Friday, March 19, 2010

Snowflakes in Spring

I've plotted out short stories before writing them, and I've written stories by-the-seat-of-my-pants. The end results were the same, in that I was pleased with the success of the final drafts. I can't say for certain which method took me longer, since I never paid attention to timing.

With my novel-in-progress, I've tried both pantsing and plotting. Draft #1 was nineteen chapters of NaNoWriMo word vomit -- pantsing to the tenth power. Realizing I needed some structure to move forward, I attempted to construct some sort of outline from what I'd already written, taking into account the major character change I made to the protagonist which dictated scrapping half of her chapters, anyway. I had major breakthrough #1 the other day when I sat down with index cards, sketched already-written and new scenes, and put them in tentative chronological order. Then, major breakthrough #2 happened last night.

I was blog-hopping when I found the articles, but when I navigated away from the blog I couldn't remember where I'd been. [If I find you again, awesome blogger with the link, I'll definitely give you a big shout-out chez moi !]

I'd first read about Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method after it came up in a regional meet-n-greet for NaNo participants. The funny thing about knowledge is the timing has to be right. At the time, all I had was a premise for a novel, and I was geared up to try the much-touted stream-of-consciousness writing embraced by NaNo. The Snowflake Method seemed complicated and tedious, and not for me.

Last night, I read through it again. Epiphany! Ingermanson's Snowflake Method is a ten step process in which you prepare your novel starting with a one sentence summary. Each step builds on that sentence, that summary, until by step ten you're ready to bang out your first draft.

Ingermanson's repeated disclaimer is that not all writers will be successful with the method. He says many "pantsers" will think the method too left-brained, that it dams up the creative flow. For a total right-brained writer like me, and where I am creatively right now, I think the method will provide exactly the kind of structure I crave. I've pantsed the plot for five months now, and I still don't know exactly what's going to happen by the end of the story.

I felt excited and inspired while reading through the article, and as of this morning, steps one and two are complete. I look forward to each step in the process, especially getting to writing the actual draft. Here's what Ingermanson says during his explanation of step ten:

"This stage is incredibly fun and exciting. I have heard many writers complain about how hard the first draft is. Invariably, they are seat-of-the-pants writers who have no clue what's coming next. Good grief! Life is too short to write like that! There is no reason to spend 500 hours writing a wandering first draft of your novel when you can write a solid one in 150. Counting the 100 hours it takes to do the design documents, you come out way ahead in time."


Have you tried the Snowflake Method before? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or are you like me and describe yourself as somewhere in the middle?