My “Special Snowflake” NaNoWriMo Prep

It’s been several years since I won NaNoWriMo. Admittedly, I’ve been busy — I’ve had two babies in the last four years, and (you may have heard) babies are rather time consuming. But this year, I really want to get a novel finished. I think I’m finally settled in to motherhood enough to accomplish a few things, and I have a novel in my head that is just begging to be written.

A Special Snowflake. By Flickr user Alexey KljatovUnfortunately, I have a million other things in my head, each struggling for a spot in my long-term memory. Writing a novel by the seat of my pants (i.e., “pantsing”) is even more challenging for me now than it used to be. So, I’ve been leaning away from pantsing and leaning towards planning for the last few years.

Once you delve into the world of novel planning, you find a million different strategies. I kept hearing about the Snowflake Method, which is a 10-step novel planning/writing process developed by Randy Ingermanson. A few years ago, this method seemed too intense to be practical. Now, after struggling with other outlining techniques and getting derailed while writing my most recent novel, I decided to give it a try.

The way the Snowflake Method works is by constantly building a more and more detailed synopsis/outline of your novel, alongside with more and more detailed descriptions of your characters — crystallizing your novel from a basic premise like the crystallization of a snowflake from water vapor.

The 10 steps are to write:

  1. A 1-sentence synopsis.
  2. A 1-paragraph synopsis.
  3. A summary sheet for each main character.
  4. A 1-page synopsis.
  5. A character synopsis for each main character.
  6. A 4-page synopsis.
  7. A detailed character chart for each main character.
  8. A spreadsheet detailing each scene in your novel.
  9. (Optional) A multi-paragraph description of each scene.
  10. All the scenes, resulting in a first draft of the novel.

As you can see, the first steps seem so simple and the later steps seem like so much work. I’m currently at Step 5 and I think I’m ready to skip to Step 10. Ingermanson says that the process can be modified depending on what works for you. For me, I feel like I have a handle on my plot well enough that writing a 4-page synopsis might just hammer the life out of it. But I’m so glad I did Steps 1 through 4. I found them immensely helpful, and they weren’t even that difficult.

So, I present my modified Snowflake Method — er, my “Special Snowflake Method” — for this year’s NaNoWriMo. Feel free to give it a try! Just write:

  1. A 1-sentence synopsis.
  2. A 1-paragraph synopsis.
  3. A summary sheet for each main character.
  4. A 1-page synopsis.
  5. Any other Snowflake Method or other outlining steps you want. (I think I will lay out my chapters ahead of time, giving them short titles describing what I think will be in each one.)
  6. A novel!

Easy, right? For Steps 1 through 4, I recommend the guidance from the Snowflake Method website, or the books (I bought this book of Ingermanson’s, which was cute and informative). For steps 5 and 6, go for it!

I’ll let you all know how my novel writing goes next month. So far, I’m more prepared than I’ve ever been — here’s hoping it works for me!

Image credits: First image is by Flickr user Alexey Kjlatov. Second image is a time-lapse video of a snowflake forming via GIPHY.

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