Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Another Writing Tool

It is a juicy day in the Willamette Valley. Nonstop rain, clouds stuck in the tops of the Doug firs, lakes of water in parking lots that I thought were pancake flat. But a perfect excuse to hole up with a good book -- either a great read or the one you are writing.

I just learned about another writing "tool" via Story Fix, the blog maintained by Larry Brooks. He writes about and presents workshops on the Six Core Competencies and Story Architecture of novel writing. I found his sessions at the Willamette Writers Conferences to be life savers. So when he referenced another writing aid I had to check it out.

Randy Ingermanson has developed what he calls the Snowflake Method of organizing a novel.


Yes -- this is a fractal.

Ingermanson's method is the reverse of peeling an onion. Instead of removing layers, he adds layers in the process of developing and organizing his novels. Since adding layers to an onion isn't a particularly handy image, he instead uses the fractal.


The first step in the process is to write a one-sentence summary of your novel. He suggests striving for no more than 15 words. This is what many folks call "the elevator pitch." You know -- you're on the elevator with the agent/movie director of your dreams and you have only one or two floors to sell your story idea.

Step two in Ingermanson's process is to develop the single sentence into a full paragraph. In step three he moves on to the major characters about whom he writes a one-page summary.

Subsequent steps expand on previous efforts. Each step delves deeper into the story and the characters. By the time he begins drafting the novel, he knows his story characters inside and out, and has solved many problems of logic with the story progression.

Those with outline phobia will eschew these story development methods. However, both Brooks and Ingermanson suggest that planning up front avoids hundreds of pages of redrafts.

Having ground to a halt on Water Tribute with a case of "muddleinthemiddleitis," I am eager to try Ingermanson's Snowflake Method in combination with Brooks' Story Architecture.

With Water Tribute placed on the back burner (waaaay back), my imagination has been captivated by a different story idea. The working title is The Adventure of the Blood Stone (which will likely be changed to The Curse of the Blood Stone). I'm still doing world building research. I have a list of characters and some idea of the major plot points. I even drafted opening paragraphs when I was held captive in a waiting room one day. I've made a stab at the one-sentence story summary, but I think I need to have the setting firmly established before I begin moving around the characters in their story world.

I already know that writing a novel "by the seat of my pants" doesn't work for me. So I hope this additional tool will help me reach my goal.


3 comments:

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I like the idea of fractals. I've always enjoyed gazing at them....so intricate and delicate looking.
Good for you finding and researching a potentially helpful and useful tool. I look forward to reading how it works for you :)

Happy Holidays to you,
~Lisa

Rising Rainbow said...

Interesting concept.

Funny when you mentioned that 15 word sentence and selling "it" in an elevator, I immediately thought of my brother doing that. Makes me wonder if I really want to write or not. Maybe it's just another excuse for a delay. Who knows but I do kinda like those ideas rolling around in my head. LOL

Thanks for the info.

Happy New Year!

gowestferalwoman said...

lol isnt that the way of life? We start out with no experience, no concepts, no goals, but in the end we hopefully have achieved enough to have memories that have built up/linked with other memories...