The Healer and the Pirate

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Writing Wednesday - The Tile Method?

OK, so I continue to struggle with the Snowflake Method. I'm not sure if it's because it doesn't work for me, because we never see snowflakes in the southern half of Arizona, or because I actually wrote one entire draft (and about 1/3 of a substantial rewrite) before I actually sat down to try to plan how I was going to do the third (and, God willing, close to final) draft.

For myself, Step 3 seems to be the hangup (to date). Sure, I have my novel envisioned (more or less) in 5 sentences, which is basically the story told from the lead character's POV, since the novel is first-person. But to tell that same story in 5 sentences from the point of view of each of my other characters? Characters who may or may not be present during every significant scene? I eventually got paragraphs of some sort done for everyone, but with very a substantial amount of overlap. In other words, the paragraphs are really boring and not very insightful.

Then I had an idea. Why not do a timeline or a grid explaining what happens during each major plot point that the main character goes through?

That...actually led to a repeat of the overlap problem!

So out of sheer boredom and desperation, I ended up writing what major thing a character does or experiences in each major segment of the novel. Once I had one segment written out, I realized that if, read in the right order, it sounded almost like a story. So I numbered the events in order before proceeding to the next major plot point. While the end got cramped and muddled, I got the first 3/4 figured out more solidly than I'd anticipated, and even figured out the ending. It also helps greatly if you want characters to have parallel or mirrored journeys.

Don't look TOO closely if you don't want spoiled, but otherwise, thank you, cell phone camera and sloppy handwriting!

So the more I think about it, the more I doubt its usefulness in any story that's not clearly anchored by one main character. But once I was done I was able to go and fix some of those weak "5-sentence character journey" paragraphs to be...somewhat less weak. If I find it helps me long-term, I'll try plotting out a well-known story and post it up here at some point.

Still, it's also quite possible that the real lesson was that if you're stuck, try something different...or just sit there bored until your subconscious works it out. Me, when I see little blank squares I just want to fill them in, but a blank sheet of paper is more intimidating.


  1. Love it.

    I have chainsawed the snowflake method to make it fit my brain as well. It sort of works, I guess.

    Do you get his newsletter? I bought the book he was promoting this month on story building. Hope it's worth it. I will let you know!


  2. Hi Julie - I like your blog, such a variety of interesting topics! I followed your link from the CC forum because I once looked at (and rejected) Snowflake plotting. I should look again. I read some of the articles you posted from 100 years ago because my current wip is set in 1900 and have been researching a lot to make it realistic. I admire your lively writing style. Good luck to you!

  3. Thanks, J! I should probably sign up for the newsletter...but I'm also a member of another writing group (American Christian Fiction Writers) and have at least two monthly "courses" that they put on that I haven't gotten through, so I worry about having even MORE emails to read. But I'm interested to know how his book is!

    Thank you, Carol! If you want to do your own research, you can go to --click on "advanced" and specify your date range, then just search for whatever term you like. Or of course you could go to the library and look at the copies, which would be cool...but I like to search at home. I have no idea what I'll do when I get to 1923 (the full-text viewable archives end there because 1923 isn't public domain).