Use the Snowflake Method to Write a Book [10 Steps]

By Steph Fraser | Posted on April 24th, 2019

There are different methods to write a book and different authors use different methods. Writing a novel that is good is indeed a challenging task. If the writing process was easy, everyone would have published bestsellers.

There are different approaches to writing a potential bestseller, though sometimes it is OK to stick with the majority. There is one popular method that is used by a lot of writers. The success of this method is evidenced in the outstanding books they produce. The method was created by Randy Ingermanson and it is called the Snowflake method.

Randy Ingermanson

Randy Ingermanson is a theoretical physicist and award-winning author who has written six books to date. Ingermanson has taught at numerous writing conferences for years and he is also the publisher of a free, online monthly writing e-zine for advanced fiction. The e-zine is the largest electronic magazine in the world in the category of writing fiction.

The whole essence of this is to show how to write an awesome novel. To show how great books can be crafted when purposeful methodology is applied properly.

What is the Snowflake Method?

The snowflake method is when a writer starts writing from a simple theme then progresses over time. It is developed slowly and complexity is added along the way until it is completed.

the Snowflake Method

You have to start small and buildup over time until you have a complete story. The snowflake method can equally be explained as a step by step technique to write a story from a simple idea up to the complicated part or theme.

The snowflake method is generally used for writing novels but one can still use this to write non-fiction with a few simple modifications.

Benefits of Using the Snowflake Method

benefits of using the Snowflake technique

Here are a few major benefits of using the snowflake template.

  1. It is a systematic method of writing. You can never go wrong with a step by step technique because you will be able to assemble your ideas without leaving anything out. This is what snowflake method of writing seeks to achieve. You write your book systematically from a simple concept until it transforms from a single sentence to a full-blown novel.
  2. This writing technique will help you coordinate your writing life better because you will be moving from one stage to the another and building on the previous step to progress.
  3. The snowflake technique of writing enables you to fire test each scene you create to be sure it will make a high impact on your readers before you write more.
  4. It helps you reach a deeper level of your characters.
  5. This method is beneficial to writers that prefer to plan extensively before setting out to write a book. This technique requires a lot of planning.
  6. The method is good for maintaining motivation. The practice of starting small and working up means the writer is less likely to continue being intimidated by their own book.
  7. With the snowflake method, a writer is forced to focus more on the most crucial elements of the story, which can help prevent the mind from wandering.

The Idea Behind the Snowflake Method

Randy Ingermanson suggested that writing a book is like drawing a digital snowflake. He was fascinated by the way a snowflake shape can be built on a computer. The shape isn’t drawn but the computer engineer layers simpler shapes upon one another until they form a snowflake.

the first steps of the snowflake method

He reasoned that writing a book happens the same way, you start simple and add the details and complexity as you go along. It is about starting small and building until you have a real and complete story.

How to Plan Your Book with the Snowflake Method

When it comes to using the snowflake technique, you should realize that it is circular and incremental, so you need to follow it systematically. This makes it much easier to structure your story. You will be able to offer a better storyline this way.

Before writing, you can build your outline like this:

  1. What is the idea of your book? This can be a sentence.
  2. Who is the hero or heroine of the story in one sentence?
  3. What’s the setting of my story, in another sentence?
  4. Now you go back to through these points, adding five more sentences to each.

The reason why this method works if because it is similar to the function of a human brain. It doesn’t need tons of details upfront before getting into the mind. It uses the process of actually working to generate more ideas so that one keeps adding to the existing work in progress.

So, before you set out to write be sure you have an idea worth writing about. The snowflake template really gets down to the heart of the book and explores your idea in-depth.

Three Phases of the Snowflake Method

The snowflake technique works in three phases, each one building on the last.

The Beginning Phase

Being realistic, it is safe to say that writing an entire novel is difficult, but composing a single sentence isn’t quite so scary. Going by this, where you start writing a book with just a sentence, this beginning phase is all about a one-sentence summary of the story.

For example, a dog climbs on top of a cabinet and is trying to figure out how to get down. The protagonist here has no name because Ingermanson opined not giving one. You will add these details later and as needed.

The Middle Phase

This phase is all about expansion. The snowflake method has the writer expand the first sentence from phase one. It’s like fueling that first sentence – giving it life.

You start this with a paragraph synopsis including a detailed breakdown of the main characters. It also includes a four-page overview of the book and formal book proposal.

