I’ve written quite a lot about what inspires me, what I’ve accomplished so far, etc. But I’d like to talk more about what I use to help me to plan.
I’ve covered Planning and Pantsing before. As I said, I’m more of a planner. I don’t plan to the tiniest detail, but nonetheless, through trial and error I’ve found that planning is more my style. If my thought train doesn’t know where it’s going, it’ll end up crashing off the tracks.
So one of the most useful planning techniques I’ve come across is Snowflake. It’s something you’re bound to come across if you ever (or have ever) Googled ‘creative writing techniques’ or something similar.
This is a technique first credited to Randy Ingermanson , who between you and me is a complete genius. The method isn’t very complicated, it just takes quite a lot of time. It’s not the fastest way of planning your story or novel, but it certainly works.
The idea at its most basic level is that you are building a snowflake. It’s similar to how an artist may begin a drawing. You sketch out the basic lines first – you write your basic synopsis e.g. “A miscreant teenage girl dreams of finding a way out of her dead-end life.” You put your protagonist in there; but don’t name them. Give them a one word description, let us know a bit about them (from this, you can tell she’s wayward, and she’s young). But it also gives us her current situation, and obstacle, as well as her aspiration, or goal.
That’s the basic plot. But of course there is more to that. So you expand the one line synopsis into a paragraph. And from the paragraph, you expand it to be one page. Then, you stop.
You work on characters next. For each character, you describe them in one line, one paragraph, one page. See how we expand from each small step? You sketch the basic outlines, you put some firmer, permanent lines down on the page, and finally begin to sketch in the details. Comparing this to a painting, I’d say that writing is the addition of colour, and editing is the shading and highlights. Shading really does obscure some of the parts of the picture, but it enhances it greatly. You’re also highlighting the best parts; making your prose sing, rather than slumber.
I’ve used Snowflake a handful of times, and I’m not religious about it. I’ve adapted it to suit my style more, to work better alongside my other methods, too. I’m scatterbrained, and my attention is always divided between several different things, so Snowflake can be quite linear to me. I like to develop characters and plot usually around the same time. But Snowflake isn’t saying, no, you can’t do that. You just step back from the plot for a while before you expand it to be a full five pages.
It is useful in other ways, too. Snowflake prepares you with a synopsis that you can edit and chop up to submit to agents and publishers when they need it. You’ve got things there you can put in your blurb. You’ve got material. You’ve got a story. And that, ultimately, is what you’re aiming for.