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.
why to write what I write
An interesting transformation has taken place in my writing over the last three months.
When I first began writing, I wrote for the story. The story line was the key. Hope was about the revolution against the aliens on Earth. Shad was about a guy’s race across the galaxy. (Plot actually ended up being a big surprise for me on that one.) Everything was about the story. What is the story about?
Now, it’s changed or maybe morphed. Yes, I care about the story because the story is the essence of anything worth reading. But I’ve suddenly discovered another side of writing: the side of a message.
I don’t want to be preachy in the least. But sometimes just writing the story doesn’t cut it. During December when I was trying to figure out what to write for the writing contest, I began thinking in terms of the message. What is the purpose for writing this story?
With that in mind, I planned my story, discarding several because there wasn’t a good enough message. I didn’t try to preach it, not in Kontyo at least. But I did become suddenly aware of it.
Then, I wrote Dragon Slayers. Dragon Slayers is a bit more obvious I think, since I wrote it with the sole goal of making fun of people who think that we need to protect endanger species, no matter the cost. (My goal, by the way, is to have that posted by March 20th, and since I’m prewriting this and I don’t know when it’s going to actually be posted, I guess you might know if I made that goal or not.) In my head at least, I was thinking back to when Atlanta had a serious drought but they had to send fresh water to save the oysters or something like that.
Now that I’m writing “Miles’ Love,” I more left the idea of themes for some reason, although I am sure one will show up. Miles has enough secrets to make that easy for me I think, and the girl does too. But I didn’t really think about it when I began writing.
I’m also thinking about what to write next and I’m finding that, once again, I’m looking for messages. It’s like if I don’t have a good enough plot, I need to fill that void with a message and then build the message around the plot. In a soon-to-be written piece, the message is the one about how everyone treats the same person differently, even if that person gives them the same view of themselves. (No name, although the girl’s name is Alisa. I know that much.)
I can’t imagine this change in writing to be negative. After all, it goes back to my rant a while back about my psychology teacher not wanting us to have a thesis statement for our paper, even if the paper is about our life. Everything needs a purpose to be written. Maybe telling a story is one purpose, which was mine for a long time, but the overshadowing theme is what separates today’s books from classics. (That and good writing, tension, characters, plots, and morality but we won’t go there yet.)
what is this about?
I was going to write today about why I write science fiction but I’ll have to save that for Sunday because I need to vent a little bit.
Last semester at college I took my first, formal English class, just you’re basic English 111. One of the things that the teacher taught was that all papers, no matter what, need to have a thesis statement, that is, a reason why this is being written. Even in our narrative papers about our life we needed to have a thesis statment.
NOw, for developmental psych, we need to write a paper about our lives. I’m finding this very difficult because it is so broad and I tend to write long. What do I include? how much? How can I still make it intertwining?
I asked the teacher today if he could give us a thesis statement about what he would be looking for. Something like, In my life “I have experienced many happiness and sadness and these things made me a better person in the long run.” would have made me perfectly happy. By asking him for a thesis statement, I am merely asking for an explanation about why he wants us to write this.
But all he can say is talk about what made you what you are.
I can’t include everything with that! I’ve moved seven times already!
The other bad part is that I don’t like this teacher. The best way to describe him is crude. I’m not going to spill the multitude of emotions that came when my parents almost got a divorce to him. Nor am I going to talk about the pretty much poor relationship I have with my dad. Or the struggle I’m having with my brother. I don’t trust him and I sure don’t want to tell him all of that.
I think I now understand why thesis statements are really important. Besides letting the reader know what directly my writing will take, the wrier knows what direction to take. Maybe it’s almost like a prompt in the sense that start writing here about this and just keep going until you’re done with the story or whatever else you’re writing.
An outline would also be helpful with this, although I’m going to write my next story without an outline again. I think I work better on short stories like that.
Anyone else have experiences with thesis statements?