I am still working on plans for The Big Life: The Sequel.Â I thought today I’d try to work few a few steps of Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method, which is a sort of well-known novel-planning guide bandied about on the interwebs.Â I definitely recommend clicking over and having a look, but essentially it is an outline for beginning with the large strokes of your plot and working your way down to finer and finer details until you have a complete design for a novel.
The Snowflake appeals to me deep in my soul.Â All the organization, all the clarity!Â And when he gets to the end and starts talking about three-ringÂ binders and red pens?Â Oooh, bliss.Â Seriously.Â Whenever I think of the Snowflake Method, I see that three-ring binder in my head.Â It would contain everything I needed to know about my novel, all the decisions I needed to make.Â (I can write a scene in a couple of hours, but I can spend any amount of time making a decision about it.)
But despite that, I’ve never used it to entirely plan out a novel.Â Sometimes I futz around with it for a while, and then I get excited about some idea or other and just start writing.Â For the rest of the book I’ll write a little, plan a little, write a little plan a little, write.Â Which is absolutely fine, but it does leave you with that dreadful moment at three quarters in, when you’re certain nothing can be done to reconcile your plot.
I would like to avoid that moment this time around, if I could.Â So, hi-ho, Snowflake!
12:23 PM: The first step of the Snowflake Method is to write your plot in a single sentence.Â I think I should be able to accomplish that relatively quickly.
12: 25 PM: Yup, that was easy.Â So, here’s the dilemma I’m always stuck with on this blog.Â Not giving details about what I’m working on is obviously a little boring for you, the reader.Â But giving you details would, in an awful lot of cases, spoil the plots of the novels I’m hoping to publish.Â So, ok, here’s what I’ll do: I’ll split the difference.
Kitty and Mr. Gallo are hired to locate a missing man, only to learn that ____________________________________________.
Ok, that probably wasn’t too satisfying either, was it?
12:30 PM: Next step: same material, one whole paragraph.
12:36 PM: Ok, done.Â I think.Â It doesn’t feel perfect, but I think that the whole purpose of this system is to sort of go back and forth a little, perfecting the earlier steps based on what you’ve learned in the later ones.
12: 47 PM: So, the next step.Â Character outlines, just the broad strokes.
1:16 PM: One character down, seven (eight?) to go.
1:45 PM: Ok, still working on Character #2.Â But this is definitely helping to generate new ideas, and illuminate the places where the storyline is weak.
2:02 PM: Ok, Character #2 done.Â Perhaps slightly messy.
2:04 PM: So, one thing keeps bugging me, which is the name of my missing man, Amos Wayne.Â Actually, his surname.Â I wanted something that suggested a somewhat impoverished, working class character, and I guess it does.Â But that twang in the middle of “Wayne” just keeps saying Southern to me.Â Which he isn’t.Â So, I need a new name and I’ve been putting it off because it seemed like something that could be done at any old time.Â But I guess I want to go ahead and take care of it.
2:21 PM: Amos Black?Â Amos Pitt?Â Amos Hogan? Amos Hodge? Amos Skinner?Â Amos Orr? Amos Sears? Amos Best? Amos Barry? Amos Horne? Amos Peck? Amos Sykes? Amos Haines? Amos Heeney? Amos Hewatt?
2:22 PM: Amos Heeney.
2:23 PM: Does that still sound Southern?
2:33 PM: Three characters done.Â One important plot point changed and now infinitely more resonant.
2:34 PM: Ok, I need another name.Â This one for a corrupt cop.Â At first I was thinking McGinty, but I dunno… it’s begun to sound sort of half-hearted to me.
2:36 PM: Sort of too cute, I think that’s the problem with it.Â Also possibly too common.
2:37 PM: I do sort of want something Irish though.Â Kennedy?Â Burke? Flynn? Nolan? Maguire?Â Cullen…. no, wait, that’s reserved for vampires… Bell?Â Boyle?Â Cassidy?Â Dolan?Â Keating?Â Kirwan?Â Killoran?Â O’Dea?Â O’Dowd?Â O’Hagan?Â Prendergast?Â Quigley?
2:48 PM: Ok, I know it has a humorous bent, but I am really drawn to Quigley.Â Which would of course require me to give up Heeney.Â Dangnabit.
3:18 PM: Ok, we have two corrupt cops: young, bright Matthew Keating and his older, balding errand boy, Patrick Quigley.Â Which means Thelma and Amos Heeney are now Thelma and Amos Hodge.Â Ain’t planning grand?
3:33 PM: Four characters down.Â One thing I really like about the Snowflake’s character sketches is that they ask you to find an epiphany for each character–AKA, what that character learns.Â And while it’s easy to have your antagonist, or at least your secondary or tertiary antagonist learn nothing in a novel, I think it’s worthwhile to push yourself to write down an epiphany for every character.Â You can always discard it later if it feels out of character or two touchy-feely.Â But so far, coming up with characters’ epiphanies has been an excellent prompt for discovering new aspects of the novel.
3:36 PM: If you include Quigley, I actually have not just a secondary and tertiary antagonist, but also a quaternary antagonist in this book.
3:37 PM: Internet awesomeness: you can just type “what comes after tertiary” into Google.Â Life is good.
3:49 PM: Five characters down.Â Boom!
3:50 PM: Ok, Character #6.Â Primary antagonist.Â I have left him this long because I do NOT know what his goal is.Â I mean, I know what he does, and what that action accomplishes for him.Â But there’s a missing piece in his motivation:Â what he does also significantly helps a rival.Â That’s the part that doesn’t make sense.Â That’s what I need to unravel.Â That’s what’s been messing up all my plans for this novel thus far.
5:03 PM: All right, still not done with Fiore, but I’ve got to sign off.Â A couple of guys are coming over here to whup my butt at bridge tonight, and I need to make up some of my famous chili so that I can still feel good about myself after I’m down 30 IMPs.