Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snowflake Please

I am not inviting more snow - honest! Heaven knows Saskatchewan has plu-plenty snowflakes. But there is one snowflake I would like to examine, and that is Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method of Writing. You may have heard about it but not examined it as it might apply to your work.
Pantsers, please hang in.
First of all, Randy Ingermanson is a physicist, award winning author and writing conference speaker. He freely admits the method is to make money. However, he displays the whole method on his webpage - for free!
The download costs money. The difference is, there are voice lectures you can choose to hear, lecture notes, help notes and templates for each step in the downloaded version. There is also mildlya special offer which gives you the download and his new help book Fiction Writing For Dummies. I haven't read the book yet. I am allergic to anything '....For Dummies'.
Your book is not written for you or for free - you do all the work. (Step ten is "write your novel") The method clarifies what you are doing - characterization, plot etc. By following all the steps, which are darn hard work - which part of writing isn't - you will find there are unexpected benefits. When you finish the first eight or nine steps (Step Nine is optional) you will have described your novel in one sentence, written your pitch, your synopsis and, after Step Ten, you will have written your first drat er draft. I can accept that!
Ingermanson emphasizes design before you write your novel. He says that character driven fiction doesn't flow from the brain to the gilded pen, but needs a design.
The 'Snowflake' itself comes in handy as an example of design as applicable to writing fiction. Actually, it is a heavy duty math/science sort of beast but it works well as an example to explain the method. It starts with a triangle, which I interpret as idea. By bending each straight line so that it has a triangle emerging from it, over and over and over, you will eventually have an outline of a snowflake. Fortunately, you don't have to do that! You don't even need to have done well at highschool physics to use this method of fiction writing. Thank heaven. The snowflake is an example of how the method works at building up your first draft.
I haven't tried it yet, but I intend to soon, probably with the ring story.
Randy Ingermanson is an unusually helpful man who shares what he has learned from experiences in his novel writing. He and I have emailed back and forth and he answered all my questions, even though one was not about the snowflake method.
While at his web page, you can sign up for a free ezine, which I have found worthwhile so far.
By reading comments from items on the Google menu page, (I entered Snowflake Method) I learned of another method you might like to check out, called the Liquid Story Binder at I did get a phrase I like from the comments - 'analysis paralysis'.
That method has some interesting features such as hunting down words or phrases in your manuscript for you, and allows you to overlay pages to compare, take from, add revision markers and 25 other features I won't go into here. Its main point is that it lets you create your own writing environment. I suggest you have a look. It appears too complicated for my aging? lazy? self.
Would you try using a method? If you already do, what do you like and dislike about it? Which one do you use? Are there others you know about that we should look at?


Captain Hook said...

To be honest, I've tried the snowflake method, and it just doesn't mesh with the way my brain works. The Liquid Story Binder looks jind of cool though, so maybe I'll give it a shot.

Vince said...

Hi Connie:

I have come to think that writing methods, especially ones with cute names, are like diet books.

Some people will read diet book after diet book, especially ones with cute names, just so they can feel like they are doing something about their weight – without actually having to diet, that is, until they have read the book and understand the diet mechanics. As they begin this new diet, and suffer the pains of restricted calories, they see another, more interesting diet book, and decide to read that one.

This is why there is always, at all times, one or more diet books on the top ten list of best selling non-fiction.

It’s a lot easier to read about writing your novel than it is to write you novel. It has taken me many decades to face up to this fact.

Just do it.


Joanne Brothwell said...

Hi Connie,
The snowflake method sounds interesting, but I have to agree with Vince on this one. I find that for the most part whenever an idea is re-packaged and sold as something innovative, when you get right into it, it's usually the same sh-t different pile. That said, there is probably some valuable information in the snowflake method that can be used just the same.

Hazel said...

