, , , ,

A picture of a Snow Crystal taken by Wilson Be...

A picture of a Snow Crystal taken by Wilson Bentley, “The Snowflake Man.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you google “how to write a novel,” the first real result you get is “how to write a novel  using the snowflake method.”  This has been true for at least two and a half years, since I started googling the subject in 2009.

At first, inexperienced writer that I was, I was ecstatic about the snowflake method.  I thought, “Now I’m finally going to get my romantic fantasy story written, after so much careful planing!  Yay!”  Unfortunately though, it didn’t work out that way, and that particular work in progress hasn’t made significant progress in a long time.

The reasoning behind the snowflake method is that nobody wants to waste time writing something that’s no good, and if you know before hand how the story goes you won’t run into trouble writing the wrong stuff.  That idea of efficiency sounded great when I first read it, but it my real life it didn’t work for a couple of reasons.

First of all, formal planning doesn’t make me feel like I’ve accomplished anything.  The moment I get serious about a story idea, I start planning it already, going over the my favorite perspective scenes as I run or do the dishes, visualizing music videos staring my characters set to my favorite songs, so for me the chief sources of information on my characters don’t come to me when I’m sitting in front of a computer thinking “now I must write a version of this story that is exactly four pages long detailing all major plot points” (step 6 of snowflake); they come when I’m either writing the actual story or thinking about all the cool stuff in it that makes it worth writing.

When I formally plan a story, that is, sit down with my computer and write what I’m going to write about, sometimes it’s useful, but often it just leads to frustration, because in my writer’s mind the only words that really count as progress are the ones that somebody might actually read.  Excessive planing feels like wheel spinning to me and gets me depressed.

Another reason I gave up on the snowflake method is that for me, even attempted careful planning at first can’t fix the need for multiple drafts of a book.  People talk about how you come to understand your characters better if you write answers to interview questions from their perspective.  Well, the same thing happens when you’re writing the story they’re in, and when you know more information sometimes that changes your story from beginning to end.  That’s okay though, because creativity isn’t linear.  It’s a cyclical process that comes closer to the finished goal each time around.

Now, this is not to say I’m a “seat of your pants” writer, because in my mind that brings up an image of someone sitting at the screen spewing out nonsense because they don’t have anything of value to say yet.  I always have to have some idea of what I’m going to write before I do it, even if it’s only for the next scene, or the next sentence.  That’s the level of planing that seems to work for me, so that’s how I write things, one planned step at a time.