How To Write A Novel Using The Snowflake Method

Hi, and welcome! You’ve taken a big step by deciding to write a novel. Let’s talk about how you can make that process as easy as possible. 

I’m going to share a method I developed called the snowflake method, which is based on a children’s book author’s process for writing short stories. It works well for novelists, too especially those who are new to writing or don’t have much time to devote to their projects every day. So let’s get started!

How to Outline a Book With the Snowflake Method – YouTube
Key Takeaways
1. The Snowflake Method is a step-by-step approach to novel planning.
2. Start with a one-sentence summary and expand it into a story.
3. Develop characters by giving them goals, motivations, and conflicts.
4. Create a spreadsheet to outline scenes and their purposes.
5. Iteratively build upon your story, adding complexity and depth.
6. The method helps maintain focus and prevent writer’s block.
7. Use the Snowflake Method to structure both fiction and non-fiction.
8. Each step encourages thorough planning before actual writing.
9. The approach aids in producing coherent and compelling plots.
10. Adapt the technique to suit your writing style and preferences.

Brainstorm Ideas, Characters, And Plot Lines

The first step to writing a novel is brainstorming ideas and characters. You can do this alone or with friends, but I recommend doing it on your own because it’s easier to come up with new ideas when you don’t have someone else’s opinion in mind.

Brainstorming is simple: Get yourself comfortable and start jotting down any idea that comes to mind related to what you want your book about (for example, if the story takes place at a high school during prom night). 

Once those basic elements are down, focus on each one individually and think about how everything fits together and whether there could be more interesting ways of combining them. 

For example, if the protagonist is going through a divorce from her husband after years of an unhappy marriage, ask yourself why they stayed together so long. Was there something holding them back from divorcing sooner? What were they afraid of losing?

Asking questions like these will help you figure out what kind of person would stay in such an unhappy situation for so long. You can also ask similar questions about other characters: What makes them tick? Why do they behave as they do? How did their history lead them here today?

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Build The Three-Act Structure

Now that you have your topic, setting, and characters down, it’s time to build the three-act structure.

The three-act structure is a way to organize your story into three distinct parts: setup, conflict, and resolution. 

The first act is where you establish who the protagonist is and what their goal is. The second act is where we see them trying to achieve this goal but experiencing obstacles along the way. Finally, in the third act, we see how they solve those problems or overcome those obstacles so that they can reach their goals.

The three-act structure isn’t just for novels; it can be applied to any kind of narrative from short stories to screenplays (and even video games). 

It’s also useful as an organizational tool because it allows writers to break down larger projects into smaller pieces that are easier to tackle individually without losing sight of how all these pieces fit together at large-scale levels — i.e. when writing entire novels rather than just single scenes within them!

Write A One-Sentence Summary Of Your Novel

The next step is to write a one-sentence summary of your novel. This is a quick exercise that you can do in five minutes or less and will help you figure out what your story is about and who the main characters are.

You Should Focus On Answering These Questions

What’s the story about? The plot of your book should be something original, but also relatable no one wants to read about vampires unless there’s some other twist to it!

Who are the main characters? What are their names? Are they friends or family members or strangers who meet each other in an unusual situation? You don’t need everything figured out at this point, just enough so that you know where things stand when you’re ready for drafting day two.

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Write A One-Paragraph Summary Of Your Novel

The first step in writing a novel using the Snowflake Method is to write a one-paragraph summary of your story. This will be your elevator pitch, or you can use it as a synopsis if you’re submitting it to publishers. It’s also useful for anyone else who may need to know what the story is about.

Write this summary as short and concisely as possible—in other words, write only what needs to be said for someone to get the idea of what your novel is about (and not much more).

Write A One-Page Summary Of Your Novel

The next step of the process is to write a one-page summary of your novel. This will help you organize your thoughts and plan how the story will unfold, but it could also be used as an overview if you decide to pitch your book to agents or publishers.

The most important thing here is not to focus on word count. Instead, think about what’s important: who are the main characters? What are their relationships like? What do they want in life? How does each character change throughout the story? How does this relate to yourself as an author?

