The Snowflake Method – Part 1

When I decided to write a book, I first asked myself how to start. On Google I then came across Randy Ingermanson’s snowflake method quite quickly. This method helps you planning your story and figuring out if your idea can be turned into a book.

In the beginning I was skeptical, because there are so many steps in this method just to plan a book. But then I quickly realized that this method reveals mistakes in the story and gives you new ideas. Therefore, try it out! Below you will find a list of each step and my personal opinion about each one of them.

Please note that it’s possible, even necessary, to go back to earlier steps and change things. This method should teach you more about your story. So, it will certainly happen that you don’t like something while working on a step and therefore need to change things in the previous steps.

Step 1

Write a one-sentence-summary of your novel. I know this sounds very difficult but you can take your time. Make sure you keep the sentence general, i.e. don’t mention any names. If the main character is a superhero, then just write Superhero. Try to show the “task” or “problem” of the main character in one sentence.

For example, the first book of the Hungergames Trilogy: a brave woman volunteers for her sister to fight against 23 other players in an arena until death. It is short and only reveals the surface of the book.

This one sentence is your base. It is the first triangle of your snowflake. In the next steps you have to add more triangles to get a snowflake.

Tip: I had a lot of trouble with the first step. I deleted and changed the sentence like 50 times. All just for changing it again during the later steps. So, take maybe 30 to 60 minutes and then stick to the one-sentence-summary that you like best. This sentence is not set in stone and if you want to change it again later, you can do so anytime.

Step 2

Now you take this one-sentence-summary and make a paragraph out of it. This paragraph should describe the structure of your story and consists of three disasters and the end. Try to write 5 sentences, namely: background, catastrophe 1, catastrophe 2, catastrophe 3, end.

A little help for the catastrophes: you can imagine that something bad happens at the first catastrophe. After that the main character tries to fix everything or change the situation. But since this doesn’t really work, the other two disasters follow.

Tip: Again, try not to spend too much time on the sentences. This step is especially important to create the structure of your story and to find out if the story is exciting enough (has enough disasters). Once the structure of the story is complete, you can always change the sentences in the later steps.

Step 3

In this step you will create your main characters. For each main character you write down a storyline. This is important because after that you will have a short summary of the story from each character’s point of view. You will also be able to see the links between the storylines immediately and build on them later.

The following points must be included in your line-up:

  • The name of the character
  • A one-sentence summary of the character’s storyline
  • The character’s motivation (what do they want in general?)
  • The goal of the character (what do they want in concrete terms?)
  • The conflict of the character (what prevents them from achieving the goal?)
  • The enlightenment of the character (what do they learn, how do they change)
  • A one-paragraph summary of the storyline

After this step you will already have a good overview of the different perspectives of your story.

Tip: You can answer the questions briefly and concisely. But you can be a little more detailed in the storyline. At first, I had the feeling that I have to write half a novel here. But this will follow in the next steps.

Step 4

By now you should know if your story will work as a book or not. If everything has gone well so far, take your one-paragraph summary from step 2 and expand it. Make a new paragraph from each sentence.

Again, keep in mind that each paragraph ends with a catastrophe and the last one tells the end. It doesn’t have to be too detailed yet but still contains the most important points of your story.

Tip: I made a paragraph with five sentences out of every sentence from step 2. In the end, i had a one-page-summary of my story.

Step 5

Now back to the characters. It’s time to make a one-page description for each of your main characters. Each summary should tell the story from the point of view of the main characters. This step is important because your characters tell you the story.

Tip: I wrote around one page for each character. For the structure, I took the one-page summary of step 4. So in the end, each character had five paragraphs, one for each catastrophe and the end. This was also a great strategy to compare the different parts of the story of each character.

If you want to keep reading the rest of the snowflake method click here!


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