I recently decided to try out snowflaking--a writing process that runs rather counter to my typical strategies. Usually I start off with a concept, loosely outline it, then watch my characters bulldoze through my plans and make something far more interesting. On the plus side, my stories end up surprising me quite often, keeping me engaged, and developing naturally and organically. However, this method has a fair number of problems, as well: unanticipated plot holes, a great deal of rewriting (approximately four beginning-to-end drafts before hitting the final copy), and sometimes losing the story entirely, which results in more abandoned projects than I'd like.
So I'm trying out snowflaking! If you don't want to read the full summary at the link above, here's a short explanation: You start with your story in a nutshell--a single sentence explaining the concept. Then you turn that sentence into a paragraph, then each sentence in that paragraph into a paragraph of its own, until you have a fully-formed sketch of a story. (At which point you get to flesh it out and turn it into a proper novel.)
So I've been hammering out a concept for a superhero novel. Examples of my progress are under the cut:
A superheroine with the ability to reanimate dead/decayed plants teams up with a reformed supervillain who made her fortune crosswiring brains with super-powered pop music to enforce world peace in the face of a wacky misunderstanding.One paragraph:
An emergency alert interrupts Morning Glory's battle with Miss Catonic, jeopardizing their safety and the safety of fans worldwide. They team up to fix a rogue superhuman's prank and stop thermonuclear war, but end up worsening the conflict by redirecting rage toward an actual micronation rather than an imaginary one. Internet phenomenon Tesh Wheatley contacts them to extend an offer to disarm the nuclear warheads, but the physics are too dangerous for her powers, and she nearly causes a meltdown in the bunker. They finally come across Latasha Newman, who can perfectly manipulate energy to mass without heat loss, but they're captured while sneaking into the base to disarm them and castigated for meddling in international affairs; this makes tensions mount even higher diplomatically, and time seems about to run out. Just after the bombs are launched, they break out of their holding cell and use the terrified assistance of Tomas Barreira to convert the energy back into mass at the moment of detonation for each of them, saving the world.One page:
As she watches the news over her morning fruit salad, Lupe realizes that the pop sensation Eloise Evans--in town for one weekend only to conclude her most successful concert run yet--is secretly moonlighting as supervillainess Miss Catonic. Knowing that Eloise will drop off the radar between concert tours, she has to act fast: she immediately sets up a plan to gate crash the after-party, sneaking in as a maid because she’s often mistaken for one. She confronts Eloise, who tries to play her off--at least until she can get her mic to go for a wicked solo that sends Lupe on an involuntary acid trip. Mid-chorus, they’re interrupted by an emergency broadcast from the government over the radio announcing impending war (with a fictitious micronation) and the possible thermonuclear annihilation of the entire world.All in all, I'm pretty intrigued with this style thus far. I know that it's a silly concept for a novel, but I'm enjoying playing around with it. It is, of course, extremely rough at the moment. If you like anything in particular about the story or characters, you should let me know! It's still at the stage where entire concepts could get cut out, so speak now or forever hold your peace.
Much to Lupe’s surprise, Eloise not only notices the miscommunication issue, but immediately cuts the fight short and demands that they work together to fix the misunderstanding. Lupe is reluctant, but she doesn’t have the ear of the president, so she hasn’t got a choice--they set out together for DC. They use Eloise’s contacts and resources to get them to the White House, arguing the entire way about Eloise’s expensive lifestyle and reckless disregard for her fanbase, etc. After they arrive but before Eloise can start in on her sweet talk, Lupe explains to the president that there’s no such place as (fictitious micronation), and the debate grows increasingly heated until the president misunderstands her and changes the target to (Eloise’s fanbase) and throws them off the premises.
They hunker down in Eloise’s secret lair--well, one of them--as they attempt to figure out how to fix the situation. As they fight about whose fault it was, internet phenomenon Tesh Wheatley hacks into Eloise’s laptop and cuts them off with a proposal in which she explains her gifts, what she’s done with them, and how she thinks she can help avert thermonuclear war. Eloise sends a helicopter to get her immediately, and they set out for the missile silo most likely to be used for the strike. They break in with a bit of song to befuddle the humans operating the security systems and get to the control room. Unfortunately, Tesh (Diana) is in way over her head, and she nearly causes a meltdown in the bunker.
As they escape, they’re captured by the feds and castigated for meddling in international affairs. The near meltdown and the perceived spy risk from their own superheroes drives tension to new heights, and Lupe fears that time is about to run out. Latasha is their guard, and Eloise bends her ear, giving Lupe the information she needs to take the lead and organize a plan to save the world. Lupe hashes out a strategy using each of their powers to defuse the bombs and resolve the situation. As they break out and race for the silo, however, the nukes are readied for launch and impossible to tamper with.
Eloise has one final contact--Tomas (aka Acrophobe, the Flying Brick)--whom she contacts immediately. Tesh rigs up a contraption to keep them all safe while flying while Lupe reconfigures their plan. Once set, Tesh tracks the nukes, Eloise uses her powers to keep Tomas afloat despite his terror, Lupe directs them to their targets, and Latasha gets ready to revert the energy to mass as they approach the detonating warheads. They get to the nukes in time, returning them to harmless mass, and avert the war. The US government pretends that the nukes were launched by mistake and promises to investigate, but the merry band of misfits are regarded as the heroes they are (and maybe the superhuman who caused the mistranslation steps up to join them).
As a caution, I'd like to remind everyone that sometimes stories don't pan out. There are plenty of novels I've written that never got off the ground even after putting fifty thousand words and several hundred hours into them. That's the nature of writing. So I can't guarantee that my works in progress will actually reach completion. If, however, you feel especially excited about one of them, please do let me know! That's the sort of motivation I can use to get through conceptual reworking and ground-up rewrites.
Have any of you dabbled in snowflaking? What sort of process do you prefer if you write?