Sunday, March 18, 2012

The One-Page Method: Before You Snowflake

Lately I've been doing the Snowflake Method to plan my new novel Kirinia. I've even bought 'Writing Fiction for Dummies' which was authored by the Snowflake guy, which helped me understand I shouldn't have been so rigid the first time I Snowflaked--- the steps do NOT have to be done in that order. Which is good.

The first step in the Snowflake is to sum up your book in one sentence--- a storyline. Like, for the Harry Potter series: "A fallen Dark Lord seeks to regain his power but is thwarted by a bratty kid wizard." (There is a more normal example on this post at Fortnight of Mustard.)

My current storyline/elevator pitch sentence for Kirinia goes something like this: "A Kristan cultist girl, condemned to fight in the arena, must choose between her faith and saving her family's lives."

This was actually the third one I wrote. I wrote the first from the viewpoint of a different character, and a second from the viewpoint of the villain. I thought it was weird to write storylines for three different characters until I got to Step 3 and found I was going to have to write storylines for all of the characters.

The hard part for me was getting to the point where I knew enough about the story to write storylines. Because I not only had to create characters and bits of story for them, I also had to do worldbuilding.

The problem with doing these preliminaries is that I tend to get bogged down, ramble and such, and then never get things done. But I am good at writing short things--- poems, blog posts, and so on. So I invented the One-Page Method.

This is how you do it: you take something you know about the story--- a character, a bit of the storyworld's history, an event from the story--- and write about one page about it.

By 'one page' I mean the maximum is the amount of text you can get on one computer page. You can write part of the page as well.

What I do is I write the topic of the proposed page in boldface on the left top, and on the right top write the title (or working title) of the novel. If it is more of a worldbuilding topic, I write the name of the world and the name of the kingdom/empire within that world that the page is concerned with.

This is a very unstructured way to get started. You only write pages for the stuff in your story you already have worked out. My early One-Pages were about the settlement of the empire in the story, called Kirinia, about the Twelve Cities of Kirinia, about the enemies of Kirinia, the Eaters-of-Men, notes about some of the main characters--- Mija, the Kristan cultist girl, Kamilla, the girl from a patrician family who loves Mija, Tiberio, the emperor, who finds out that the Kristan cult is growing at an alarming rate, which he believes threatens the ability of his empire to defeat the Eaters-of-Men....

Once I had a bunch of One-Pages (which I keep in a binder) I was ready to start doing the early Snowflake steps. (The early Snowflake steps have the advantage of being compatible with One-Page, some of the later steps, such as the Long Summary, I intend to break down into One-Page portions.)

As I'm starting to do the Snowflake steps, I'm continuing to turn out One-Pages as well. I'm also updating One-Pages and Snowflake steps as I discover more about the story. For example, I had to change certain character names when I decided that characters who were slaves would have the affix -el- in their names (Markelo, Lukelo). I decided that names which naturally had an -el- in it would modify it--- so Aurelio, the family name of the current emperor, becomes Aurilio.

I hope some other writers, particularly those who have problems being organized, will try the One-Page method and see if it helps. In my own case I've been able to sustain my interest in and belief in my current writing project for a much longer time than I usually do. I hope it works for other people as well.


Lara Schiffbauer said...

Great idea to set a limit. I tried the snowflake method, as I understood it, and got frustrated quickly with how much redundancy there was. I ended up using Jack Bickham's suggestion for note cards, and Les Edgerton's development for a "story worthy problem." That's the nice thing about writing, though. Tons of different ways to reach the same end - writing a novel!

Nissa Annakindt said...

My first attempt at Snowflake killed my desire to write the novel. But it's working much better for me this time as I'm adapting it more toward my own way of working.

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