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Outlining -- a.k.a pulling your hair out

Outlining...yes, that organizational craziness that forces you to look like the poor cat above. Yep, that's what I'm talking about today. After reading a fellow blogger’s post regarding plotters vs. pansters, I began to research various outlining methods. The snowflake method is a very common approach that involves starting with a summary sentence (a.k.a pitch) then expanding out.

Some claim this hinders creativity, while supporters feel it keeps them on track. I've decided to use elements of the approach (click here). I like the pitch sentence to begin with. This took me quite awhile, but in developing my pitch sentence for Twisted Root I found that it helps to think in broad terms. A+B=C But the more interesting element of this model is the disaster moments in the story. You know, those moments where you become the evilest writer on the planet and your characters are tortured.

The Snowflake method suggests that you have 3 disasters (more with sub-plots) and an ending, each occupying 1/4 of your MS. Well what I found interesting is that this method suggests that the best disasters are those caused by the protagonist attempting to "fix" things and instead makes things worse.

I have never considered the protag causing the disasters. In my first book most of the disasters were external elements thrown at my protag. In developing Twisted Root I've decided to give this approach a shot and interestingly enough I feel it makes the reader even more sympathetic to the protag.

So this is what I'm looking at:
Beginning of book: Inciting Incident (Ch. 1 in TR)
By chapter 10: 1st major disaster
By chapter 20: 2nd major disaster (Climax of the story, things are boiling up)
By chapter 30: 3rd major disaster (Absolute hopelessness)
Ending of book

I've written out each disaster, and so far I am really loving this method. I am not using it to its fullest—I'm still a pantster at heart. But I do feel that my story arc is already set, each character arc is already set, and I'm guaranteed to have a solid plot by following this method, albeit loosely.

I'll let you know how things go! Now, how about you? Do you outline? Do you use the Snowflake method or another method? And by all means, if you've got a genius method spill it! I can use all the help I can get. :)


  1. I started out as a panster but tried some outlining that was so light it couldn't really be called outlining. It helped me organize the novel better. So, next, I tried a complete, detailed outline and after all that work veered away from it. Now I outline with some details then just use it as a general guide.

  2. Haha great picture! It looks like my cat :-)

    I've read about the snowflake method before, but I figured I was too far into my draft to really utilize it properly. However, now that I'm essentially re-writing LC from the bottom up, I really like your idea of quickly writing out the three disasters. I think I'm also too much of a pantser to do more than that, but I'm eager to try this! In my last draft I(roughly) used the Hero's Journey/Three Act Structure, but I think that focusing on making my MC 'fix' her problems will really take things up a notch, and it really suits the tone I am going for!

    I have to say, you explained this concept much better than the websites I was looking at before :-) Thanks!

  3. I'm an outliner. I have to do it or I'll just wonder in the chaos! :)

    My outline just consists of one-sentence scenes.

    I've heard about the Snowflake Method but have never tried it. I'll have to read more about it. A lot of people seem to use it and like it.

  4. Oh...the snowflake method. Thou are a tricky one! :) One of my crit partners is using it and really enjoying the process. I'm not usually an outliner, but started writing a longer work and needed something. I have since discovered the joy! I don't do the snowflake method, but rather more of a: "This happens and this happens and this character gets introduced here." It's more of a general outline to the chapter. It works for me!

    (I'm a fellow blueboarder, btw! That's how I found your blog!)

  5. Catherine -- I just posted on your blog about the 30 day draft/outline. I'm definitely going to get that book tomorrow!

    Laura -- Yes, this method (lightly used) definitely fits your style and would work brilliantly for LC.

    Karen -- I think the SFM definitely helps to work out the kinks of a complicated plot. I think it could also help to ensure subplots are woven in correctly. So far I'm really enjoying using it.

    Word -- Welcome over and yes, I am a die-hard BBer (if only in lurking spirit). :) Your method sounds very similar to what I did when I revised my last book. My 1st draft was such a mess that I finally had to jot down what should and then revise based upon that list. :)


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