Feb 16, 2010

Tubular Tuesday and a...confession...Our Father, Who art in...okay, not that kind.

The freebie day...not for long.

Confession: I have not been working on my writing.
Admission: I need help focusing.
Another admission: I need your help.

Each Tuesday, I will post my goals for the following seven days.

To start off, I have officially decided to rekindle my YA WiP Stepbrothers. Due to your wonderful comments on my interview at Heather's blog last week, I realized maybe that's what I need to be working on right now. This passed week was grungy and full of self-pity. This new week is all about self-reflection, the kind that shines white in the mirror and you can't help but find solace.

Heather suggested I try the snowflake method and I am going to document my attempts. Here. On this blog. For everyone to see. Ew, how disgusting that makes me feel. But, we can make it fun, can't we? I vow to never use the word 'ew' again. So, this week I will be completing the first two steps of the snowflake method.

Step 1) Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your novel. Something like this: "A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul." (This is the summary for my first novel, Transgression.) The sentence will serve you forever as a ten-second selling tool. This is the big picture, the analog of that big starting triangle in the snowflake picture.
When you later write your book proposal, this sentence should appear very early in the proposal. It's the hook that will sell your book to your editor, to your committee, to the sales force, to bookstore owners, and ultimately to readers. So make the best one you can!
Some hints on what makes a good sentence:
  • Shorter is better. Try for fewer than 15 words.
  • No character names, please! Better to say "a handicapped trapeze artist" than "Jane Doe".
  • Tie together the big picture and the personal picture. Which character has the most to lose in this story? Now tell me what he or she wants to win.
  • Read the one-line blurbs on the New York Times Bestseller list to learn how to do this. Writing a one-sentence description is an art form.
Step 2) Take another hour and expand that sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and ending of the novel. This is the analog of the second stage of the snowflake. I like to structure a story as "three disasters plus an ending". Each of the disasters takes a quarter of the book to develop and the ending takes the final quarter. I don't know if this is the ideal structure, it's just my personal taste.
If you believe in the Three-Act structure, then the first disaster corresponds to the end of Act 1. The second disaster is the mid-point of Act 2. The third disaster is the end of Act 2, and forces Act 3 which wraps things up. It is OK to have the first disaster be caused by external circumstances, but I think that the second and third disasters should be caused by the protagonist's attempts to "fix things". Things just get worse and worse.
You can also use this paragraph in your proposal. Ideally, your paragraph will have about five sentences. One sentence to give me the backdrop and story setup. Then one sentence each for your three disasters. Then one more sentence to tell the ending. If this sounds suspiciously like back-cover copy, it's because . . . that's what it is and that's where it's going to appear someday.
(This came directly from the website.)

I am also tying in plot mapping, which Heather turned me onto. Does anyone have resources worth recommending, in regards to plot mapping? I know I could go google the concept, but I'd really rather hear about it from you.

So, as a reminder, I am completing steps 1 and 2 of the snowflake method and I am researching the resources you suggest and starting on my plot map.

Your homework is to stay on task and yell at me if I get off task and to continue the conversation about plot mapping (or any other organizational advice you have). I'll post photos/snippets AKA proof of my progress throughout the process. Ew, I mean, yay.


  1. Jon--some examples of plot maps here. http://www.skotos.net/articles/PlotStrategies.html

    Okay--I'm in! (With doing the snowflake method with you.) Can I say I've done this section, and refer you back to my "filling"?

  2. Heather - Thanks, I have bookmarked that link. Heather has pointed me in this site's direction before, bookmark their homepage too people.
    (Heather. I'm glad you're in. There are no rules for you...set by me, I mean. We are all on our own journey, supporting each other along the way, but never making each other;s decisions. I look forward to whatever you'll share!)

  3. This sounds like fun! But I can't try it with you because I've absolutely had e-freakin-nough of snow this winter.

    Wait ... I'm home right now ... because of a SNOW day.

