To plan your writing using the Snowflake Method while having fun is the best strategy. Deciding what story to write should be a thrilling experience. Not forced by trend or short-term joys. Remember, a classic took at least 2 years before it’s finished. Yet, it withstands through time.
Recently, I watched one of the greatest Korean drama series starring the pretty faces in the Korean entertainment industry, Ji Chang Wook and Park Min-young as the male and female leads respectively.
While I am having fun watching those two portraying their characters, the thing that attracted me more is how the writer turns the story into a deep, meaningful, and fun at once. The question I have mind was, “How did she come up with these concepts?”
Here’s the catch.
Every writer already knows the strategy. The reality is most of us often neglect this in our writing habit, the Snowflake Method.
What is the Snowflake Method?
Randy Ingermanson, an award-winning author of 6 different novels and a theoretical physicist, discovered and simplified the strategy to plan novels.
Using his background in science and passion for writing the best stories, he created a system in which he thought would be really useful for the seasoned and beginner writers in crafting wonderful fiction.
This, in turn, became his way to becoming the “Snowflake Guy” and gained numerous gigs in teaching numerous writing conferences as well as writing in an Advanced Fiction Writing E-Zine with more or less 17,000 readers every month.
Because of the immense popularity of the concept, he wrote non-fiction (also a best-selling book) entitled “How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method.”
Without further, let’s know the strategy that I also unknowingly used for writing my books over the years.
How to Plan a Novel Using the Snowflake Method?
If you try to look at the basic shape of a snowflake, you will notice the hexagonal main body where all the dendrites attached, growing independently to create that artful shape we all love.
Using the picture in mind, we’ll get the idea in which the main body is obviously the main idea of the story or the premise. What differs a concept and a premise is that the former has an unclear end, character, and goal. The latter, on the other hand, has a complete set. It contains the characters, goals, conflict, and the ending you want to achieve in that book.
How to Make a Premise – a Strong One?
To learn how to craft a strong premise for your story, you need to understand that as an author you must have a clear path to where you want to lead your readers. From the beginning to the end of the story. Basically, you’re positioning them to where should they start and end.
A premise contains the following:
The 6 elements should be structured in 1 to 5 sentences. No sentence should be added more than 5. If you think this is impossible, you need to rethink the story you have in mind because later on, it will create problems.
Within the 5 sentences, you have to have the overall structure of the whole story. For example,
Have you noticed the elements in the example?
The main characters are present, the nerdy best-selling author and the male lead of that world.
Who’s the antagonist? Do you think it’s the female lead or the male? Or none of the two?
How about the conflict? Is it present in the sample?
Of course, she’s a leader of the legion and the villain known for being merciless and undefeated in battle. Yet, she’s apparently not in that state as she doesn’t have skills in weaponry and war. But she has to search for the male lead to kill him.
Is it clear? Yes.
Do you see the beginning and the end of the story? Yes.
The example above is an example of a premise. The very first step in the Snowflake Method. That’s the first thing you need to do.
If you aren’t sure yet and want to have more examples, I have a separate post in which I deducted the process step-by-step. From there, you will learn the entire process of making a premise.
How to Add the Details – the Dendrites of the Snowflake?
Referring to the Korean drama series “Healer” aired in KBS 5 years ago, the story is utterly simple. A night messenger with a code name “Healer”, who’s apparently with a dark past, is hired to get the DNA of a woman only to find out she’s the way to answer his questions behind everything that happened to him.
Now, the dendrites come into the picture. That means you add the backstory, the probable reasons behind his difficult and dark past, the current situation where the woman is, etc.
You add these details to make everything complicated. The more complex the storyline is, the better. It makes the story unpredictable. The more irony you put into the plot, the more interesting it gets. That’s how you make a better story.
How to do that?
Ingermanson deducted that process into 10 steps. The 8 first steps are deemed important. The rest would be optional. So, it’s up to you if you implement those steps or not. It’s your decision. Besides, it’s your story. You have the full prerogative to how you want it.
Anyway, the Snowflake Method follows the following steps:
Step 1: Write a 1-Sentence Summary of Your Novel.
According to him, you have to be familiarized with how the New York Bestseller books presented their one-line blurbs. To create as effectively as possible, you have to keep it lesser than 15 words. There should be no character names, yet. In the 1-sentence summary, you must answer, “Which character has the most to lose in this story?”
If we refer to the Korean drama series, “Healer,” it would appear like this,
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Step 2: Expand the 1-Sentence Summary Into a Full Paragraph Describing the Story Setup, Major Disasters, and Ending of the Novel.
It follows the 3-Act Structure in which it comprises the:
- First Disaster
- Midpoint (Reaction to the first disaster)
- Wrap things up (fix things)
Ingermanson explained that there should be 5 sentences as a maximum number. Within these limited number of sentences, the background and story setup, 3 disasters, and the ending should be clear.
Disclosure: Once writing the full-paragraph expanded form, it doesn’t mean it’s the back cover copy of your book just yet. You’re writing this to keep the concept of your novel as clearly as possible.
It’s not for a copy but merely to inform the summary of the story.
Step 3: Add the Characters.
After writing the full descriptions of the book concept in its expanded form, it’s time to visualize your characters, who will play big roles in driving the plot to its peak.
Based on Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method, you have to come with the following so your characters (main and minor characters) won’t be messed up:
- Character’s name
- 1-sentence summary of the character’s storyline
- Character’s motivation
- Epiphany (How the character changes in the story?)
