The snowflake method by Randy Ingermanson is one of the best methods of planning and writing a novel. In this article, we will explore each step of the snowflake method and how to implement it in your novel writing.
What Is the Snowflake Method?
Think of a simple triangle. Now picture the points of the triangle developing their own triangle; call this shape A. Then, the points on shape A have additional shape A’s, making it a new figure. Keep repeating this, and you get a figure that looks like a snowflake.
In essence, the snowflake method starts out with your novel with the smallest step (simple triangle) and then builds off that first step till it looks like a story (snowflake).
1. Summarize Your Entire Novel in One Line
Take some time to think about what exactly your story is about.
Think of this step as figuring out a one-line ad for your book that will hook potential readers.
Now, picture your story. Think of the main character(s), the antagonist (s), and the struggle between them. For example, a curious girl finds her way into a house of bears when they’re out and wreaks havoc. That’s the one-liner for Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The summary should be between ten to twenty words.
- It should serve as a ten-second selling tool.
- Don’t use character names.
- Read one-line blurbs of famous books to draw inspiration.
2. Expand the Sentence to a Paragraph (With Story Setup, Major Events, and Ending)
Now, expand your one-liner to a full paragraph. Describe the story setup, major events, and the ending. Ideally, this paragraph should be a five-sentence summary.
The first sentence will deal with the setup of your story.
The next three sentences will describe the three major events—something the character has to overcome. These can be events against the antagonists or against him or herself.
The final sentence is the conclusion of your story.
3. Expand Upon Your Characters
List down all your main characters, and write down a one-page summary for each of them. Note down the following information for each character:
- Character’s name
- One sentence summary of their role in the story
- What does the character wish to achieve in the story?
- What’s their motivation?
- What conflict do they face?
- How does the character change (epiphany)?
- One paragraph summary of the character’s storyline
This part of the process gives you a good foothold on character development and will help you blend characters into the right scenes.
Keep two things in mind:
- You may find yourself re-adjusting your characters or even the one-line summary of your story. Don’t worry; it’s part of the process.
- Don’t focus on perfection yet. You can always make the finer changes later.
4. Expand Each Sentence from Step 2 to Their Own Paragraphs
This next step is time-consuming but fun. You get to expand on your story and develop a synopsis.
Write a paragraph expanding each sentence. The rule of thumb is that all sentences should end in disaster, except your last sentence—that’ll be your ending.
5. Write a One-Page Summary of the Story from Every Major Character’s Point of View
It’s time to bring your characters to life and tell the story from their perspective.
Taking the information you’ve compiled from step 3, write a one-page summary of every single main character (half-page for minor characters), wherein you write a synopsis of the story from their point of view.
This helps you intimately understand all your characters and their motivation. Ultimately, it will help you write your novel smoothly.
Feel free to go back and make adjustments to your characters to iron out any details or give them new roles.
6. Expand the Character Perspectives from the Last Step
Go back to step 4. At this point, you may have made some changes to your five-paragraph synopsis, and that’s okay. It’s time to turn each paragraph into a whole page.
This gives you the chance to really delve into the story with a new arsenal of well-developed characters, motivations, and background stories. Your story will begin to feel fuller and more complete.
New ideas might spring up during this stage. It’s okay to go back and make changes here because you’re making strategic decisions and adding high complexity to the story.
7. Write Full-Fledged Descriptions of Characters from Step 3
Here’s where you really get to turn your characters into people.
For every major character, you’ll have to create a character chart. This is an outline of the character and their lives. Be generous with details.
Include the following:
- Physical description
- Likes and Dislikes
Of course, you’re free to add more.
8. List Out Every Scene That Will Go Into Your Novel
At this point, you have more than enough information to list out the various scenes that will go into your story.
Take your five-page synopsis from step 6, and decide what scenes you’d like to put into your story. Using your synopsis, sprinkle scenes into your story.
When listing them out, give each of them a one-line description. Scene descriptions usually include how characters develop.
A good novel will have anywhere from fifty to 100 scenes.
9. Expand on Each Scene
Now that you have your scene list and a helpful description, it’s time to fill in the details.
For each scene, think about what characters you’d like, how you want them to develop, how to interact with other characters, and add details to the bigger picture.
10. Write Your First Draft
We’re at the final stage. You have everything you need to write your first draft.
Get to the first scene and start writing
Now that you’ve understood the snowflake method, you’re well-equipped with the right knowledge to start your novel.