I was going to do another critique tonight, but I read through all your comments and maybe I’ll just answer those. For anyone just joining us, we’re discussing my Snowflake method of designing and writing a novel:
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?
Randy sez: Yes, it’s OK. Do whatever the story demands. The rules are just there to guide you–kind of like that pesky Pirate’s Code, which as we found out is actually more of . . . guidelines.
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.
Randy sez: That has been shelved for the moment. The programmer who had contacted me about doing it has gotten sidetracked on other things that are making him tons of money. (Jon Leger, the guy who started the $7 Report craze.) So he’s just not able to do it. I could write the program myself, but I’m not great at user-interfaces, so it might not be all that good. And I’ve been really busy lately. I have a friend who might tackle it–he’s a star at writing user-interfaces. On the other hand, there is apparently a program called Avenir that has a Snowflake option built in. I just heard about it today. Here’s a link. The catch is that it’s Mac only. I hope that somehow, someway, we can get a good Snowflake program.
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?
Randy sez: No, the backstory IS all that “backdrop and setup”. However, you do NOT want to spend all of Part 1 of your book explaining the backstory. If it’s that interesting, then it might be wise to make this a series and tell the backstory as a novel in its own right. If the backstory isn’t enough for a full novel, then you’re going to have to find a way to tame it.
I typically write the backstory (a lot of it) in my Snowflake in the character sketches and character charts. This is a good place for it. Write all you want! Get it out of your system. Then tell as LITTLE of it as you can get away with when you start writing. If you can’t help yourself and you must put the backstory into the story, then go ahead–type it all out in the first three chapters. But when the novel’s done, throw away the first three chapters because the story begins in Chapter 4.
Backstory is good! (In your preparation work). It deepens your characters. But treat it like your tax returns or your diary–keep it private and only reveal what you have to.
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?
Randy sez: If you’re a pantser, you’re a pantser. Don’t fight that. Write the story first and THEN write the Snowflake as a way of analyzing your first draft. Then use the Snowflake to rewrite it in the second draft.
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 advancemen
Randy sez: The Snowflake is an analytic tool, not a creative tool. So don’t use it to create the plot, use it to analyze the plot you’ve already created. I call the early creative part “composting”. If you have a critique group, you might want to consider an all-day session where you all brainstorm each other’s novels. This often unlocks the creativity.
Darcie wrote: Do you have a printer-friendly version of the snowflake steps?
Randy sez: Alas, not for free. There is one as part of the Snowflake Lecture and Goodies Package, for the outrageously cheap price of $10. :):):)
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!
Randy sez: I’m open to that idea, but don’t know where to start. I’m kind of new to blogging–only been doing it a few weeks, and I’m finally getting the hang of it. I use WordPress, which is GREAT. But I have no idea what’s good software to use for running a forum. Any suggestions anyone?