This might seem like a lot of work but it is worth the time spent. This phase is like spending the time to sharpen your knife before barking a tree; you spent more time honing but you will spend less time and effort cutting the tree. This is applicable in writing too.

It’s better to spend more time up front rather than diving in and realizing too late that your story is broken and needs a lot of rewriting. So, with this second phase, you will quickly know when your story isn’t being coordinated and you’ll be able to fix it right away.

The End Phase

This is the phase where you write the book. This is where you use what you created in phase one and two to guide you through the writing process. Let the previous phases be like a roadmap of your story that will keep you on track.

How to Write a Book Using the Snowflake Method

If you find yourself writing books in a way that is not productive and you just can’t seem to get the job done – then you need to look at the tried and true snowflake technique.

It has ten practical steps that will help you jumpstart your creative mind. Most good writers are good because of the use of the snowflake method of writing to push their imagination and broaden their horizon. You can achieve the same by opting for this method.

Step #1: A One-Sentence Summary of Your Book

This is the core theme of your book, what you will use to hook your readers and let them know what your book is about.

Ther should be one sentence that serves as a pitch for your book. Remember that everything will start from this one summary, so look at it as a seed that needs to germinate and grow so that you can make progress.

snowflake method one sentence summary

This is the sentence that will hook not only your readers but even the sales force, your editor or the bookshop’s owners. This one sentence has a lot of pressure on it, so try to really make it pop.

Here is an example: “A private eye is trying to track down the Assassins of the Ottawa prime minister, but Assassins are all fortified.

A reader will want to find out more about the story.

Here are a few tips for writing a great first sentence:

  1. Keep it short and to the point.
  2. Do not name any characters.
  3. Write something that leaves a desire for follow up.
  4. Learn how to write something catchy and make it pleasing to the ear.

Step #2: Expanding the One Sentence

The next step will be turning the sentence to a full article. This is done by describing the set of the story, the major disasters, and the ending of the story.

one paragraph summary in the snowflake method

For non-fiction writers it can about significant problems depending on the topic. You can start by stating the problem, finding solutions to the challenge, and finally implementing the solutions.

Randy Ingermanson suggested using a five sentence structure. The first sentence he suggests should be used for setup, the next three sentences should be the central conflicts, and the last sentence should wrap up everything the book is about.

Lastly, you should be able to hit your primary targets of the book. Its story, character, and settings, so that as you progress you should be able to add layers of details that are yet to be written.

Step #3: Write a One-Page Summary of Your Characters

Step #2 has given you a good view of your book so you need to do a similar thing for the storyline of each character.

We all know characters are the most important part of fiction. Creating them just the way you want to – a way that fits the book – will be most beneficial in the long run.

character summary the snowflake method

Each one-page character summary should contain a few different things:

  1. The character’s name.
  2. What motivates the character?
  3. The character’s goal.
  4. The characters conflict.
  5. What is hindering the character from reaching said goals?
  6. The characters epiphany.
  7. A paragraph summary of the character’s storyline.

Use this character development sheet by Squibler to keep everything organized.

The good thing about this step is that you may realize that you need to revise the previous one-sentence summary in step one. This is a good time to do it. This shows your characters creation stage and will open your eyes to your own story. It’s never wrong at any time of this method to go back for revision – it is inevitable.

At this point in the process though, you don’t need to worry about perfection. The goal is to keep moving the story forward by adding layers of detail. The bulk of the editing should be left for the end, when the story has been completed.

Step #4: Expand Each Sentence of a Summary Paragraph into a Full Page

This stage is just growing the already written story. Take the sentences you already have and start adding details.

one page summary in the snowflake method

You’re gradually growing the skeleton of your book. It’s okay to take some liberties on the length. It doesn’t always have to be exactly one paragraph or one page. The point here is to grow the story.

Step #5: Develop Your Characters

character details in the snowflake method

You are still in the developmental stage of your book. It is time to develop the description of your characters – big and small. You can write a one-page description for major characters but can probably stick to half the page for minor characters.

Step #6: Expand the Story to Two Pages

You will now take each section of your book to add more details to it.

You have the three parts already, the beginning, middle and the end. You pick any of section each and expand the story more at least to 2 pages each. Or, write in acts.

four page summary in the snowflake method

Take each paragraph and turn it into an act. Paragraph one becomes act 1 and so on. All you need do is to aim for a page per act.

You are expanding the paragraphs you had in Step #4 into full-page storyline. Here you will start seeing the story come together in a logical way. You can start to identify the issues that may be arising. You can then go back and do some rearranging before you get too far into the story itself.

