In case you’re not aware of the “Snowflake Method,” this is an ingenious strategy for how to write a novel in an organized and methodical way– essentially how to Outline in the least painful way possible. Now, I’ve written four books, all using the “I’m just going to sit down and write whatever comes to mind” method, aka Pantsing. Let me tell you how that went (spoiler: I’ve been stuck in the revision stages forever!):
Book 1: Fallen to Grace (Completed and FINALLY Query-Ready)
Book 2/3: Excess word count cut from the original (Heh)
Time to Write the First Draft: 4 years (yes I know… But realistically I spent one year’s worth of time actually serious about finishing)
Time to Revise: 2 mass revisions in 2 years (this can’t be normal)
Words Sent to the Scrap Heap: Over 100,000 (Definitely not normal…)
Of course, this was my first book. That’s always going to be a learning experience and the first thing you write most likely isn’t going to be anything close to publishable. To start with, my first draft ended up being over 170k words. Most debut fiction novels are around 80k words, so I decided to break it up into a trilogy. “Cool!” I thought. “Now I have a whole trilogy!” WRONG! I had a trilogy of crap, that’s all.
After joining a writer’s group and learning what’s-what from published authors, I completely revised the first book. After receiving beta feedback from the revision, I filled in a plot hole for its second major revision. Now I finally have something that resembles a readable novel and am currently seeking representation. That journey takes a year all on its own, so I’ll get back to you for when it’ll actually be available. But for the revision process, I had to basically write an entire new novel twice with massive changes to prose, plot, added characters, and removed/added scenes. And the two “sequels” I have for drafts will need the same level of revision. I feel like I did this the hard way.
Book 4: Sanctuary (Undergoing a Mass Revision)
Time to Write the First Draft: 6 months (Way better!)
Time to Revise: I’ll let you know…
Words Sent to the Scrap Heap (so far): 15,000 (Not TOO bad)
Being my second attempt at writing a book, the draft spewed out like a fountain. That was a blast and I loved it! But now I’m having to undergo a major revision because of beta reader feedback singing a common lamentation. I was even stubborn about it and tried querying a few agents. While this novel was much better received (agents are happy when a book doesn’t have angels), they still had some complaints that jived with what my beta readers were saying. So. Okay. I’ll stop being a stubborn starving artist about it and do a rewrite.
I have been working on the revision for about 2 months and I feel like most rewrites take twice as long as it did to write the draft. With this logic, I should be done revising next year. While I hope I’m wrong about that, and I am trying to reuse chapters from my original draft, we’ll see how dramatic a revision this will turn out to be.
So, bottom line, I feel like there’s got to be a better way. I had heard about the Snowflake Method when I started writing Sanctuary, but didn’t think much of it at the time. However now I want to be ready for a new strategy when I write my next book, be it a continuation of my current works or a new novel. The Snowflake Method is designed to cut down on future revisions by completely outlining the novel. Just so you’re aware, I’m not someone who is exciting about Outlining. Thus, understanding how the Snowflake Method worked piqued my interest. It isn’t that you start chugging out an outline like it’s homework– you first start with an idea. That’s how I work, great! I always just start with an idea.
Once you have the idea articulated in one sentence, you expand it into a paragraph. Then you create character sheets that will fit this paragraph, complete with a synopsis of character arcs, where they start and where they end up, their motivations, everything that is going to drive the plot. The Snowflake Method has SO much focus on the characters, with multiple steps dwelling on this area before moving onto any type of Outlining.
What I find interesting about this level of focus on the characters is that it immediately zooms in on a major reason for why I needed to revise my works in the first place. My plot wasn’t character-driven, and it MUST be. If it’s not, the characters just float around, carried by the current of events and the reader is just going to be bored out of their mind by this structure. As a reader, we don’t always realize what’s grabbing our interest. We just know that THIS BOOK IS GOOD. As a writer, we must understand what latches a reader in like that, and it’s a character-driven plot with narrative thrust(explained in Senior Literary Agent Paula Munier’s Recent Book). It sounds so simple, but executing the idea is a lot harder than it sounds.
So I’m going to try the Snowflake Method for my next novel and I am hopeful I won’t have to go through so many months of revisions. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes! (In a hundred years when I’m done fixing my pantsed novels of course.)
If the Snowflake Method is completely new to you, Randy Ingermanson made a free explanation on his website, or a complete run-down is available in his book. They both say the same thing, but the book just helps guide you step-by-step with no questions left unanswered.
Have you used the Snowflake Method? How did it work out for you? I’d love to read comments!