Today we’re going to start a new series of guest blogs with a friend of mine, Cindy Martinusen Coloma. I’ve known Cindy for a long time — I met her years ago at a writing conference. She is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and it’s always fun talking with her. I’ll be seeing her again in about a week at a conference where she’ll be teaching her “Puzzle Method” and I’ll be teaching a mentoring track.
I’ve asked Cindy to join us now to give you all a preview of the Puzzle Method over the next few days.
Here’s her bio:
Cindy (Martinusen) Coloma has written eight novels to critical acclaim. She is a national and international speaker/teacher and co-owns Method 3AM Writing Services which offers aspiring to published authors helps in manuscript reviews, critiques, book doctoring, mentoring programs and in developing brand and websites. Since 1997, Cindy has co-led a monthly writers group near Redding, California. Check out her web sites at www.cindymartinusen.com and www.method3AM.com.
Cindy’s newest release Orchid House just came out in February. It was written by “The Puzzle Method,” is set in the Philippines and is told through three conflicting POVs — an American woman, a Communist rebel leader hiding in the mountain jungle, and a Filipino boy soldier who wants to be like Magnum P.I.
Randy sez: Cindy has been telling me about her Puzzle Method for a few years now, but I’ve never got the whole story. I’m going to get it now, and so will you. I gather the Puzzle Method is about as far as you can get from the Snowflake Method while remaining on the same planet. That’s good! It means there are options. Not everybody loves the Snowflake, which doesn’t bother me. Different folks need different strokes, like they say.
(By the way, if you Google “puzzle method fiction” right now, guess what the top result is? That’s right — this blog. I’m guessing in a few days, the top return for “puzzle method” will be this blog. We’ll see.)
Anyway, I’m turning the floor over to Cindy now:
BLOG 1 – INTRODUCTION
Introduction to the Puzzle Method of Writing — not the “puzzling” method, let’s make that clear from the start.
This was my problem.
I don’t like fiction outlines, and I don’t end up following them anyway.
I don’t write best by starting at Chapter One.
I don’t create detailed character sketches, it takes the life right out of them.
And Randy’s “snowflake” is revolutionary to many, but it just might kill me.
Michelangelo said, “I saw the angel in the marble and (I) carved until I set him free.”
When I write, there is a hint of something, a story or a character or a “something” that I see in the marble — though not fully — but nearly and most definitely there. The story wants to come to life, longs to be brought into creation. And so the words are tools, carving at the marble to set the story free.
Now if that sounds overly esoteric, don’t worry. The next days of my guesting here on Randy’s blog will be given over to instruction on how to create a novel from story puzzle pieces or from out the marble (and I promise not to overdo the metaphors).
So, I’m introducing to you “The Puzzle Method” which is an out-of-order way to write. It is a style for people who get bogged down in pre-writing and pre-organization of a novel. After nearly two decades of creating stories and learning the craft, I now easily trust that this is the best way I create a novel — or even a short story or article.
I hope this and Randy’s work will help you find your best writing method with less trial and error so you can get to the work of setting angels free.
Randy sez: Every writer is different, just like, um, those pesky snowflakes. Rah, rah for diversity! I’ll be looking forward to the next post, when Cindy gets down to details on the Puzzle Method.
Charlotte Babb says
I’m glad to hear that there’s another way to write effectively! Thanks for sharing it with us.
Christophe Desmecht says
I’m trying the snowflake method on my current WIP, and I have to say I’m struggling to make it work. With all due respect to Randy and his Snowflake method, I’m beginning to doubt it’s the way to go for me. In the beginning, I marvelled at the complex and interesting story lines that came forth from applying his technique to my story. But now, I’m having trouble putting the actual words down on the page. The “enthusiasm” and “inspiration” is gone. I feel like I spent all that on writing my outline and now all I’m left with is a story that is done, but will remain unwritten.
Up until about a year ago, I always wrote whatever came to mind. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Maybe now, with this Puzzle Method, I can turn that around so that it always works.
I’ll be following this series of blogs very closely and we’ll see what works for me.
By the way, Welcome Cindy! 🙂
Georgiana Daniels says
I’m interested to see how the Puzzle Method works. Though I tend to be a linear thinker, there are times when I see the other pieces more clearly and want to work on them.
Gerhard J van Vuuren says
I am very interested in the puzzle method because I think it might sync better with m general approach to life and writing.
Randy haven’t opened the floor for questions yet but I believe there would probably be a question time. If my question get answered by what’s coming then just go ahead.
When you write out of sequence, do you know that you are now going to write an ending? Or do you just write a number of scenes and then later decide, or find, that a certain scene ends up being THE ending?
Second question: When you write a number of scenes there are obviously gaps between them, gaps to be filled in order to get the story from A to B so it makes sense. Do you then analyse and draw up a list of missing scenes and tick them off as you write them?
How do you know how not to overdo or underdo fillin in the gaps? Too big a gap and the reader gets lost, to much filling and the reader gets bored?
The blog sequence was interesting but not where my needs are. You can probably tell I’m excited about some crafty stuff coming out again.
Pam Halter says
I’m looking forward to this, too. I think I fall inbetween the Snowflake and the Puzzle because there are times when I write everything out and times when I jump around. I always have a notes file that is in no particular order – just random thoughts about the plot or characters as they come to me.
Thanks for sharing with us, Cindy! And thanks to Randy for being flexible.
