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Monthly Archives: January 2013

by Chara Kramer

Getting started on a novel can be really hard and discouraging. Sometimes ideas for the middle or the end come first, and then it feels like you are lost with no place to start.

Luckily, with so many sources of information out there, it’s easy to find little tricks and exercises to help you get started! And today, it is the Snowflake method, a method that mirrors a snowflake on the mathematical level, by starting very small, and continuing to add steps.


This particular exercise comes from Maryelser Kinmore, an eHow contributor. Although the exercise was originally invented by Randy Ingermanson—as it states on the following website—you can find the article by Kinmore right here:

If you are looking for the original by Randy Ingermanson, you can find that right here:

So what are the steps for this Snowflake method, to help you begin your novel?

1) Write a summary of your novel in one sentence.

–To some, this might seem easy at first, one simple sentence. To others, it may look difficult to try to get all of their great ideas down to just one single sentence. So take your time and really think about what you want your book to be about.

 2) Take that one sentence and turn it into a 5-sentence paragraph.

            –This paragraph should outline the beginning, as well as major conflicts and the ending of the novel. Again, take your time!

3) Come up with your major characters, and write a one-page biography for each.

            –There are some who find this tedious, but it is very helpful in getting to know your characters. The one-page biography for each should include things like the character’s name, and his or her goals, conflicts, and wants. Just as well, a summary of the character’s storyline may also be helpful.

*Note: At any time during the rest of these steps, your original sentence-summary of your book or anything else changes, feel free to go back and change it! Learning more about your characters or anything else, could give you an entirely new idea. Go ahead and revise!

4) Take that 5-sentence summary paragraph, and expand it in 5 separate paragraphs.

            –Each sentence should have its own paragraph, and the first 4 paragraphs should end in a disaster. This will give you conflicts to work off of. However, the last paragraph should tell how the book is going to end.

5) Take the main characters that you wrote about and write one new page for each. For minor characters, write half of a page for each. 

            –Now this one may seem very tedious after you had already written character biographies in step 3. However, this time you will basically write a synopsis of the entire story from each character’s point of view. Instead of simply talking about who the character is, put the character into the novel and write about their perceptions and actions. Do this for each major character, and for minor characters.

6) Take the novel synopsis from step 4 and expand those 5-paragraphs into 4 pages.

            –Take each paragraph from step 4 and expand each into about a full page. This will give you time to really think about each disaster and how it occurs and who is involved.

7) Take the character pages you wrote from step 5 and expand those.

            –This should be the time where you get to know everything about your characters. There should be details on each character’s history, looks, and especially on their goals throughout the novel. You also want to make sure that you include changes or epiphanies that the character may go through. Do they change by the end?

8) *Optional* Use a spreadsheet and make a list of all of the scenes that you will need. Use your 4-page novel synopsis from step 6 for this one.

            –Next to the scene you will want to make a few other columns. One column should list the character’s point of view (who is the narrator of that particular scene?), and the next column should be a description of the scene.

            –Another way that some other writers have done this step, is to make a list of all of the scenes that they need, and then print out a page with only that scene at the top, and the rest of the page blank. Writers can then write all of their ideas for the scene on the go, handwriting any ideas that they may have.

9) By this point, you can either sit down and just start at the beginning and write your novel. Or, in continuing with the Snowflake method, you can take each line on your spreadsheet and expand those into multi-paragraph descriptions of each scene.

            –If you find that there is no conflict or anything that helps move the story forward by the end of the scene, either rewrite it, or even just cut it out.

10) If you have finished all the way to step 9, then sit back and take a breath. Because step 10 is to gather all of your pages, and begin typing out your scenes into a novel.

Happy writing!



By Lena Van

If you are a young writer thinking of submitting a story to Philadelphia Stories Jr., don’t hesitate – DO IT!  But before you do, there are some general rules that I think all writers should remember:

  1. Develop your Characters and Plot – Make your characters 3-dimensional, make the plot plausible. I don’t want to spend too much time questioning how something like that can possibly happen or how so or so could make such a decision in this situation.
  2. Avoid clichés – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read stories that sound like something straight out of a soap opera. I’m not saying that you CAN’T write about dying cancer patients or rebellious hippies – just do something to make it your own is all I’m asking for! As a fiction reader for Philadelphia Stories, I have to go through several pieces of writing and I prefer not to read stories that sound like something I’ve read or seen before.
  3. Proofread – PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD. Bad grammar and spelling errors only take away from what could have been a great story.  Not to mention, sending in a badly written story is disrespectful to the reader. But I’m sure, you already know that.
  4. Entertain me – Let’s face it – any writer can submit a well-written story. If you are really interested in making the cut, then aim to make your story as interesting and entertaining as possible. Write me a story that will excite me, that I don’t want to put down. After all, that’s the fun of being part of any editorial board!

 by Chara Kramer

Good writers borrow. Great writers steal.” –(supposedly) T.S. Eliot

Have you ever had the urge to write, but you just didn’t know what to write about? Didn’t know how to begin or even where to begin?

Try starting with the first sentence (or couple of sentences) of another book! There are plenty of authors who just can’t seem to get an idea, and then one sentence or one paragraph is put in front of them, and BAM! Inspiration strikes!

Try some of these first lines to get the ball rolling, and just see where it can take you:

  • “I never thought I’d have a story worth telling, at least not one about me. I always knew I was different, but until I discovered I had my own story, I never thought I was anything special.”

-Hero by Perry Moore

  • “It’s a Tuesday morning in February, and I get up as usual, and I stumble into the bathroom to take a shower in the dark. Which is my school-day method because it’s sort of like an extra ten minutes of sleep.”

-Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements

  • “You saw me before I saw you.”

-Stolen by Lucy Christopher

  • “[She] discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house.”

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

  • “I like to run at night.”

Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson

  • “Usually hospitals had a distinct sterile smell, but Children’s Hospital of Birch Falls smelled like cinnamon buns.”

The Crushes by Pamela Wells

  • “The villagers of Little Hangleton still called it ‘the Riddle House,’ even though it had been many years since the Riddle family had lived there.”

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

  • “It wasn’t long ago that photographs of the Dashwood sisters’ ancestors—yellow with age, the occasional school picture of Ellie, Abby, and Georgie tucked into the edge of the frame—hung along the long, winding staircase at Holly House, the Dashwood family’s home for generations.”

The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets of Love by Rosie Rushton

  • “We didn’t always live on Mango Street.”

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros