Using the Snowflake method to write your novel

There are thousands of methods available for writers, but in this article, we would learn how to write a novel using the Snowflake Method.


Writing a novel comes with hard work, determination, and knowing what method of writing works best for you. There are thousands of methods available for writers, but in this article, we would learn how to write a novel using the Snowflake Method.

What is the snowflake method?

The snowflake method is an outline method that guides you through writing your book effectively. It starts with the simplest premise and systematically expands to include the plot and details of the characters. The result of this method gives you a comprehensive character bible and scene list to enable the writer to start their first draft.

It is circular, incremental, and a simpler way to structure your story. This method is effective because it does not request tons of details up front, but uses a gradual process that generates more details and ideas from you. This allows you to make additional changes to what you did previously.

The Snowflake Method of outlining was created by Randy Ingermanson, an American writing coach and author to benefit the writer with an ease of writing. So,let’s go through Randy’s outlining method.

Ways to use a Snowflake Method

There are steps in outlining a novel before undertaking the writing process. Here are a few ways that you can effectively use the Snowflake method to write a novel.

The one-sentence story summary:

This is an easy starting point and the sum of your entire story. In a single sentence, write down what your novel is all about that can lead anyone interested in your book to get the idea behind it. It can also be called the hook, a line that you can use in any situation to get to your main story.

An example would look like this. “Alicia reincarnates in a child to kill the man who murdered her father.” This one-sentence summary is the idea that your story will be built on. It is the hook that sells your book to an editor, readers, and anyone that goes through your book.

That sentence is the whole point of the Snowflake Method.

The sentence you write down should be close to the theme of your novel, but should not include specifics like a character’s name, etc. it is best to keep words under or within 15 words count.

Expand to a paragraph summary:

After writing your one-sentence summary, build on the details in your one-sentence by adding a few elements and events as it goes. Describe the story setup, the major disasters, and possibly the ending. Open your mind to imagine where that one-sentence can take your story and your characters further into the plot until you can tell your story in five sentences.

If you like the use of the Three-Act structure, this is a good point to use that.

Step by step, add these details as you go because one sentence gives you insight into another thing. That’s the essence of this outlining method.

This is the stage where you bring in the major plot points of your story which are;

  • The status quo at the start of your story otherwise called the exposition
  • The major events that kick off your story, which is your first plot point
  • The mid-point, where the story takes a turn for the worse for your character
  • Plot point two. Here, your character gets to the lowest point where things seem lost
  • Climax. The point of resolution for the character and your story

Start Small with the characters

After expanding your plot points, turn your attention to your characters and identify every major character in your book.  Characters are the most important part of a story.

At this point, your characters should be named, and identify their motivation, (what does your character want in life), what concrete goals do they strive for, the conflicts that prevent them from achieving those goals, and how they overcome the conflict.

Identify who the protagonist is in your story and build that character little by little until you can identify the protagonist’s major goal.

Note, that the external and internal conflict are  expedient for your character’s goal.

Expand your paragraph summary into a single page

Your first draft idea didn’t identify a lot of things for your story? Then blow out each sentence of your one-paragraph summary to become a full paragraph. By now you should have an idea of the large-scale structure of your novel, so keep the story growing. Try writing a longer version of the story and give it basic structures.

  • A beginning
  • A middle
  • An end

When you do this, you can begin to feel that first draft idea wriggle into life, right? This could be fun and it gives you a decent one-page skeleton of your novel. This aids in developing your story into understandable blocks that are easy to write. You can also end every paragraph with a disaster that can be interpreted as a major plot.

Note, that the final paragraph should tell how the book ends.

Build character bibles

By the time you get to this stage, you should have story threads that can cover for each character. You now have to return to your characters so you can start asking them questions about themselves and sketch out the answers.

This is the stage where out of your one-page plot and character summaries, you will create a one-page dossier or a whole sheet of paper for each of your main characters and a half-page for the minor ones.

You can also use other guidelines for building character bibles and character synopsis to help dive into your character backstories if you have difficulty doing that on your own. But the simplest way is to first have your character bible written, and then write out the synopsis for each character.

This includes outlining each character’s journey through your novel. Take the time to flesh out the standard things to know about your characters, history, birth, motivation, description, etc. it will teach you a lot about your characters.

You can also do this effectively by getting a great starting list to guide you on ideas of what questions to ask about your characters.

Write a scene list and synopsis

Before you begin writing your novel, take every paragraph from the long synopsis and give them breathe over a page each, keeping every sentence tightly focused.

After this, you draft out a scene list of every scene you would need to turn into a novel and detail out the actions in every four scenes of your book.

This should be done on a spreadsheet for detailed scene lists. Though most writers find it horrifying to use spreadsheets, spreadsheets were invented for making lists. In one column, list the POV character, and have another wider column to tell what happens.

Keep going until you stop planning and start writing your novel

This outlining method was created with guidelines to make it easier for writers to outline their stories before they begin writing. And this works for lots of writers. But remember, there are no fixed rules for outlining or writing. Write in the way that best suits you and brings your idea to life. This should be the end goal.

But if you did all the previous steps, then you should be fleshing out the real first draft of your novel at this point. This is meant to be the exciting part, where you work out more of your creativity working out the small-scale logic problems.

Herein summarized are the benefits among others of the Snowflake Method

Benefits of Snowflake Method

  • The Snowflake method is a structured process of practical steps for outlining that also gives an idea of the time proximity of each step.
  • It identifies and fixes the problem of plot holes by working according to the scene list and the synopsis for every character. With each chapter, you can better identify the plot holes and get them fixed before moving on to the next chapter.
  • It helps in the timely completion of drafts that may have been previously stalled or abandoned.

It is encouraged to return or revisit previous stages because it shows your characters are shedding more information about your story, major changes to them might require that you start over the process.

Are you ready to write your novel and despite the outlining method you still don’t know how to start? Get help. This may make the difference between success or failure.

Dreaming around scenes, characters, and having a good novel doesn’t give you an actual good novel. It doesn’t work that way. If you have an idea, write it down. Until you get it written, you have not captured any idea and can lose it. You have to own the idea to release your brain to go to the next level.

Are you feeling hopeless and struggling with a horrible first draft? Or you have no idea where to begin your draft? Take an hour, two, three, and summarize your story in one sentence. Did that help? Well, if it did, you just completed the first step of the Snowflake Method. So why not try the other steps and get that idea into a great novel.

The Snowflake method is a great way to outline and write your novel.

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