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Friday, March 25, 2011

The Snowflake Guy

It's a busy day in the Massaro household so I am treating you to a repost of one of my favorite topics:

Today I want to talk about Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method.

The what?

The Snowflake Method. Some of you may have heard of it before, but for those who haven’t, let me give you a crash course. (Then go check out the full explanation)!

Okay- what IS it and why should I care?

The Snowflake Method is an organized process for writing a novel. Perfect for split-brains like me. By that I mean that it marries my creative side with my structured, list-loving side. So if you love algebra and poetry (like I do) this will appeal to you.

In fact, I give the Snowflake a big chunk of credit in getting Beauty for Ashes from my mind to the page in the first place. Maybe you can relate to this. See, I had the basic idea for my novel for YEARS before writing it. I sometimes scribbled down thoughts about setting and characters, but always stopped short of BEGINNING THE MANUSCRIPT. It was too daunting. I didn’t have the time. I would drown if I began swimming across the vast ocean of the novel-writing process. Anyone been there? That all changed for me with two things: Stephanie Myers’ inspiring story of “getting it done”, and Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method.

So… how does it work?

Basically, the Snowflake starts with the bare bones of your story and gradually fleshes it out layer by layer, step by step. For example, Step 1 is to spend an hour writing a one sentence summary of your story. Here are my early attempts:

• A man loses everything, including his faith, in a deadly fire and struggles to put the pieces of his life back together again.
• One man’s journey to find peace after losing his family and his faith in a deadly fire.
• When a deadly fire destroys his family and his faith, one man questions whether God has forgotten him, or if He exists at all.
Later, I settled on a much shorter version:
• A young man struggles to regain his faith after losing everything in a deadly fire.


Now, none of these is what I would choose to use now that the book is finished, but it was a good start- and wonderful practice on boiling down the plot. (You’ll wrestle with that job for weeks or even months after the book is written when you want to start querying agents.)

Step 2 has you writing a 3-Act paragraph (just a single paragraph!). This is what I ended up with for mine:

Jonathon Douglas’ future looked bright- he had a beautiful young wife, a job he loved, and a faith in God that couldn’t be shaken- what more could he want? But his life goes into a tailspin when a deadly fire rips through his town and burns his future to the ground. Stripped of everything he ever held dear, he turns his back on God to embrace a life of lonely days and wild nights in Las Vegas. There, Jonathon hits bottom and discovers that God had been with him all along. As he begins to rebuild his life and discover a new future in California, his days of hard living catch up with him and threaten everything once again. But this time he chooses to cling to his faith and trust in God to carry him through.

Keep in mind that I wrote this paragraph long before I wrote the actual story. It’s pretty good! I used much of this same verbiage in my later summary and query letter attempts. The fact that this paragraph is still so accurate speaks volumes to me about the value and efficiency of the Snowflake. Granted, it is way too vague and full of clich├ęs. I know a lot more now than I did back then about writing. But how exciting it was to see my story coming to life before it was even written! There’s no greater motivation than that.

Later in the process, you will take each sentence of that single-paragraph-summary and expand it into its OWN paragraph so that you get a full page summary. Do you see the snowflake appearing?

Interesting! Is there more?

Oh yes! Randy’s method takes you all the way through the entire writing process including scene charting and extensive character development. But what’s great about the Snowflake is that you don’t have to remain glued to it the whole way through. If all you need is a kick-start to get you going, these initial steps are perfect for the job. I started out using the scene spreadsheets he recommends but later let them go, not that I would pooh-pooh them. Once I began getting my first couple of chapters on paper, I just plunged ahead full-steam and no longer felt the need to check in with Randy on what I should be doing next. But if I’d needed to, he would have been there.

So will you use it again next time?

I cannot imagine writing a novel without at least using the basics of the Snowflake. I highly recommend using it if you are stuck on your half-finished novel, or have never started writing because you didn’t know where to start. If you don’t like starting a journey without knowing exactly where you’re going (see me raising my hand?), this is a must-have tool. The basic Snowflake Method article is absolutely FREE on Randy’s website. FREE! So no excuses! If that’s all you have, it’s enough. But he does offer a lot more, and with his track record it’s worth a looksie.

So check out his website, follow his blog, sign up for his FREE e-zine, and please let him know that I sent you!
**

4 comments:

Dana said...

Wow! I am impressed. What an awesome journey you have been on so far. Sounds like you are learning a lot and using that knowledge for the benefit of your readers. Keep it up!

Katie Johnson said...

Cool! I sat 2 seats down from Randy at last weeks ACFW conference. I didn't know he was the snowflake guy at the time. I've just read a bit about his method. Thanks for the info. I'm off to really check it out now.

Michelle Massaro said...

Katie, that's so cool that you got to sit near Randy. I have never emailed to tell him how much I appreciate his method but I think I will. I just started outlining a new novel today using Snowflake and again am feeling so grateful for it! =)

Thanks for popping by!

Becky Avella said...

Thank you for this resource, Michelle! I'm excited to go check it out.