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!