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Does anyone use the Snowflake Method?


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#1 JayMG

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 03:20 PM

I'm currently outlining both my next book and a screenplay, and am dabbling in the snowflake method. As a self-proclaimed 'pantser', I'm finding it difficult but satisfying... As an added bonus, it seems like a good basis for writing out a query/synopsis, since you work on a 1 paragraph summary of the story, which then gets expanded into 1-4 page synopses. Nice to be able to start off your book with this kind of tool, which you can then tweak when you come to querying.

Anyone else used this method? Found it useful? Restricting? Adapted it in any way?

I'm not sure I'll go all the way through the steps and outline every single scene, but it's an interesting way to get started. Especially since I'm in the very early germinating-idea-stage of both stories.

And basically now I'm procrastinating by posting about it on here.

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#2 JoeB

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 01:45 AM

I haven't heard of the snowflake method. But I do outline. I'll lay out the whole story in paragraphs, then go back and elaborate. Like you, a single paragraph can turn into 2,3,4 pages. A three page outline can become the whole novel. I'll know how the story ends before I'm half way through. I find it very helpful. The only problem I have is filler, I call it. Not stretching out with useless information, but adding little details that make the reader understand the people in the story.
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#3 Aaron Bradford Starr

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 03:12 PM

I'm not against outlining, but hear me out. The Snowflake Method, along with most other outlining methods, all have one small problem when used for novels. And that is that the details of character motivation can sometimes fall by the wayside since the author knows what is going to happen, and that foreknowledge can sometimes blunt an author's sense of character that makes them elaborate or focus on the things that make the character tick. Since most outlining tends to be about plot points (this happens, then this, then this, etc.), the novel may happen, but not feel very convincing. I'd recommend that authors who outline have various layers, one for plot, one for characterization, so that it's clear why characters do what they do, and to make sure you're not forgetting to highlighting the important stuff.

Other than that, snowflake seems pretty labor intensive, but hey, it might work for some people.

#4 JayMG

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 04:21 PM

Definitely agree, Aaron - I'm finding it slightly hard for just those reasons. I find my best story quirks come out of the blue rather than through a plan... However, by trying to outline each character's motivations and goals, it's already highlighted a few plot holes that need to be filled before I start the actual writing which I know will have saved me some head scratching later on. Other aspects I know will just evolve organically along the way, though - I can't imagine mapping out an entire book this way and sticking to it. For me, it would suck the life out of it.

#5 JoeB

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 05:16 PM

I too agree. I have problems where I just go with the plot, like you said. Focusing on character development needs to be as important as where the story is going. I tend to try and outline the whole story and then go back where I can and add info about the characters. Probably not the best way to do it. I've had critique partners say they don't feel what the characters are feeling.
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#6 Joey

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 05:38 PM

I'm familiar with the snowflake method but it didn't work too well for me. However with that being said, I am an outliner. My outline becomes very very detailed and was fluid at some points, but when actually writing the chapters, there of course is a bit of wiggle room for creative license and change without ruining the plot I carefully put together. I wrote the outline of the novel first, then drew deeper character profiles and backstory.

Here's how I did it:
  • Write master outline
  • Compile character profiles based on outline and backstories
  • take the outline and draw chart based on action and Freytag model. See if everything meshes up according to Freytag.
  • Write
  • Insert nuances and other minute changes when the work calls for it, but stay to the master ouline and plan 99 percent of time.
Everything has to be planned YET organic feeling and that delicate balance is difficult to obtain. Hence why revisions are so necessary. I save all my info and revert back and forth sometimes when I wrote between the character profiles and outline. After ten chapters, you may feel there is even more backstory on your characters and find you have a better grip on how they act/react/behave than you did at the get go. Imho, the characters grow with the evolution of each chapter.