    All right. I'll try the snowflake method. Or at least I'll try to try the snowflake method. Or at the very least, I'll watch with interest while you try the snowflake method.

    Good luck!

  4. Thanks Sarah - I am sooo used to being a guinea pig! I'll put myself out there because I know how much you guys love me. In the meantime would we like to rename the snowflake method for use Northerners. How about the drink method You start with tools and a glass. Then, ice, crush, mash it, break it up and fill the glass. Now we need ingredients. Tequila, no. Run, f no. Vodka, oh yeah. Next comes satisfaction.

  5. I've just realized it's 8 AM we can change that to the Latke Method, if you'd rather.

  6. Thanks for elaborating on the Snowflake method. When I start my next wip, I will try that! I'm working on magazine subs right now, but want to get to my next work in progress sooner than later!

  7. I've been meaning to take a look at the Snowflake method. Thanks for the reminder. I'm on it.

  8. I'm doing this with you! Right after I get back from cleaning. Thank you for including us all and taking this running. I can try to hold you to it. For sure I am good at giving assignments.

  9. Kelly - Great! Can't wait for you to join the process. I hope my trials and errors will help you. That's this is about...right?

    Anissa - Welcome to the project. Can't wait to hear your thoughts and results.

    Tina - Good to hear. Will you grade me fairly?

  10. Jon, you're really brave to post your goals and allow us to yell at you if you don't reach them. The snowflake method seems like a good way to keep yourself motivated. Good luck!

  11. Wow, I love this idea! One of my many issues is trying to approach writing in a systematic sort of way. I'm not good at activities without any structure (in other words, I'm a square).

    I'll have to give this a try!

  12. Yay for writing again!

    I've tried to the snowflake method before, but my writing has never been too fond of intense structure.

  13. Anna - Thanks for the support, much appreciated!

    Brandon - Consider yourself committed, join me tomorrow, for sure.

    Ri - I understand that. I encourage you to read the very end of the snowflake method. The author of the method is very aware that this will not work for everyone and no one will do it in the same way. I'd like you to pipe in when you realize you did something from the list, when you didn't realize it was an official step. What worked during your free-spirited attempts and what didn't. Looking forward to your updates.

  14. Why are you reading this? Stay on task!

  15. Read the comment Heather posted yesterday, she yelled at me for not reading! ;)

  16. I am so with you on getting over a week of self pity! I have those way too much. Excited about the snowflake method, might try it. Excellent blog by the way. Yay for writing again!

  17. Generally I grade fairly but I think I have a soft spot for you. We'll see. Take a chance. And I'm with Anita. Get back to work.

    Although I am with Heather too. Do comment in response please. With pith.

  18. OMG OMG OMG. Your step one totally just gave me INSPIRATION! I now know my own one sentence pitch. Seriously. Best post I've read all day!! YAY!!

  19. Oooh, you're brave. Good for you! I'm a chicken. I don't think anyone but a small handful of my blog readers even know that I'm working on a book, because I'm so self-conscious of it. Looking forward to rooting you on!

  20. I like the snowflake method, but Usually its too tight of an outline for me.
    I just have 3 main plot turning points, make sure my GMC is strong, and run with it.

  21. Yeah, get your blue underwear over your regular pants ass back to work! :)

  22. This is such a great idea. I've heard that the snowflake method is very useful. I can't wait to see how it works for you.

    Okay, not get back to work mister! ; )

  23. Great post! I really like the snowflake method too. Good luck!

  24. Thanks for the compliments and...scary moments, guys! Now I have no choice but to succeed.

  25. Good luck, Jon using Snowflake. I bought the software and found it much easier to follow the method in a program than writing it out on a document or a notebook. It keeps it organized. But a notebook always works. :)

  26. Hey Jon - Just a friendly, "how's it going, Snowflake?"

  27. Laura - I'll look into that and add it to the list of things I'm saving for.