Step #7: Expand your Character Description into Full-Fledged Character Charts

This stage involves taking the characters in Step #6 and giving them the full story they need.

Here you will start to flesh out their details and backstory with things like their history, detailed descriptions, birth date, etc. You can also include how your character will change at the end of your book, this is the expansion of the work in Step #3. This will enable you to learn a lot about your created character.

Remember that most great books especially fiction books are driven by character. At this stay, if you write novels, you can as well write a proposal to sell your book before writing it.

Step #8: Make a Spreadsheet Scene from Your Four-Page Plot Outline

You should know how to use a spreadsheet to aid you in this stage, Ingermanson suggests that you should make a list of scenes.

Make a line for each scene in a column, list your characters in one column and write what happens. If you need to add more ingredients, then you can add more columns for the expected pages that will cover the scene.

The use of a spreadsheet is pertinent because you will be able to see your whole storyline at a glance and it will be easy if you need to rearrange scenes. Once it is all set up, you can add a new column for each chapter to enable you to assign a chapter to each scene.

Step #9: Write a Narrative Description of Your Story from Each Scene

By now, your story will have started to pan out in a more complete way. In this stage you will give more details to each scene.

You can copy a scene from your spreadsheet and paste it on any word processor and start writing more about it. What will happen, and what is its purpose? So, if you have about 20 scenes you should have either 20 pages or 20 separate documents, however you like to organize your work.

Step #10: Starting your Official First Draft

This is the final stage using the snowflake method. You have moved systematically trying to put things in place before writing the blueprint for your book. At this stage, you can start drafting your book.

The good thing about this is that after following through all the stages above you will be able to write the book faster. You already know the plot, the main events, the conflicts, and even the ending.

Why is the Snowflake Method Right for Authors?

The snowflake template helps you to be smarter and more creative when you write a novel. It is the right method for writers that want to go from basic to complex.

  1. The snowflake method saves times. All important details are already laid out when the writing begins. The draft itself will be written quickly.
  2. Every good thing must have a foundation. If the foundation isn’t reliable, it comes crumbling like a poorly arranged pack of cards. The foundation of the snowflake technique is stable because it forces each writer to focus more on the foundation of the story. You start the process by writing a sentence of the theme of your story, and you begin to build. From there, and with this, it becomes difficult to shift your attention from the bases.
  3. With the snowflake method, you will be less intimidated with the volume of work. With the systematic way of writing, you don’t need to think about the volume because the method is designed in a way that you add details gradually.
  4. The snowflake approach makes it possible for a writer that has a vast project to break it down into reasonable steps that can be realistic to write daily. This method can help people resurrect projects they had previously given up on.
  5. This method is highly recommended for those that have been struggling with other ways of writing and making no headway. This might be a process that finally works for you, where others didn’t.

Ways to Use the Snowflake Method

There are diverse ways in which the snowflake method can be used.

Writing a Book

If you’re not sure how to write a book or if you’re struggling to write your first book, the snowflake approach is for you.

This is the main reason for the snowflake method to exist. It is to assist the writers and authors in starting their books from beginning to end using the suggested steps to get things done. From reviews online, this has worked well for a lot of writers.

Writers Struggling with Their First Draft

If you are in a hopeless situation with your already written draft, then you need to try the snowflake approach.

Take an hour or less and summarize your story in a sentence, this will help you clear your head and you have just completed the first step of the snowflake tactic. Keep moving through the steps and watch as your novel transforms into the story you always wanted it to be.

A Manuscript that Needs a Rewrite

You are done with your manuscript, but it feels scattered and unfulfilled. Take a few minutes and write a single sentence summary.

Viola, you just completed the first step of the snowflake tactic. Bring the manuscript through the rest of the steps and see if you can transform it.

If you’re Trying to Meet a Deadline

If your editor has handed you your book back and made some overwhelming suggestions, don’t panic. Set things in motion by using the snowflake method. Start at step one and keep going.

If You Need Clarity

If you do not understand exactly what you are writing about anymore, you need a good plan for proper revision. Try going at it with the snowflake method.

Give the Snowflake Method a Chance

No book writing process or method is ever perfect. But, there are some that are excellent and will help a writer immensely when creating a book.

Some writers have a certain method that they love and don’t want to give up. If this is the case, you can make the snowflake method your extra help when trying to put a good book together.

Even if you don’t do every single step, it can be a good way to flesh out some scenes and characters without making things complicated.

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