Snowflake Outline Instructions

I wrote a blog on outlining a novel, which will soon be hosted on Ali’s website. This is a cheat-sheet I wrote up, simplifying Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method (which I wrote more about in the blog post). I have it printed up and tacked to the wall over my desk, as well as the inside of my notebook where I keep my notes on the story:

Step 1: Write a one-sentence summary of your novel. Keep it short (less than 15 words), avoid names, tie together the big picture and the personal picture. [1 hour]

Step 2: Expand the sentence into a full paragraph describing story setup, major disasters, and the ending. [1 hour]

Step 3: Write a one-page summary sheet for each of your major characters that tells: Name, one-sentence story summary, motivation (abstract), goal (specific), conflict (obstacle to goal), epiphany (growth), and a one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline. [1 hour per character]

Step 4: Expand each sentence of your summary paragraph into a full paragraph. All but the last paragraph should end in disaster. The last paragraph tells how it ends. [several hours]

Step 5: Write a one-page description of each major character and a half-page description of the other important characters. These character synopses should tell the story from the point of view of each character. [a day or two]

Step 6: Expand the one-page plot synopsis of the novel to a four-page synopsis. [1 week]

Step 7: Expand character descriptions into full-fledged character charts detailing everything there is to know about each character. Birthdate, description, history, motivation, goal, change through the story, etc. [1 week]

Step 8: Make a scene list in a spreadsheet. Include one line for each scene, the POV character, and what happens. (Perhaps Chapter Numbers) [1 day]

Step 9: Take each line from the spreadsheet and expand it into a multi-paragraph description of the scene. Put in any cool lines of dialogue you think of, and sketch out the conflict.

Step 10: Sit down and start pounding out the real first draft. This stage is incredibly fun and exciting!

One Response

  1. Heather Muir on October 17, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

    This is fantastic! I’ve always been interested in the Snowflake Method but it looked so huge and complicated. I’m trying to learn to be better outliner and this is perfect. Thank you so much!

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