Starting Your Book

startbuttonOur second podcast focuses on how to start your book. While there are several methods, these are the points Steve and I highlighted.

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.

OUTLINING:

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.

EXPLORATORY WRITING:

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.

Listen to our podcast below, or download it here. You can also find it on iTunes (search Aaron Gansky Podcast). Be sure to subscribe!

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12 Comments on Starting Your Book

  1. Adriana Coonce | August 19, 2013 at 11:41 pm | Reply

    I would never think to spend so much time just panning my book before I even start writing. I understand the whole idea of knowing where you are going with your book but I still cant see myself planning for that long. I would be like Steve and never actually write my book. I think I already use the Exploratory Writing. When I have something that inspires me I automatically begin to write.

  2. Xristian Liabeuf | August 20, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Reply

    Personally i don’t find it to hard for me to decide what im going to do or how the story will speak, but rather sticking to what i want to do and write as i planned it and not flake out.

  3. Jonathan Davila (Spartacus) | August 25, 2013 at 10:30 am | Reply

    While the snowflake seems like a guarantee of success in the long run it seems to time consuming, and my ADD would never allow it. I like the outlining method though, but I worry that I’d probably get “world-builder’s disease” too. I would just get so caught making every detail perfect.

  4. The problems I find in my writing is that I have many ideas going through my mind. I end up writing what I can and continue on whether or not my hand can keep up. I end up missing many details about characters and settings that are crucial to the development of the book. So the result is often a stale read. Would it be a good strategy to go back after the book is “done” and add in all the details i otherwise missed?

  5. Jacob Roberts | August 26, 2013 at 9:02 pm | Reply

    I’m really good at starting my stories or things I write on particular. It just takes me a lot of writing cause I like to write down every detail.

  6. Hailee-Brooke | August 28, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Reply

    I too tend to write down every single detail to a point. I want everything to be absolutely perfect!! but nothing is ever that perfect. I do love outlining it helps me so much. The snowflake method would probably be a one time thing with me. I think ill stick with bubble mapping. thank you! <3

  7. I love getting my thoughts down. I’m not much of a perfectionist unlike Hailey haha but I do like to be organized.

  8. I this tht starting a novel is the hardest for me.i have a difficult time setting my characters in a realistic situation

  9. I totally agree! Once I get an idea, I immediately start writing. But it doesn’t happen very often. Usually when I feel like writing, even when I don’t have an idea in my head, I’ll just write and everything usually falls into place.

  10. I am enthused by the snowflake method, mostly because i have a lot of random ideas but most of the time they don’t come together as well as i would like. i think though with a little practice and dedication i can work through these minor road blocks.

  11. In my opinion i agree with the thought that the snowflake method ends up being to ridged. Not in all cases but in some,and for another thought when i read books my favorite part is when the end is surprisingly and to that i will be sure to keep in mind when i write to not only surprise the reader but id like to surprise myself with where the book ends up taking me.

  12. When I get an idea I tend to write it down, but I always end up missing some sort of detail because my hand can never keep up to my thoughts. I guess I can start by outlining.

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