There are many articles on the snowflake method for novel writing but most of them seem to lack examples and some of the top results on Google (here, here, and here) are advertisements for software or books. I wanted to offer a blog post that provided valuable advice with an example of a novel that I am drafting and will use for other purposes on my blog.
Why Would I Use The Snowflake Method?
You might be asking what makes the snowflake method useful. The answer is very simple. I am using it because it allows you to explore your story.
If you want a solid plot the snowflake method allows you to work on the plot step by step, starting out with the most basic aspect and expanding from there. That will allow you to discover most plot problems before you start writing.
Also, right now I have had a lot of writers block. The snowflake method helps you to develop your story and get past writer’s block by forcing you to think about your story on your own terms.
A notice before we go further: this is a novel in progress. Not everything here will be used and not everything is guaranteed to be spelled correctly. This only goes to help demonstrate how the snowflake method really works.
Snowflake Method Step One: One-Sentence Summary
To start the snowflake method, you come up with a one-sentence summary of your story. This sentence should be no more than 25 words long (preferably less than 15) and should not include any character names. Try to show what there is to lose and gain for the main character.
Earth has been exploring space in secret and meeting with alien races, one race isn’t so friendly though.
Snowflake Method Step Two: A Paragraph Summary
Next you take that one sentence summary and turn it into a paragraph long summary. Start by showing the main idea of the story. Then you will want to show the problems that will be encountered by the main character. At the end of the paragraph you should tease the end of the story. This could be used to represent an arc plot of the story.
Think of this paragraph as the proposal you would use for a publisher.
For years Earth has been exploring space in secret and meeting with alien races. A Marine is recruited into the program and must learn to defend Earth against space-based threats. One of the alien races that is encountered isn’t peaceful. As Earth prepares for a new threat, building up their space capability. The alien race attacks Earth, can the former marine help to defend off the threat?
Snowflake Method Step Three: Develop Your Main Character
In step three of the snowflake method of novel writing you start working on the main character. You develop who they are, what their challenges are, and more. It is useful to develop all of your major players in the same way.
Name: Name your character.
Summary: A one-sentence summary of your character’s story.
Goal: What does your character want?
Obstacles: What will your character have to accomplish?
Epiphany: What your character will realize?
Synopsis: Write a brief synopsis of your character’s story. This expands on your summary.
Name: Jasper Riley, LT, US Marine Corps Special Threat Response Team
Summary: Jasper Riley gets recruited from the STRT to join the space based marines.
Goal: Lt. Riley wants to do his duty while exploring space. Learn to be space based and the unique experience.
Obstacles: Lt. Riley will have to learn to overcome the obstacles of working with a new team in a new environment.
Epiphany: Everyone has a place in the world, and in his team.
Synopsis: Jasper Riley gets pulled into his commanders office after a difficult mission and reassigned. Riley thinks it is as a punishment. As he goes through training and meets his ragged space based team of special marines his suspicions grow. As he works with his team though he realizes that despite their unorthodox nature, his team works well together.
Snowflake Method Step Four: Expand the Paragraph Summary
Remember that one sentence summary of the story we did just two steps ago? We are going to break that down even further. Now we are going to do a whole paragraph for every sentence of that original paragraph. Just a heads up, this will probably take several hours to tune it to just the way you want.
Just like before it is highly recommended that every paragraph but the last end in disaster. This helps fuel your story forward before you even start writing.
For years Earth has been exploring space in secret and meeting with alien races.
For years Earth has been exploring space in secret and meeting with alien races. It started with the Orion program and now Earth is capable of FTL travel. This travel has connected them with races that are friendly. Not everyone in space is friendly though.
A Marine is recruited into the program and must learn to defend Earth against space-based threats.
A Marine is recruited into the program and must learn to defend Earth against space based threats. He must undergo extensive training in a new environment. Fighting in space isn’t the same as on Earth. Can the marine adapt to the new environment?
One of the alien races that is encountered isn’t peaceful.
One of the alien races that is encountered isn’t peaceful. In fact, it is outright hostile. It attacks the ship the marine is on and they must fight for their lives. What can a marine do in a ship to ship battle? Nothing, until they are boarded. Can his rag tag team of marines fight off the threat? Only if they can work together.
As Earth prepares for a new threat, building up their space capability.
As Earth prepares for a new threat, building up their space capability. Barely able to escape the ship with the marine makes it back to Earth in time to warn them. His rag tag team better united but heavily demotivated. Repairs are conducted and systems are checked. Will it be enough for the coming onslaught?
The alien race attacks Earth, can the former marine help to defend off the threat?
The alien race attacks Earth, can the marine help to defend off the threat? At first it looks bad, the marine survive with a rag tag team? In the end his team unites and they push through to victory.
A quick note
As you can see I don’t like to use exact tragedy. I like to threaten doom. Tease with what could happen. You don’t need to outright have a character die in order to create a problem.
Snowflake Method Step Five: The Story From Characters Point Of View
Write the story summary from the point of view from each character. This summary should be about one page per major character. Depending on the total amount of major characters this could be a lot of writing.
For this section, I will be writing a separate post including one or two samples of the story from characters’ points of view. This post will go more in depth on character development.
Snowflake Method Step Six: Expand Your Synopsis Further
You have a synopsis that is broken down into what is about the equivalent of one page. The snowflake method is all about expanding on what you have, step six continues that by taking the one page synopsis you have and develop it into four pages.
Expanding the snowflake method at this point is detailed and long. I will cover more of this step afterI follow up on step five.
Some Further Notes on The Snowflake Method
There are some versions of the snowflake method out there that have more steps after the first six. These continue to work out your plot and characters. They aren’t required steps and are not part of the original snowflake method.
After you have completed step six you have a guide to your rough draft. You have developed a synopsis but also have a solid idea of what each of your characters is going to be like. If you chose not to do the extra steps of the snowflake method but still want to draw out more about your story come up with scene descriptions and explore other story development methods.