Snowflakes in April?
Credit for the terms pantser and plotter traditionally goes to NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month (which, incidentally, can be pronounced either Na-No-Wree-Mo, or Na-No-Rye-Mo). Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, as if by magic, while Plotters plan every detail and can’t write a word without an outline. Serious writers usually know which they are—pantser or plotter. It’s like knowing which political party you belong to. The Snowflake Method is decidedly apolitical, for those who kinda/sorta do a little of both and usually end up with a mess, or fail to launch entirely.
Donald Maass in “The Fire in Fiction” says “A method that’s mysterious cannot be repeated.” He agrees that every novel can be inspired, but he draws the line at a brilliant flash of insight that last four hundred pages. If he’s right, then, being a dedicated pantser, I’m in big trouble.
All of which leads me to “How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method.” I reached an impasse with Book Two of a trilogy, which does NOT lend itself to my usual freefall, come-what-may style of writing. Plotting an outline was out of the question—I equate it to writing with manacles on my wrists. Then I heard about an alternative method of writing proposed by Randy Ingermanson. Aside from being one hysterically funny read, his book offers a step-by-step guide to truly rev up writers who find themselves in between styles and generally stuck. It came highly recommended by a close friend who exhausted nearly every method out there, over a period of two years, and swears this one works.
The book begins in third person, with Goldilocks searching for a way to write her novel. She attends Papa Bear’s conference for pantsers and Mama Bear’s workshop for plotters, and finds true happiness at Baby Bear’s class for other-thans. Trust me, it’s the only how-to-write book that made me laugh out loud the whole way through. But, I digress.
Since Goldilocks already has an idea for her novel, Baby Bear begins with the basics, like what the story’s about, what genre it’s in, and who’s the target audience. From these three questions, Baby Bear helps Goldilocks develop a marketing plan with her target audience already in mind—before she starts to write.
Then, with the help of the rest of the class—can you say Three Little Pigs?—Goldilocks learns how to summarize her book, with concrete description and plot, into one 35-word sentence: “a romantic suspense novel about a woman in Nazi-occupied France who falls in love with an injured American saboteur who wants to blow up a key ammunition depot at Normandy just before D-Day.” By forcing Goldilocks to think it through aloud, Baby Bear leaves her with a focused plot for her novel.
By now, you probably want to know why it’s called The Snowflake Method, how the paradigm works, and what it looks like, right? The shape begins with two triangles superimposed on each other and ends up like…a snowflake. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you need, adding layer on top of layer, a paragraph at a time, until so much of your novel is laid out, it’s no longer a daunting task. Baby Bear leads Goldilocks through settings, disasters, characters, decisions, names, goals, and more, all interwoven into the pattern until the paragraphs equal a page, and you’re on your way. Each step is explained in detail, all while Goldilocks helps solve a classroom mystery concerning Big Bad Wolf. Have I mentioned it’s one hysterically funny read?
If you think this method might be the one for you, check it out at https://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method for more in-depth information. Ingermanson calls his Snowflake Method “a battle-tested series of ten steps that jump-start your creativity and help you quickly map out your story.” Like me, you may find that, as in all things Baby-Bear, it’s just right.
Thanks for walking through the corridor with me.