The Snowflake Method is Randy Ingermanson’s brainchild of plotting out stories in very particular detail.

I would say I’m a Pantser, but I don’t think that fully covers the depth to which I imagine my stories before writing them. I percolate information for months leading up to most of the actual writing; scenes are imagined and noted, sub-plots are considered, the lives of the characters outside of the specified story are thought through.

But there’s a lot to be said for being a Plotter, too. I’m definitely not all Plotter, just because I don’t put it all down in nice, neat rows. But the idea is appealing. Some kind of romantic notion about having it all worked out beforehand, you know? Just watch me never do that in my life – but I’ll muse over it all the same.

This Snowflake Method seems promising, to a degree. For the sake of curiosity, I broke down a completed story into the pieces which Randy directs. The single line summary, the paragraph, the character explorations. It worked out alright, though I quit when it got to the longer steps simply because I’ve already written this novel, and if I’m spending that kind of time working, it’ll be on another edit.

What about other stories? I’m only halfway through writing the first draft of SL, and while I have a good idea of where it’s going, there are still scenes missing from my process, ones which I’ll make up on the fly. Could I break this one down and try Snowflaking it? I’m interested in giving it a try.

If I did use a method for these books, how would I then adapt it to suit the over-arcing story? Do I make a wider view Snowflake, encompassing the end plot? Or do I line up the individual notes, one after the other? Maybe by this stage, I won’t do any of the complicated layers for the existing works, and just try building the next few books with this kind of method in mind. It really does seem promising, and a good way to keep an even flow of a long-term series.

Better yet, I can more than easily do all the steps in my favourite novel writing software, yWriter. It appears set up in a pretty similar format, so the important parts should all slot in nicely.

I like the idea of order, I really do. I just live in a natural state of chaos.



10 thoughts on “Snowflaking

  1. I actually used the Snowflake Method for my very first novel. The main problem, I think, with that method is that it all focuses around the central conflict almost exclusively. It is good for a book to have focus, but I realized later that my book had too much focus. It zoomed through from catalyst to climax in an astonishingly short 40,000 words. Now some of that, of course, can probably be chalked up to me being a noob. Perhaps a more experienced novelist could make Snowflake work for them, although I’ve never gone back to it.

    1. You know, I understand what you mean. It does seem like you could cut out all the quirky character fluff if you stuck too closely to a Snowflake. Plus, I am a fan of weird deviations and unexpected overlap, and I don’t think there’s much room for that kind of oddity in a rigidly structured plot like that.


  2. Thanks for the link! I always appreciate the different methods. Even I if I don’t use them, they can get adapted.

    Haha, I totally understand the chaos. I prefer it myself. Am I good at it? I don’t know, but I know I don’t trust myself to leave it all in my head. I bought a custom journal that I use to keep all my crazy ideas in so I know where I’m heading and how stories connect. At least in theory. Not surprisingly, it’s also a mess.

    1. My favourite part of finding these things is taking a little piece of it to add to my own style. πŸ˜‰

      Oh, those are nice! I recently found some notebooks I REALLY like, so I went back to the store and bought more. XD Having a nice book to keep the notes in is integral to my sanity – there’s nothing more maddening than forgetting a great idea because I didn’t jot it down! And Stephen King is right enough in saying that if it’s a good story idea, you’ll remember it… right until you’re in my head, and find how easily distracted I am (and not in a position to be a fulltime writer yet). πŸ˜‰


  3. I totally pantsed my first novel, and it was weaker because of that.

    Now, I tend to outline very roughly, and then allow myself to veer off when it seems to work.

    I don’t believe in sticking fully to an outline, because sometimes rewriting means, well, rewriting–sometimes from the start.

    1. I completely relate. I think the fact that a rewrite usually goes so well just proves that the plotting contributed with the solid, known direction for the story. I am really leaning more and more into plotting, if not for the sheer fact that it’s faster to not just make it up on the fly, and instead, work in a “fill in the gaps” style!


  4. “I would say I’m a Pantser” is pretty ironic, considering your typical “Worst Band Name” responses. πŸ˜‰

    This process seems interesting, but the whole buy-my-thing-to-improve-your-writing pitch is a huge dissuading factor, largely because I can’t afford his thing. “You have to spend money to make money” doesn’t work for those of us who don’t have money to spend in the first place.

    Besides that, many things I write rely heavily on my inner chaos. I use loose outlines in large part because I don’t always WANT to know for sure how the nitty-gritty details will pan out until I’m in the scene already. I have very absurdist/surrealist sensibilities that way.

    1. Maybe that’s my problem. Not wearing many pants means I have no seat-of-my-pants to write from. πŸ˜›

      The software he offers just walks you through the steps in the article, rather than letting you go through them on the page, so it’s not essential to buy anything. πŸ™‚

      I agree; I doubt I will ever plan everything right down to the tee, just because so many things come together thanks to my weird subconscious linking, it would probably wreck some of my uncontrollable magic to try and nail it down.


  5. I’m fascinated by all the different approaches to writing a novel out there. I just finished the last Harry Potter movie (I’m behind the times, I know) with my kids, and that led to looking up JK Rowling online… and I found some interesting interviews about her writing tips where she said she plotted/planned HP for five years before she wrote the first book. Yowza! I guess all the plotting worked out in her case though. πŸ™‚

    I’ve seen Randy’s site and appreciate the focus he brings on tying it all together. But I’m a very nonlinear writer, so sticking with that formulaic approach doesn’t work the greatest for me. That said, I *did* do NaNo and write the bones of my story in 3 weeks after outlining first, so that was a productive start. But as I fill in the rest and work on subsequent drafts, it’s not as streamlined. Interesting post & comments.

    1. I’ve never actually looked up anything about Rowling, so now I’m curious. πŸ˜‰ I have plenty of stories, or pieces of them, planned out for things I have no intention of writing for a while, so I can relate!

      I’m a little fascinated with nonlinear writing! I can’t wrap my head around the way some people can hold all the threads of a story in their mind while flitting from point to point in the story. It’s awesome that it works for you – there comes a point where we just have to trust the way we do things!


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