The Nitty Gritty of Writing a Novel 4: Snowflaking

The Nitty Gritty of Writing a Novel 4: Snowflaking


HI, I’m Simon Cantan. Welcome to the fourth
part in my series showing how I write a novel. In the last episode, I showed you my initial
world building document.In this episode, I’ll start to create a plot using snowflaking.
Snowflaking is the most powerful tool I’ve found so far for breaking early story.
Simply put, to snowflake a story, you start off by writing a single sentence describing
the entire story. For example, here in my first snowflake, I
have: Baltasar and Kyra work together to unite the
world and defeat the threat of the Xenomigrants. That’s all I write for the first snowflake.
Nothing about how they do it, or what arguments they have or what enemies they defeat.
They’re just going to unite the world and defeat the aliens.
Then I go straight into the second snowflake. In the this snowflake, I take the first snowflake
sentence and expand it into three sentences. Baltasar and Kyra agree to work together.
They need to get the world to realise the threat, unite and act together. They lead
the world in the attack on the Xenomigrants, wiping out the aliens or driving them from
the solar system for good. There’s not a whole lot more information.
I’ve just added a few words here and there to expand it out.
That’s okay. We’re not trying to solve every problem in one go.
That’s really key to my whole approach. If you’re creating a story and you don’t know
what happens next, write something easy like, ‘The hero defeats the bad guy’.
You’ll write something better later. The thing is, ideas occur when you’re writing, they
don’t when you’re staring at a screen worrying. Quite often if my fingers stop moving, so
does my brain. Next comes the third snowflake. Here’s where
I differ a little from the standard way to snowflake.
I’ll fill in any ideas I have in this snowflake. Anything at all, good or bad, goes in.
Kyra is on the warpath. She lands at Baltasar’s headquarters. Her armour drains and she feels
sluggish. She’s never felt full gravity before. Baltasar convinces her to work for
him to save the world. The world hasn’t reacted like Baltasar expected
to the revelations that the aliens are worse than expected. The news channels are showing
“fair and balanced” coverage, where 99% of scientists say we have to act or we’ll
all die and a few lunatics say that the Xenomigrants can live with us in harmony. People are choosing
to believe the lunatics because it’s easier. Baltasar says that there’s only one way
to get people to react. It needs to be in their face. He wants Kyra to go and capture
a few Xenomigrants and bring them back to Earth for release.
Kyra protests that innocent people will get killed. She won’t kill innocents.
Baltasar explains that without this, everyone will die when hundreds of Xenomigrants are
landing every day. He compares it to Europeans in America.
Kyra reluctantly agrees, but means to help the innocents somehow.
She goes up with a squad to Eris, they capture a few Xenomigrants and bring them back to
Earth. Kyra releases them somewhere they won’t
kill innocents but will still have an impact. In the middle of the politicians? (No, Baltasar
should tell her that she’s bringing them back to show them in a controlled environment
and then he releases them). The Earth panics and demands a solution.
Baltasar volunteers his company. He begins to take full control of the world
organising people in the war. His propaganda takes over for the regular
news, showing the horrors of the Xenomigrants. Kyra is sent to supervise the war.
They wipe out the Xenomigrants. You might have noticed there are still some
huge gaps that I’m filling in with summarising sentences.
I’ll let the ideas happen when they happen. There’s lots of time before I need to know
what goes there. After that, I keep going with the fourth snowflake,
filling in more ideas as they occur to me. The fourth snowflake is a slight expansion
of the third. Once it’s done, though, I slam on the brakes and move on to a different technique.
Snowflaking has now given me a skeleton plot with some details and some sketchy parts.
The next technique takes the characters from the fourth snowflake and gives them motivations
and arcs. In the next video, I’ll go over how I use
Dan Well’s 7 act structure to make the story more interesting.

One thought on “The Nitty Gritty of Writing a Novel 4: Snowflaking

  1. Check out the fourth part of my series on how I write a novel. In this episode, I use snowflaking to come up with a basic plot.

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