- A one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline
How to Make Character’s Detailed Description?
Character’s Name: Seo Jeong Ho
Storyline: For 10 years, he works as a night messenger with a code name “Healer” takes random jobs in exchange for a reasonable price.
Motivation: He works nonstop to save enough money to buy a private island and live there for the rest of his life.
Goal: He wants to escape his mundane and dark life by traveling to a private and secluded island without worries.
Conflict: He falls in love with Chae Young Shin, a second-rate tabloid reporter, who happens to the key of his past. He’s confused about his goals if he takes more jobs or searches for answers behind his father’s mysterious death.
Epiphany: From a cold-hearted and merciless night courier, he becomes vulnerable after he follows the reporter’s life without noticing he’s becoming more hopeful with humanity unlike before.
The 1-Paragraph Storyline: For 10 years, Seo Jeong Ho works as a night messenger for a reasonable price to save more money to escape and live in a private and secluded island. Until he receives a job to get Chae Young Shin’s DNA and follow her everyday life, he notices his goals and beliefs slowly changes as he gets answers from his father’s mysterious death and how he’s related to his client’s and Young Shin’s lives.
Do something like this for the rest of the main and minor characters in your story. Prioritize those with big roles in the novel. If you have 5 important characters, do a summary as I did for each of the 5 characters then.
Step 4: Take Several Hours to Expand Each Sentence From Your Full Paragraph Summary Into Full Paragraphs. The Last Sentence Should End With a Disaster, Telling How The Book Ends.
As you go through each dendrite, you notice the series of expansions from your book concept to its details, getting a clearer picture to where your novel heads prior to the writing process per se.
Using another dendrite to expand another detail, each takes hours to think from one sentence to the other. Based on your 1-sentence summary in Step 1, you create 5 sentences in Step 2.
From there, you will use the same 5 sentences to expand it to its deeper history. In contrast, you have to write a full paragraph for each of these sentences containing the specific details you want. Especially at the last sentence with a clear image of the disaster you want to happen to your main characters.
Step 5: Take a Day or Two to Write Up a 1-Page Description of Each Major Character & a Half-Page Description of The Other Important Characters.
From Step 3, expand each of your character’s basic descriptions into one page. If you have 5 main characters, you’re expected to fill in 5 pages of their descriptions alone.
In comparison to the previous process, you only stipulated the basics. Their goals, conflict, etc. Now, you have to tell a story based on their respective point of view (POV). Learn how to interrogate your characters and dig into their deepest secrets.
Step 6: Take a Week to Expand the 1-Page Plot Synopsis to 4 Pages.
From Step 4, you need to expand the synopsis of your novel from 1 page to 4 pages. You have to include as many details from the previous steps as possible.
Now, you see the detailed image of your story from a mere concept or premise. You slowly see the overall story, from the beginning to the end.
Step 7: Take Another Week to Expand Your Character Descriptions Into Full-fledged Character Charts Detailing Everything.
From Step 5, you have to step up the game as you put your character’s descriptions to the next level.
As an author, you’re not only revealing the backstories of your characters but also their appearances and their confidential information, comprising the following:
- Important notes:
- How will the character change?
- Characters become real & begin making petulant demands on the story
Step 8: Make a List of All The Scenes You’ll Need to Turn The Story Into a Novel Via Spreadsheet.
If you review your Step 1 to Step 7, you see the dendrites going bigger than you thought. This time, it’s going to be really difficult because you’re not only specifying the plot and characters but also the scenes you need to put.
Further, you have to identify each scene you need to include in the story with their corresponding Point of View (POV) as well as its consequences. That’s per column in your spreadsheet. Ingermanson suggested using a spreadsheet for this process to keep things easier.
Step 9: Go Back to Your Spreadsheet and Expand Each Line (Scene) Into a Full Narrative of The Story.
This is optional, however, plays a significant role in your novel-writing process. Like you did in the previous steps, take each scene and expand it into a full-paragraph narrative. In this step, keep the following in mind:
- Put lines or dialogues, if applicable.
- Sketch out the essential conflict of that scene.
- Optional: Write 1 to 2 lines per chapter and print it out to have a space to scribble.
Using the spreadsheet I provided, write a full narrative from each of those scenes. In my book, “Accidental Quest,” I had at least 20 important scenes. That means I have to make 20 full narratives as well. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it anyway.
Step 10: Start Writing Your First Draft.
Once you sort everything out from Step 1 to Step 9, it’s time to write your first draft without problems. The early process appears difficult but once you follow the process until the 9th step, writing your first draft of the novel won’t be that hard.
Of course, it’s hard but at least you’re saving more time. Ingermanson said himself that by learning how to plan a novel using Snowflake Method in writing stories, you’re saving more than 50% of the time the actual novel requires.
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Learning how to plan a novel using Snowflake Method is one of the most important basics you need to master. That is if you want to pursue something serious in writing.
As you see, writing a full 100,000-word novel isn’t an easy feat. I felt it and I went through the hell of it for months before I finished the entire book in 1 month. The planning was intense, taking months.
The writing process per se is easier than the planning involved prior to creating the first draft. Once you see the overall picture of what you’re writing, the enthralling feeling isn’t comparable to anything else. Especially if you finish typing in the last word of that book. I swear you’ll be in tears.
In conclusion, I recommend watching one of the best Korean drama series of all time, “Healer,” with superb casts and storyline. If you want to learn how the writer excelled in creating such a story, you better watch it and understand what I’m talking about. *winks*
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