It’s been a busy day today! For starters, the mama goose and papa goose that have been living in our pond for the last few months hatched four eggs today. So we’ve got a bunch of goslings waddling around on the island in the middle of the pond. That’s been fun to watch. I went down this morning and shouted, “Avast, you ducks!” at the geese. Just trying to make them mad. It seemed to work, because they hissed at me pretty fierce.
I was babysitting my system most of the day to take care of any glitches with the rollout of my SuperArticle Special Report. (Thankfully, there were only about three glitches, all easily resolved.) I’ve had a TON of email from you all, many thanking me for either the Snowflake method or my latest Special Report on how to write a SuperArticle.
You’re all welcome! Thanks for the great response.
One email in particular was interesting to me. One of you wrote to say that you enjoy working through the Snowflake process and getting to know your characters, but then by the end of it, you’re bored with the story and the characters and want to move on to something else.
I would call that Snowflake Fatigue. How to deal with it? I would say, just do a shorter Snowflake document. You don’t want to chew all the sugar out of the gum before you even write the first word. The purpose of the Snowflake is to get you ready to write, not to kill the fun.
So just do less before you start the first draft. The Snowflake is not “one size fits all.” Everybody is different. I expect that everyone who uses the Snowflake will tailor it to fit their own unique personality. There aren’t any rules in writing. Just do what works.
Before we get back to some more of the 2-paragraph critiques, I’ll just toss this out: Any more questions/problems on that pesky Snowflake?
Randy sez: Any more questions/problems on that pesky Snowflake?
Oh, dangerous. I’m predicting you will be snowballed with questions.
What if there are as many questions as there are real snowflakes?
All this snowflake talk has got me reworking my wip’s snowflake. So, since you asked for questions, here’s a few.
I understand that characters are the most important part of the story and are essential in moving the plot forward. But I have a problem with this: “It is OK
to have the first disaster be caused by external circumstances, but I think that the second and third disasters should be caused by the protagonist’s attempts to “fix things”. Things just get worse and worse.”
Do the second and third disasters HAVE to be caused by the protagonist’s attempts to fix things? Is it okay to have all the disasters external?
In my wip the protagonist is being framed for a number of crimes. Each of my three disasters are caused by the antagonist’s attempts to frame the protagonist.
Carrie Neuman says
I get Snowflake Fatigue, too, but I think it’s a good thing. I get all the fun of figuring out what happens without a major committment to something that isn’t very good. If I come back in a few months and still like the idea and characters and plot, then I know it’s worth bothering with.
If the outline doesn’t draw me back, how could the story draw the reader back?
Rachel Brown says
Randy, I love your Snowflake so much that I’m a Snowflake fan girl! I love working on them, and even take a folder full of snowflakes
of planned novels with me when I travel and don’t have opportunity to work on my wip.
Rather than suffer from Snowflake Fatigue, I experience Snowflake Stamina! The framework holds the whole pre-written story together so strongly that I can forge ahead because I am confident about exactly where I’m heading and why, even if life circumstances mean the actual writing ends up taking years.
I’m wondering whether Snowflake Fatigue would affect pantsers more than plotters. Perhaps the pantsers enjoy the writing process for the discoveries they make enroute? I’ve always been a heavy plotter, so the Snowflake just simplified and organised what I did naturally. (Although in pre-snowflake days I didn’t try the high concept stuff but started my planning about the Step 3 stage.) I enjoy working out the characters and story structure a long time before I start the actual writing – for me, the creative thrill of writing the manuscript is in trying to bring that vision to life.
And I’m all tingly at the chance to ask a Snowflake question I’ve had for ages … if I can put it into words I’ll post it in a separate comment.
In one of your newsletters you mentioned something about a Snowflake computer program. Is this still in the works? Any updates on the progress? I think this would be really helpful, so I’m anxious to try it.
Pam Halter says
Be careful of making geese mad. I did that as a child (my grandpa raised them) and one day I got a little too close … geese bite HARD!
Rachel Brown said: “I’m wondering whether Snowflake Fatigue would affect pantsers more than plotters. Perhaps the pantsers enjoy the writing process for the discoveries they make enroute?”
That is probably very likely. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, and I find that although the snowflake method is interesting, I get tired of the story rather quickly (no, I didn’t write the email, but I’m glad someone did). There’s just something attractive (to me at least) about discovering the story as you write it, letting the characters lead you; having it “pre-plotted” (so to speak) is like having a road map with all the places you want to visit marked out and a route planned out already. It takes the fun out of the adventure!
Lacy J Williams says
I found that after I went through the snowflake process, specifically to the step of writing out the major scenes in the book, it made doing my 3-5 page synopsis for a proposal SO MUCH EASIER.
I had my scenes in an excel file and highlighted the beginning, end, and three disasters, then highlighted anything else I felt was paramount to understanding the meaning of the story, and there was my synopsis. All I had to do was sum it up and make it sound nice.
Also, because I limited myself to the main scenes in that step of the snowflake, I still had room to flesh out the story in other areas (leaving myself some “SOTP” room if I needed it).
