Snowflake, Step One

A long time ago, and I can’t remember if I posted this link or not, I found a website that gives an outline for how to outline a novel. It’s called the snowflake method. And although it’s written by an author that I disliked the one book of his I read, I found the method to be a good idea. I also am having a hard time planning my next book, so this made sense to use.

But this is not a Thursday and I am not posting this as a link. I’m actually going to show what I did. And yes, you are welcomed to comment.

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.

That is from the link I gave above.

Since I’m basically writing two stories and combining them as one, and since the second one can’t stand without the first one, but the first can without the second, I’m just going to focus on writing one part and then writing the second one later. Then I’ll merge them together. I think it will work, I think it’ll be awesome, and if not, well, I have a two-part series. :D

So, I stated with the little bit I know. After staring at it for little bit, I realized I didn’t like it. For one, I used the world everything.

A young pirate questions everything she knows when she meets a man desperate to save his sister. (WC 32.)

But I kept it because I needed to cut out a lot of words.

So, I got myself down to about 15 to 20 words, and other things started popping out as wrong. At one point in time I had:

After befriending a desperate man, a young pirate begins to question everything, including her abrupt promotion.

I didn’t think that sounded right. It balanced everything, but it didn’t show right. So I took his tip four and did just a search for “New York times bestsellers list“. (Earlier I included one-line blurbs and I could find nothing.) I found exactly what I wanted, one New York Times Bestsellers list, complete with blurbs.

After reading those, I realized that “After befriending a desperate man” had to be moved. The main character always went at the beginning of the sentence, unless setting a time period. So I moved that back to like it was at the end.

I also realized that “including her abrupt promotion,” although good at eluding to the plot, had to be deleted as well.

I then came up with this:

An young pirate begins to question everything about her life after befriending a desperate brother.

But I didn’t like the word young. It just sounded too light, too weak, and just… boring. Young pirate could mean she’s ten and she isn’t. (She’s nineteen.) So, I began playing around with the thesaurus and I found ingenuous.

When looking at the synaymyms, I found exactly the words I wanted to describe her.

naive, innocent, simple, childlike, trusting, unwary; unsuspicious, unworldly, wide-eyed, inexperienced, green, open, sincere, honest, frank, candid, forthright artless, guileless, genuine, upfront.

All of the bold words are words that I think will describe her. So although I think the words seems very unwieldily, I think it works. (I’ve also never heard of it before today.)

So I ended with:

An ingenuous pirate begins to question everything about her life after befriending a desperate brother.

I think this gives the right amount of balance between her questioning her life, and the suspicion there, and the friendship with the brother, and the desperation of the other guy. Maybe, later, if I figure things out, I’ll change it yet even more. So hopefully that’s the summery of my next book.

One note: IngenUous means innocent or unsuspecting. IngenIous means clever, original or inventive.

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About Abigail

I'm an elementary education major at a college in the Midwest. I might graduate as early as December '13 but more likely May '14. I write when I can. I also knit on occasion, draw, do homework and contradict teachers to make people think. :)

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