How I Snowflake

I’ve logged off of Facebook so that I can’t just click the button and lose an hour. I now have to think about “What’s my password, again?” and actively seek time-wasting. I did the same thing for Twitter and Pintrest and GoodReads and even my email, though tactic isn’t working nearly so well for Twitter. I didn’t log myself out of AQC because I notice I don’t lose hours there. A quick check-in usually calms my need for writerly interaction.

This has been an amazing strategy. In the first day I wrote over 3,000 words for National Novel Writing Month. In case you didn’t know, the actual daily goal is 1,667. So, basically, I rocked that. Today’s proving a little harder, but in less than an hour I’m halfway there. I only stopped to get some decent grub instead of the bag of Hershey’s chocolate chips I’ve been eating from for three days. >.> Don’t judge me.

I have to say, the way I plotted my novel this year already has me feeling more pumped than any other year I’ve participated. And that’s saying a lot since this is year EIGHT! I did my own little version of the snowflake method, and I thought another writer might get some use out of it. My mileage varied a little because of how my characters originated, but this is the basic idea.

Start with one or two sentences about your story. What do you want it to be about?

A teenage boy escapes his virus-torn city and seeks answers.

Then, build your characters. They don’t have to be complete. You’ll flesh them in more later. But you do need a basic cast and to tell a little bit about who each of them is as a person. Is he athletic? Is she poor? Does he have an awkward birthmark? Will she live? Are they related?

Ensign Ryo is a teenage boy living in the slums of New Jersey. When his mother falls ill to a virus targeted at those of Middle Eastern descent, he goes on a quest for help. He is scared, but brave. He might get sick. He would have played football if he hadn’t had to quit school to find a job.

Ember Gracehouse is an android that looks like a teenage girl. Her processes are mostly experimental. She has been knocked offline and as such has become a bootstrapped unit. Her owners begin to fear for their secrets because she can “think for herself” now. She runs away when they threaten to dispose of her. She is in search of her soul.

Then, do something completely crazy. WRITE A QUERY LETTER! Yes, I know you haven’t written the book yet, and I know that all you have is a sentence and the vaguest of characters, but this is important. When you finish your manuscript the traditional way and then write and super-polish your query letter, you will inevitably find that your query letter is much more awesome than your manuscript. It won’t lie, per se, but it’s so succinct and grabbing that you will begin to question your book. Skip that step. Write the query letter first so that your manuscript can stay on track throughout the process. You’ll have enough revisions to worry about when you’re done.

Turn your query letter into a synopsis. Yes, yes, the dreaded synopsis. Everybody moans about how much they hate writing one and three page synopses. But, really, you can do this. Take your query letter and flesh out the summary part into a one page synopsis. Add on the ending that you left out in the query and insert any subplots you think might go nicely with your main plot. Then, after you make it one page, go back and see if there are any unanswered questions left. Answer those until you reach three pages.

Then, because at this point you’ve become a masochist, continue answering all the questions until you can’t answer any more without writing the damn thing. Why do this part? You’ll find out in two more steps.

Go back to your character sheets. REALLY flesh them out. Every character should be linked with at least one other character in some way, even the minor ones, so that you can play 6-Degrees of Kevin Bacon with your main character(s). You should know everything about them from what food they’re allergic to to what color their nose hair is. If you don’t think these are important, you’re wrong. You’d be surprised how much it added to an otherwise lame (but necessary) scene when my MC’s grain alcohol allergy reared its ugly head.

Now, write your novel.

How? I put the final long-winded synopsis on the left half of my screen and a blank document on the right. I actually use Scrivener for this because then I have quick links to my character sheets, maps, etc, too. It can be done just as well with Microsoft Word, though, and a judicious application of interdocument links.

Now, go. Write. Win!