I'm really good at outlining the first three chapters of my NaNo novels and then the last two. The middle has always been a battleground during the outlining phase and the writing phase. But last year my NaNo buddy Chris introduced me to the Snowflake Method and I think it's going to make all the difference for NaNoWriMo 2017.
The first step is to write a one sentence summary of your entire novel. The creator of the snowflake method, Randy Ingermanson, suggests that it should be no more than 15 words and it can't contain any names. So here goes:
I think that sentence will wind up being a first draft. I've been thinking about it all day, but I'm not sure if its as impactful as I want it to be. If it were the blurb on the back of a book, would you read it?
The thing that I love about the Snowflake Method is that everything can evolve. Nothing is set in stone. An outline can serve the same function but the Snowflake Method does an especially good job of tying in all the parts of the novel. Characters are treated as importantly as plot and both are allowed to evolve and change. You can see the parts of the story before writing the Story.
In NaNo's past, I focused a lot on plot and what I wanted the Story (with a capital S) to be. Before I even started the first chapter I knew what I wanted my reader to walk away thinking. Staying true to that Story tripped me up a few times. For one, I tried to shoehorn my characters into roles that would allow me to tell the Story. But when I write, things don't always take the path I expect them to. Sometimes my characters take on new aspects of their personality, sometimes obstacles that I didn't see crop up, and sometimes I hate the place I thought I'd love to take my characters.
As the path to the Story got more and more cluttered, my progress slowed. If I couldn't tell my Story, what was the point of writing it? I got frustrated and after I got to my 50K words, I would often backburner my novel (forever).
But now I realize that it's ok for the Story to evolve. A lot in a person's life can change over the course of 30 days, so it seems reasonable for the nature of a Story to evolve when it's being written. I know a few topics I want my novel to address: immigration, politics, second chances and the value of science. I even know what I want to say about those topics. I have a loose idea of the Story I want to tell, but I'm not marrying it just yet.
I'm going to let my snowflake bloom and see where it takes me. And then when I hit the actual noveling stage, I won't balk if my novel deviates a little from the snowflake path. Writing isn't meant to be rigid.
The next snowflake step is taking some more time to expand that sentence to a paragraph and add in the disasters. Ingermanson recommends thinking about it in terms of three act structure. That is to say you get three disasters and a resolution. As someone who's eagerly anticipating the release of Geostorm, you might say I like disasters.
Stay tuned to see just what those disasters will be.