I think I have to agree with Vince. With one caveat: there is a lot to learn about writing skills, and I try to seek out experts by reading, attending conferences and workshops, lurking on blogs about writing (as I do here lots!), and so on. Whether you 'pants' your way through your novel or subscribe to a Method, there is no doubt most of us have to serve some kind of apprenticeship in developing all the necessary skills.

I will be taking a look at the Snowflake method so that I will at least know what people are talking about when I hear the term. No doubt there will be aspects of his advice that will be useful. I'm always open to tips on writing!

Other than that, I'm with Vince. Just do it!

Jana Richards said...

I purchased the Snowflake download when it was on sale but I haven't actually used it yet. I keep looking for that magical method that will keep me organized and keep my first draft from looking like a dog's breakfast. I need something that helps me organize all the various plot points and character traits, motivations, conflicts, goals. If the Snowflake method can do that it might be a handy tools.

But once again Vince might have nailed it. I have read an awful lot of diet books in my time!


connie said...

Ah Vince - must I choose between the snowflake method and a diet book?!!
Seriously, I just keep reducing the amount on my plate until birds look askance and still lose nada. I am begining to think their are anti-me weight gods.
I quite agree with you, but a look at the Snowflake method might help with organizing (my stuff file doesn't always work all that well!)
And a look at writing one sentence descriptions, pitches and synopsis might also be helpful.
I am going to give it a whirl for heaven knows I am way short on organizational skills. I don't believe I have to do all of it except step ten.
Meanwhile, I am "just doing it" with my latest plot and plan for a brilliant novel.
Thanks for your input - thought provoking as always.
p.s. I am also allergic to diet books. Canada's food rules and a littler restraint are all that is necessary.

connie said...

Captain Hook,

It will be interesting to see what you think of the Liquid Story Binder. I hope you will post your views.

connie said...

Joanne -
Yes and no. I think your view of such things is accurate. But, I still think a look at it might well be worthwhile. I want to skim through and see if there is anything helpful. It has to have some useful content.
I hope all of you will check out the free version to see what you think. Does it help organize? I would be as embarrassed as is possible to write a novel, or anything else, by someone else's frame but I am not adverse to picking nuggets out of the rock pile. If you look it over, please let me know what you think.

connie said...

I agree. Any writing skills one can pick up anywhere are useful. I read Whyte and Balogh first for enjoyment and the second time to pay attention to 'how did they DO that'
Vince and Joanne's comments with your caveat, say a whole lot.
Please let me kow what you think of the Snowflake method (when you have had time to look at it).

connie said...

Editorial comments

I have no idea what mildya means, or why it is where it is if it does mean something.

And, I do know the difference among there, their, and they're, honestsly. Some editor eh?

connie said...

Hi Jana
Your example of 'just doing' is awesome. How many books published now?
Way to be!
Let me know what you think of the Snowflake method.
I bought it too, for the same reasons.
How are you fixed for snowflakes 'down east'? We may just be sending you some 'above zero' stuff soon. Remember 'above zero'? Judy might!

connie said...

If anyone does have a look at it and has time to tell me what they think, my email address is constancesampson at hotmail dot com
Really hope you will.

Meanwhile, off to eat a lettuce leaf and a pine float (toothpick in water)

Janet said...

Hey, Connie - I think you have Jana and me mixed up! Here I am to say I've never downloaded the Snowflake Method and probably won't. Yes, organizational skills are important, but so is just writing. I'm with Vince and Joanne on this one. I think I had a look at it when Anita mentioned it in one of her blogs - but it looked too structured for my pantser ways.

There's a little snow (flakes) on the ground, but they should be gone after tomorrow. Weaher man is forecasting 50mm (about 2 inches) or rain tomorrow - with high winds. We've moved into the damp, rainy season here - and I am chilled to the bone. Dry cold - nothing wrong with a dry cold.

Good luck with the Snowflake Method, Connie.

Anita Mae Draper said...

I like the way Sarah said it, it just doesn't mesh with the way my brain works.