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#7 Leonardo Wild

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 07:33 PM

Hi Jay et al,

I hadn't heard about it, so I googled it. Looks interesting, but Randy Ingermanson, the creator of the software, seems to have taken the task linearly and that's why it will be rather labor intensive and confusing. The VonKoch snowflake (the shape he is referring to) was the first regular fractal discovered (in 1906, I believe). The progression of possibilities at each level increases exponentially, so by the time you reach the fourth level you are in for a treat of options you may not even be able to deal with, especially as a pantser-trained writer. I suggest you take a look at Larry Brown's Story Engineering and John Truby's The Anatomy of Story. They will give you much more than you ever thought could be possible for your task, and perhaps help you will in the snowflake's steps. 1 hour for a summary? How will you know how to write it if you don't know the difference between idea, concept and premise? Anyway, thanks for putting us onto the snowflake.

#8 Peter Burton

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 10:04 PM

I hadn't heard of the snowflake method, either.

About the only outlining I do is the basic plot, where the story will start/end, and a basic description of the characters. If other characters happen to show up in the course of the story, I add them to the outline... or, perhaps I should say reference sheet since the most I use it for is to keep who and where straight.

Other than that, I tend to Naniwritemo each chapter, let it set for a couple of days, then go back, wonder WTF was I thinking on 85% of it, and expand on the good stuff to produce the first rough draft.

Funny thing is; as the story progresses with each chapter the % of crap drops dramatically. Go figure.

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#9 JayMG

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 03:14 AM

@Leonardo - thanks for those recommendations. I'm not following the snowflake to the letter, just really picking bits out of it as an experiment to see if it will help me create a more polished first draft. You're right that it lacks the layers and nuances you need for a decent story and is probably not going to help much with the non-linear approach I normally take...

@Peter - I think the crap% is normal :) Your world is more fully formed ans you become more at home writing in it as you go along.

#10 E.B. Black

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 09:32 PM

I don't know what the snowflake method entails entirely, but I could never write as a pantser to save my life.

I usually come up with a vague story and try to elaborate on it more and more. As ideas pop into my head, I take notes, a whole lot of them. At first, I used to focus on just the plot and sucked at characterization, but with practice, I've gotten better at it.

Next step is I organize the notes into an outline.

Before I write I have at least 20 pages, if not more, of description about what the setting looks like, the characters, their personalities, appearances, motivations, and fears, since I write fantasy, I usually outline the "rules" of magic that I must follow through out the story, since I don't write urban fantasy, I often come up with a story about how the world was created, how the people eat in this world, what they eat, how they gather the food, how they live, what jobs they have (and sometimes other things like their school systems, government systems, so on and so forth), and then at the end ofd all of that, I write out scene for scene my plot.

The less detailed my outline is, the worse my novel usually comes out.

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#11 TyUnglebower

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 02:03 PM

I could never do this sort of outline. But what I love about it, or any method for that matter, is that there are no wrong ways. Especially when it comes to bringing about the all important first draft. I love to hear about how many different ways people get to where they need to be when it comes to things like this. I am a firm believer that if outlining your story in lipstick on your bathroom mirror is the only, or most effective way to unleash your creativity for the first draft, than you should be out buying lipstick as soon as possible. (Though, you might have to write very small, and have your hair look like crap for a few months. But I digress.)
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#12 J. Lea Lopez

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 08:19 PM

I came across that site a while ago and tried some of the things he talks about. On the long run it wasn't really for me. I can't adhere to something so rigid. I'm a die-hard pantster.

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#13 Joey

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 12:22 PM

I'm w/J.Lea on this one. I saw his site and saw a few good points but it wasn't for me. I had a high school teacher who taught us ways to write and how to organize our ideas/thoughts and one of them was the outline, and I liked what I heard waaay back then. It worked for me.

But one key ingredient is fluidity. Some of the best stuff I've come up with is on the fly. It hits like a ton of bricks and I run with it.

Call me I guess...an outliner with heavy pants-ing tendencies now & then. :biggrin: It's all good if the end result feels good in your soul.

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