This step is also a good time for outlining any major plot points and themes (i.e., questions explored by the story). As with character development and setting, these elements should reflect personal growth in some way you can’t create universal truth from thin air!

Write Chapter Summaries For All Major Elements

Chapter summaries are a good way to organize your thoughts, writing, story, and novel. Here’s how it works:

Decide on the major elements of your story. These could be characters, settings, or plot events it depends on what you’re working on.

Write a summary of each element in one sentence (or short paragraph). For example: “The main character is an orphaned teenager who lives in a town where everyone ages normally but everyone else gets old fast and dies young.” 

You can do this as many times as you need until all of your elements are covered in this step. This is also a good way to get a basic idea of how much space each element will take up in its chapter or section of the book (if applicable). 

If I was writing about vampires living secretly among humans and trying not to attract attention from humans because they always want blood from them whenever they come into contact with them then I would probably use vampires as one major element.

Another might be human relationships such as friendships or love interests; another could be different types of weather conditions that influence how well vampires can control themselves around humans (elevated temperatures make it harder). 

You get the idea! It’s important though that these aren’t just vague ideas scribbled down they should still have some detail behind them so when we come back later with our outlining process these ideas will give us direction while writing our book rather than leaving everything up in the air like most writers tend do when starting with no plan whatsoever!

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Develop Character Sketches For Main Characters

Now that you have a story idea in mind, it’s time to develop the characters. The first step is to create a character sketch for each main character in your novel. The more detailed these sketches are, the better your writing will be!

Your character sketch should include information about their physical appearance and personality traits, backstory (e.g., where they grew up), motivation and goals (e.g., wanting to own their own business one day), struggles (e.g., trying to get over some childhood trauma) and relationships with others who play important roles in the story.

Make A List Of Scenes For Each Chapter

When you’ve determined your plot, ask yourself the following questions:

What are the most important scenes in each chapter?

How will these scenes develop your characters and themes?

What’s special about these scenes that make them unique from other chapters?

For example, if you’re writing a novel about an aspiring author who leaves New York City to follow her dreams of being an artist in San Francisco, then one of your major themes might be “following your dream.” 

This theme will be reflected in many of your chapters (and perhaps even all of them). But how do they differ? 

How do they remain consistent with what we know about our protagonist so far? Well, she could stand on top of the Golden Gate Bridge and look out at the city below her. 

Or maybe she’ll get stuck in traffic as she drives up to Sausalito and realizes that living there is going to cost more than she can afford. You see where I’m going with these different scenes allowing us to explore different aspects of our character’s life while remaining true to their overall arc.

Are you interested in delving into the world of non-fiction writing? Our comprehensive guide on writing non-fiction books offers a wealth of insights, from conceptualizing your ideas to structuring and conveying your message effectively to readers.

Write Paragraphs About Important Scenes

To create a novel outline, you’ll need to write paragraphs about each scene. These paragraphs should be about one page long, but feel free to make them as long as you need them to be. The goal is to give yourself an outline that’s easy for you and others to understand.

To check if they’re the right length (and if they should all be different lengths), look at these examples: 

You might want each chapter summary paragraph or one-sentence summary paragraph to be no more than two sentences long; after all, your book would only have one sentence per chapter if it were written in this way! And what about those snowflakes? 

They’re just larger versions of those little crystals the ones that fall from the sky during winter months when temperatures are below freezing point but instead of being made up of ice crystals alone they contain water droplets too…

Expand Paragraphs Into Full Scenes

As you expand your paragraphs into full scenes, add descriptions, dialogue, and action. Add a little more detail to each new scene as well. For example, if you were writing about two characters having coffee at a café for the first time in one paragraph, you could expand that by adding something like this:

“He sat down across from her at a table near the window and looked out on the street below while they waited for their drinks.”

“The waiter brought them over and took their orders.”

“They chatted about what they planned to do after lunch until their food arrived.”