I am also a “Snowflake Fan Girl”.
Rachel Brown says
My Snowflake problem is that with one particular novel I’m plotting out, the back-story is taking over my Snowflake.
Step 2 of the Snowflake is: “Ideally, your paragraph will have about five sentences. One sentence to give me the backdrop and story setup. Then one sentence each for your three disasters. Then one more sentence to tell the ending.”
The back-story is that my heroine runs away from her failings by undertaking volunteer work overseas, but her work to help the people there is thwarted by corruption. She traces the source back to her own country, and returns home to expose those responsible. On page 1 as she puts her plan into action she discovers she must work against, and potentially harm, the hero (whom she has failed in the past) if she is to achieve her goal. The three disasters and the HEA come after all this.
However, when I start by describing the back-story as the first sentence in Step 2, it becomes a whole paragraph by Step 4, and makes up a fair proportion of the four page synopsis in Step 6. It is a large part of what the story is about, but it is not what happens on-stage.
I’m wondering if (a) the back-story is not the “backdrop and setup” as I had interpreted it, and (b) if it isn’t, where does the back-story, which is a vital part of this story, get included in the design documents?
Doraine Bennett says
Yes. I have so many questions I don’t even know what they are yet. But my wip is my first novel, so there you go.
I can’t figure out how you write the disasters, when you’re not really sure where you’re going. I’ve been a Pantser for most of my writing life. However, I’m finding that with the novel, I need a little more structure. I just can’t figure out how to think that far ahead. Any suggestions anyone?
I don’t know about official snowflake software, but Avenir software http://returnself.com/avenir.php has a snowflake design option, and has a link to the Snowflake Uber Article. This is actually how I discovered the snowflake, Randy, and all these great resources.
You can use Avenir for free to check it out before buying (very reasonable price) Hope this helps!
Darcie Gudger says
How do you focus it towards moving the plot forward? I’m @ 27K words and need another 25-20K more. I’m not sure where to take my plot and would like to use the snowflake for the plot advancement. (I took your Fiction 101 class 2 years ago at the Colorado Conference in Estes Park and do apply a lot of what you taught 🙂
Paul D says
I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer also. I looked at the snowflake method and knew there was absolutely no way I could do it. I just don’t think that far ahead.
I’ve read Jerry B. Jenkins “Writing for the Soul” and he said half the novelists he knows outline and half don’t. He said he doesn’t, so I feel better knowing I’m in the same half he is 🙂
Here’s an interesting tidbit from his book: He said some people ask him why he killed off a certain character and he replies by saying “I didn’t kill him off; I found him dead”.
Darcie Gudger says
Do you have a printer-friendly version of the snowflake steps?
Andra M. says
“I didn’t kill him off; I found him dead.” That’s one of my favorite quotes from Jenkins’ book as well.
I’ve written stories both via outline and via me pants, sometimes a combination, so I can see some of the benefits and pitfalls of each. I admit I have as yet tried the Snowflake. I’ll have to give it a go on my next one and see how it works. This entry and all the comments have done got me curious.
Sally Bradley says
Have you heard this one before?
The snowflake is actually not enough for me. I need more!
I think I’m a plotter. 🙂
Tami Meyers says
Sally, I think you’re a masochist! No offense intended…guess I’m not a very good plotter. When I finished the snowflake I thought the only thing left to write was “The End”
Paul D says
Randy! You need a forum for us to hang out on! Posting comments to blogs just ain’t it.
How about it? Open up a forum!
Paul! You are a genius!
Um. Ops. Nope. That title has been taken, sorry. But anyway, something close to that.
I’ll second the forum idea. 🙂
Joleena Thomas says
I have been working outside my typical genre recently, and trying to twist something into a sci-fi pretzel.
After stopping by your blog, I said, “Oh yeah! The snowflake!” I had used part of the process on the early stages of an extremely long piece I’m working on which I think will be three novels and will take several years to complete; due to its complexity, and my perfectionist tendencies, I know a long challenging road is ahead.
In order to break things up, I work on shorter works, and also, a new novel which came out of nowhere.
As I employed the snowflake today, suddenly, the flood-gates opened and a genuine skeleton was developing as well as startling new details I feel I could never have imagined before. Was it the snowflake that initiated the process? Well, that’s where I had started today.
After writing two chapters, stalling and feeling bogged down by research, and befuddled at which direction to take, the snowflake pulled me away and helped me to see things from different angles and at higher levels.
I always think that inspiration only gets you so far; it takes a lot of work; even still, it makes sense to work smarter, not harder. I think the snowflake helps people to do that. And like you say, whether you use just a little, or a lot, if you try it, you’ll probably find something in your story that you never thought you had.
Thank you Randy, for the work you put into this blog, but don’t forget to take some time off. Go hide out. Visit with those geese. Whisper to them softly–maybe they won’t hiss.
I like that advice; Plan enough to get the juices flowing, not so much that you sate the appetite.