Like Jana, I purchased the Snowflake method when it was on sale, even though I knew when I bought it I would never follow through with it. But the price was right for the parts I would need it for.

I'm not surprised at your email exchange with him, Connie because Randy's a really caring guy. I first met him 2 yrs ago when I attended his workshop on Those Pesky MRU's. When I returned from the conference, I shared his workshop here at Prairie Chicks at Randy's Motivation and Reaction Units. I didn't know he was a physicist but it explains his logical thinking.

Excellent post, Connie.

Karyn Good said...

Hi, Connie. Like Jana I've bought the software but haven't used it yet. That doesn't mean I won't because the set up appeals to the way my mind works. Often the one line story idea comes to me first and the story builds from there. I plan to test it out on my next wip. I can see the benefit of having things organized and in a specific place. I'll let you know how it turns out ;)

Anne Germaine said...

Wow, lots of thoughts on the Snowflake Method. Great post Connie.

I am currently working another plot through this tool. (I didn't purchase because I found his website outline to be enough for me right now.)

What I like about this method, is that all the pieces are already familiar; this is just an organized 'program' to work through. It also makes you break down your thoughts and then forces you to be thoughtful as you build your story again.

Step one for example, is really important. Sometimes it is difficult to find the focus of your story. I've sat for hours trying to summarize my story in one sentence. Doing so forces you to think about what your story is really about. Other tools and books tell you to determine your theme--the word 'theme' is intimidating and I get stuck in epic themes that side-track me from my story.

I'm not saying this tool is for everyone. I'm not even saying it is for me--I'm still exploring. I agree with everyone who said you still have to write the story!

It is, however, another tool for the writer's toolbox. I would recommend it to anyone who is stuck or doesn't know where to start. Writing something is better than writing nothing.

Paula R said...

Hi Connie, I have an author friend who uses his method. She is a plotter through and through and she said that the Snowflake Method helps her to see the ARC of the story much better. I am tempted to try it myself. I have checked out his website...I hear it is fave method of Suze Brockmann too.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

connie said...

No, I haven't mixed you up with Jana - she lives 'down east' and you live way the hell and gone down east. two inches of rain and high winds. Bleah. I still maintain though that dry cold is just as cold as wet cold. (Ontario me).
I think the 'just do it' folk outnumber the method fans 10-0.
I think Hazel nailed it precisely -no, with a caveat.
Once those who have a look at it are ready, if they email me, I will post all their comments on the private blog cc Captain Hook, Vince, Paula R.

connie said...

Hi Anita
glad the southern belles have found a way to be there saturday.
what parts of the snowflake method do you think you will use?
when i/you have time...i think writers should be allowed 40 hour days whenever they want them

connie said...

would it be a good idea to invite Randy to guest blog? He writes all kinds of articles besides the snowflake method
hope you all try the ezine

connie said...

if only one sentence captures and tag lines fell from the sky like snow flakes....
i'll be interested to know how it works out for you.
the organization bits look helpful.
making a point of listing character facets in advance would be good for me. i tend to write about them first and jot notes about them later...if ever

connie said...

Thank you for your comments based on having already had a look at it!
I like the way you have put the idea of breaking down thoughts and then building the story up in a thoughtful way
the one sentence bit is really hard but necessary in advance of writing I think. It will maybe change entirely as the characters tell a writer what's what and who's who, but that touchstone is pretty important.
Do the rest of you write The Sentence before or after?
No, this isn't for everyone but a lot of you are having a look at it and sizing it up as a tool as Anne says.

connie said...

Paula R
thanks for dropping by.
It is interesting to know your author friend finds it useful in clarifying the ARC.
I didn't realize Suse Brockman uses it. I will have to have another look at one of her books

connie said...

Thanks everyone

I have really enjoyed your points of view and I think we all learned something from each other

Captain Hook said...

Acually, out of all the different plotting methods that I've tried over the years, Holly Lisle's works best for me because it starts with the characters rather than plot.