got to steps 8 and 9 next time. This is why I'm interested in trying it again.
- I didn't feel like I really got to know my characters. Characters are one of my perennial struggles. They tend to sound the same, act the same, and behave irrationally. While doing the character outlines helped me a bit, I felt like they were just paper cut-outs. I think character development is something that I'll perennially have to edit into my story.
- It takes a lot of time. I got all excited about my story...but I wanted to write it before I was really done with plotting it. I got that wish, due to NaNo. In the future, I don't think I'm going to do this with NaNo coming up too soon, though it certainly helped me to exceed my NaNo goals.
Plotting in the Future
I think I'm going to try the snowflake method all the way through at some point. I'm really intrigued by the idea of writing one paragraph for each scene. I'm just always hesitant to plot too much, since I have a tendency to throw it all out the window in the middle of the story. I hate to put that much work into plotting if I'm not going to use it.
If you're interested in trying this method out, you might be interested in ywriter, a free writing program. It allows you to put paragraph descriptions of your scenes together, as well as character notes. I didn't use it this NaNo, but I've used it in the past. My main complaint is that it formats things differently than Word, which can lead to some real editing nightmares. I also dislike having to edit in it.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? How do you plan out your stories?