Starting Your Book
THE SNOWFLAKE METHOD:
Randy Ingermanson developed a method for writing a novel called the snowflake method. It’s a complex idea, but the simple version is this: spend several hours planning what you’re going to write before you actually begin writing. You might spend weeks or months planning your novel before you actually write word one. However, once you do begin writing, you’ll know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Many writers swear by this method, though Steve and I have never used it. Perhaps it’s our ADD, or my impatience. However, if you’re a patient planner, you can learn a lot from his method. The article’s free to read. You can find it here.
This tried and true method calls for an in-depth exploration of your main story line. You plan your scenes and characters, and draw the map before you begin writing. Like the snowflake method, many writers follow this path. Generally, the writing of their novel goes a bit faster, and often changes less. They also suffer less writers block as they progress. However, they may still experience it in the outlining process itself. While this can be an effective way to write a book, you need to be aware of the risks. Some people (I’m looking at you, Steve) tend to fall prey to “world-builder’s disease.” That is, they spend more time planning than they do writing. Some never begin their books. Others never finish. Also, outlined stories run the risk of falling into overused plot devices. They seldom are surprising to readers, since they don’t surprise the writer.
This is my preferred method of writing. I get an idea and I immediately begin writing. I seldom know much about my characters or where they’ll end up, but I find out as I write. I make sure to leave details that add mystery and intrigue, then challenge myself to find rational answers to explain interesting dramatic set-ups. However, this method isn’t without it’s risks. For example, discovery writers often suffer more writer’s block than do outliners. We’ll often write entire scenes and/or chapters that we’ll end up cutting later.
I like what EL Doctrow said about discovery writing. “Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you make the whole trip that way.” Essentially, discovery writers know where they’re going in the next scene, maybe the next two, but beyond that, the story’s dark. Regardless, if you’re careful, you’ll still end up at your destination.
I find this way to be the fastest method for writing a novel, but I also feel like there’s a lot of work on the back end. You may be the first to write “the end,” but for you, the work is just beginning.
Any of the methods above will help you start a book. But of course, anyone can begin a book. It takes a real writer to finish one.
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