Debra Ratcliffe says
I have been writing in scenes rather than chronological chapters; and all over the place. It has been from three different view points though not as different as Cindy’s character POVs. I’m finding it easier to write now though I did write a short premise of what the story was about, a sketchy outline and some character profiles on the main characters but they are not extensive. My book is a novel very loosely based on a true story. I’ll be very interested to read about Cindy’s puzzle method and I think, just from what was written here about them, the two could be combined for those who find both of them useful. Thanks for giving such a wide choice of approaches to writing.
I use a blend too. First I do the last scene and the characters, then the first scene. Next, I “outline” the entire story. Then I outline each chapter as I come to them.
I’m looking forward to this. I never start off by outlining, though Randy’s snowflake method has come in real handy for figuring our major plot points and writing that pesky synopsis. I tend to get scenes out of order. I may know how a story ends before I’m deep into the story, and how I get to the end makes writing exciting. I’m anxious to learn about the puzzle method and to see if it might be helpful in my writing.
Sheila Deeth says
Really looking forward to this. I tend to write bits and pieces till I find the same characters appearing over and over; even then, I don’t know what story they want to tell. My current favorite character has variously two or three brothers who are / are not like her, but she does have red hair and dark eyes consistently. Sounds like the puzzle method might some needed order to my chaos.
M.L. Eqatin says
This will be interesting, Cindy! I write HF, and there are always certain bits of history that I want to cover in my story, which happened in an order which is not likely to fit a snowflake. Each book also has specific themes or reasons, one of which is, ‘I am going to market this to a subset of readers comprised of X,Y, and Z, who want emphasis on these particular things.’
And then you have to weld these pieces into a story compelling enough to claim about 10 precious hours of people’s limited time.
I read your book ‘Winter Passing’, even though it’s not my usual genre, and I’m interested in hearing how you did it.
I am so looking forward to this. Randy, you are an excellent teacher to share another point of view with us. Thank-you! I wonder if the puzzle method is like my method — I write scenes out of order as I think them up. I am so curious to see. . .!!
Parker Haynes says
Many thanks to both Randy and Cindy for what I expect to be an enlightening few days. Like others, I have tried to work with the Snowflake Method, but find that it is just NOT me. God bless all the great souls who can plan everything in advance. My writing, like my life, has always been totally spontaneous. I grab a thought, a character, a scene… start writing and watch it develop. Sure, the results often end up in the recycle bin, but I do enjoy the process. Just like reading, I find excitement in wondering how the characters and story will reveal themselves. I hope Cindy’s Puzzle Method will help me do a better job, perhaps even create a publishable novel.
Karen D'Amato says
Curiouser and curiouser…I do believe I’ve been doing the blend of R & C all along. HF speaking, R’s SF method works to give structure and focus to my WIP. C’s PM is the spark of scene, dialogue, description that comes so easily in the shower, drive to work, cleaning out the catbox. It’s all in the same story, but just fractioned out in pieces waiting to fit into a whole. Which, then brings me back to R’s SF to flush the whole thing out.
Make sense? I think it’s time to feed the cat.
Tami Meyers says
Randy, you are amazing. Not many creative type people are secure enough to share the spotlight with another artist, let alone one who teaches a different method of creativity.
I know your snowflake is wonderful, but it’s frustrating to find something that helps so many people plot a novel, and then discover that my scattered, sanguine mind refuses to understand anything that analytical.
I met Cindy a few years ago when she spoke at a meeting of Sacramento Christian Writers. We were all very impressed and inspired by her presentation, and I’m looking forward to learning about her “puzzle method”.
D.E. Hale says
Well, I always look forward to learning something new. Personally, I LOVE the Snowflake method, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all learn something from another method.
Can’t wait to hear more about this “Puzzle method.”
I, like so many others here, am looking forward to hearing about this method.
When I write short stories and novellas, I write from beginning to end, but my novel isn’t presenting itself to me in that way and I’ve struggled trying to Snowflake it. As I go along with it I find that I can plug some things into the Snowflake but all the structuring, especially before I began writing, was very frustrating. I think the puzzle method will help my style a lot.
Heather Wardell says
I used the Snowflake on my second novel (which is finished and resting before a final polish before going out to my critique group) and loved it. I am now trying to use it on my newest one and it’s just not gelling for me. This novel has multiple subplots and I think that’s why… for some reason I cannot seem to get the subplots integrated into the one paragraph summary, and without them the ‘main plot’ feels too thin to carry a novel.
I do think the Snowflake is right for me, but maybe not for this book? I have all the sample Snowflake materials but none seem to handle subplots like mine. Randy, any suggestions? In the meantime, I await the puzzle method’s explanation. 🙂
Kristi Holl says
I’m keeping an open mind! I love the Snowflake method, and it’s worked for me over and over. Sure goes to show that we are all different! Writing things out of order sounds awfully confusing, so I’ll be eager to see how the Puzzle works out.
Donald L. Moir says
The Puzzle method (from the brief description given) sounds quite close to the archeology metaphor Stephen King uses in his book on writing fiction. The paradigm being that the writer is merely exposing something that already exists. King’s book was very encouraging when I read it; an experience that gets the juices going.
Louis Wilberger says
Sounds like my kind of method. I make a few notes and let the fingers fly. I’m getting better at controling them. It’s like watching a movie. Can’t wait.