How to Develop Your Story In 10 Easy Steps (Part Two)
Snowflake method is easy way to break the huge job of writing a novel into small manageable chunks. It’s actually so easy that you can try it out playfully, just for the lulz. Yea, you can thank me later. Take one of the ideas off the shelf and let’s do it! If you missed the first part, you can get it here.
Recap for those too lazy to read the previous article
So in the first part we saw what the Snowflake method is. Basically, you take one sentence then expand it into five, then each of the five will be further expanded, so that you never have huge bone of a task to choke on, but nibble away at your project with bite-sized chunks.
First step was to express your novel in one sentence. Then we had expanding on this by adding a five sentence paragraph. Third step was outlining the main character(s) using this same method: one sentence about the character, then outlining them through expanding into a small paragraph.
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Remember that five sentence paragraph you used to outline your story. Well now it’s the time to apply another snowflake-effect. Take each of those sentences and expand them into a full paragraph. Don’t limit yourself to five sentences, but don’t write more than ten.
This will take time. Feel free to take full day for each paragraph. It’s better to invest your week into making sure the story is tight, then realizing after 100.000 words that something is off.
The goal is to have your story elaborated. The sketch is still rough, but you can see immediately if things work or not. Plot holes and inconsistencies in dramaturgy of events will be easy to spot and even easier to fix.
Don’t be sad or disheartened if this stage makes you rewrite your initial five sentence paragraph or knocks one of the main characters out of the story. In this stage, you are still giving birth to your story and it might kick and buck, so be patient.
By the end of this step you will have a page or two, skeleton of your novel. Again, doesn’t have to be perfect. You are still growing ideas, seeing how they fit together. At one glance you will see if your story has interesting peaks or if it’s flat and boring. You will notice if it lacks conflict or if it’s to crammed with drama. Most importantly, you will have your final chapter and end of the story roughly set.
Ok time to snowflake your characters. Going back to step 3, take each of your characters and using the same method for expanding the story, elaborate on them.
In other words. Take your character and their paragraph. Write at least one page for each character telling the story from their point of view. Use this page to add more details. Does your character have peculiar hobby, specific way they speak, hidden tattoos, unusual fashion sense or visible scars. The more you know your characters the easier will be to write them into believable actors in your story.
Time to invent support cast, so take your time to write half-page for other characters that are important to the story. As always, feel free to cycle back to the earlier steps and edit, change, revise. Don’t be shy to spend full day for writing up each character.
By the end of this step you will have multiple takes on the story from each character’s perspective. This will shed light to every nook and cranny of your story helping you iron out potential plot holes. It will also help you discover if any of the characters has any potential issues with the motivation.
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Time to snowflake again! Basically what you’ve come up with in step 4, you will expand now. Turn your one-page overview of the story into a 4-5 pages detailed synopsis. Essentially, you will be expanding each of the paragraphs from step 4 into a full page.
This is the fun part and very important too. Strategic, zoomed-out, big picture approach to your story is becoming more and more detailed. You will be able to spot many plot issues and even some factual errors. Your story will be laid out for you, so you can fix it, change it, make it better, see what works and what doesn’t. It’s still not too late to cycle back and adjust, edit, rearrange elements of your story. Don’t rush. Take a week for this step.
Characters coming to life
Now you will take your characters and add even more details. Write all there is to know about them, and the most practical way is to create a character–sheet. Simply pencil in the tiniest of details, like their birthday, detailed physical description, family background and history, favorite flavor, favorite color, etc. Also make a relationship chart, how does this character feel about others. It will help you immensely when writing dialogues. You can’t have too much detail here.
Sounds like fun and quick task, but do take your time. Full week for each character, if that’s what it takes. Every detail subtly affects the story and other characters. Imagine if you add a scar across the face of one of the characters. Other characters would have to notice it, right?
Don’t write yet!
We aren’t done with the planning stage. Now that you have full synopsis it’s time to break down the story into episodes or scenes. This is how your story progresses. Also note where the episodes branch and where they connect.
Make a list. Number of the episode, one line explaining the episode, if you have different POVs then note here which character is narrating, or simply list the characters involved in the episode. You can add location for each episode and any prop-items if needed for it. Then write a goal of the episode or what happens in this episode.
Don’t be scared if you get list up to 100 episodes or more. This step seems like bureaucratic approach, but it’s very creative in fact. You will have the perfect way to view your entire story in one glance. You will be able to have thorough analysis of the story and iron out the last of possible issues and wrinkles.
Ok one last snowflaking before we start really writing our first draft! Go down the episodes list and now expand each one-liner into a expand. Write paragraph or two or how many you feel it takes to explain the episode. Add dialogues at this stage and any other cool ideas you might have.
Basically you will expand the list so that each chapter of your story will have one or two pages. Make that last check to see if some episodes are not contributing to the story, if you need to adjust the storyline. Pay attention to branching and if the diverging routes ever connect.
Finally, you can start writing.
You will be surprised how easy it is to pound out that first draft now. Revising drafts is painful process and with snowflake method you will be spared of it. I don’t claim your first draft will be a final one, but it will surely prevent you from hitting dead ends and heavy editing that follows.
This planning method is actually liberating your creativity and you will see how easy it is to produce good content. Without the pressure of high-level logistics, you can make your story more plausible, more detailed.
Don’t feel pressured to stick blindly to your design document. Even as you write you will get better ideas, suggestions how to improve, so feel free to revise at this stage as well. Just make sure you dot everything down before your process becomes messy again.
Not only this method allows you to write faster and with less errors. It also produces better quality content and will make your process of writing more fun. What seemed like huge mountain to chip away at, is now a series of fun little steps.
So let me know if you’ve tried this method in full or in parts, how did it work for you and when can we expect that next master-piece!