Fill in the gaps of your scenes with description, dialogue, and action until each scene is finished in draft form.

The next step is to fill in the gaps in your scenes. There are four types of description, dialogue, and action you can use in your scenes:

Description: This can be anything from a physical description of a place or character to sensory details like smell and sound. It should be used sparingly though because it’s easy to get bogged down here and lose focus on what matters in the story!

Dialogue: Dialogue helps move the story forward by showing how characters interact with each other as well as revealing their personalities, emotions, and backstories. 

It also gives readers an insight into what’s going on inside their heads at that time too (think inner monologue). Be careful not to overuse this one though if there’s too much talking then no one will ever get any real action happening anywhere!

Action: Include some sort of action or movement in every scene that helps show who this person is outside just being another body walking around town during work hours; whether they’re walking through a crowd of people at lunchtime or dancing wildly at a wedding reception all night long – whatever fits best for them! 

This doesn’t necessarily have anything directly connected with what happened previously either – instead, just try describing how their life looks right now based solely on what actions they’ve chosen recently.”

Create An Outline From All Of Your Work So Far (Optional)

The second step of the Snowflake Method is to organize all of your notes and research into an outline. I recommend doing this before you start writing because it helps you figure out what needs to happen in each scene and the overall plot. 

This will also make it less overwhelming when you come back to edit your novel later on, as it helps keep everything organized so that nothing gets lost along the way.

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When Creating An Outline, Think About What Kind Of Information Should Be Included

Characters: Who’s involved? What do their personalities look like? What are some key traits that define them? How does each character interact with others throughout the story (both planned scenes and those that come up organically)? 

Where did they come from before this point (their backstory)? How does each character feel about themselves (their self-image)? Does anything stand out about their past or personality? Is there anything else unique about them we should know about before writing them into our scripts/scenes?

Places: Where does everything take place? Are there multiple locations involved here or just one place where most things occur throughout a particular period? 

Are there specific locations within places (like bedrooms or kitchens) that may have different reasons for existing within their respective environments OR do they serve important purposes within larger areas such as entire houses or city streets between buildings).


It’s easy to be intimidated by the thought of writing a novel, but this method is easy to follow and can help you write anything from a short story to a full-length book. The best part? You don’t need any fancy software or expensive programs. All you need is your notebook (or computer!) and some free time!

Further Reading

If you’re interested in learning more about novel writing techniques, plotting, and the Snowflake Method, here are some additional resources to explore:

Advanced Fiction Writing: Snowflake Method Short Description: Explore the Snowflake Method in-depth with this article, which provides insights and practical tips on using this technique to craft intricate and engaging plots.

Jericho Writers: How to Plot a Novel Short Description: Discover effective strategies for plotting your novel and creating a strong narrative structure, ensuring that your story captivates readers from beginning to end.

BubbleCow: Using the Snowflake Method for Story Development Short Description: Learn how the Snowflake Method can enhance your story development process, offering a systematic approach to expanding your initial idea into a fully fleshed-out plot.


What is the Snowflake Method?

The Snowflake Method is a novel-writing technique that involves starting with a simple idea and gradually expanding it into a detailed story through progressive levels of development.

How does the Snowflake Method help in crafting complex plots?

The Snowflake Method provides a structured approach, guiding writers through the process of developing characters, subplots, and scenes, resulting in a more cohesive and engaging plot.

Can the Snowflake Method be applied to various genres?

Yes, the Snowflake Method is versatile and can be applied to different genres, allowing writers to create plots that suit the specific requirements and conventions of their chosen genre.

Are there any software tools to assist with the Snowflake Method?

While the Snowflake Method can be implemented using pen and paper, several writing software tools offer features that align well with the method’s organizational approach, aiding in the development and management of the story’s structure.

How can the Snowflake Method improve the overall writing process?

By breaking down the novel-writing process into manageable steps, the Snowflake Method reduces overwhelm, enhances focus, and ensures that important elements like character arcs, conflicts, and resolutions are meticulously planned, resulting in a more polished final manuscript.