[NaNoBlogMo:8] More on the Snowflake Method

I pretend to be no expert in this — I just found it the other day myself. But I like what it is doing for me so far…

If you remember my last post, I left you with the 50 word one-sentence summary that I needed to trim down to 15 words or less. I have managed to get it down to 17 words, and that’s where I think it’s going to get left:

Disillusioned by network management life, an ambitious young I.T. professional returns to her true passion: The Helpdesk.

I am not 100% sold on it, but it will do for now. This exercise was supposed to take an hour. It probably took me two: the first one writing the 50-word sentence; and then a second hour whittling down the 50 words toward that “15 words or less” goal that is part of Step 1 of the Snowflake Method.

I now am moving on to Step 2:

Take another hour and expand that sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and ending of the book.

And again my love of words has me being FAR too wordy! LOL That is why I am loving this Snowflake Method!! It shows you immediately how wordy you are being. It is forcing me to cut down and be concise now rather than whittling down a first draft that has far too many excess words. Will I still need to edit? Of course! But at least I would be editing the concise wording that is already present rather than attempting to whittle down to concise wording at the same time checking grammar, spelling, punctuation, and overall writing of the manuscript.

It will also prevent me from thinking I’ve gotten to my 100,000 word count goal only to be cut down word-wise significantly during the editing process. If I’m writing a lot of fluff that is going to get cut out later, that means I will have to replace the fluff with actual content. Using the Snowflake Method, the amount of fluff should be significantly lowered. It is keeping you to strict writing limits — one sentence, 15 words or less; one paragraph created from the one-sentence summary which includes one sentence to set the story up, one sentence for each of the three main disasters in the story, and one sentence for the ending.

A five sentence paragraph…

And this paragraph ends up being the core matter for your back cover one day. Another reason why it needs to be concise and not wordy. I happen to have wordy-itis! LOL My first attempt at this paragraph netted 495 words! We won’t even count the sentences… Here is my first stab at it:

Sanye Grant made it to the “big time” in I.T. – network management. She had become a Citrix Certified Administrator and shortly thereafter landed a job at Albright & Garrison paying $15K more than her current job. There was only one problem: Sanye felt no reason to celebrate. She hated her new position with a vengeance. So much so that she was willing to go back to clerical work just to get away from it. And eventually she did… Miserable as the Executive Assistant for a growing non-profit where Sanye sat at the front desk and also greeted clients and visitors, she began making excuses to get out of work. Sanye knew she had to get away from this clerical job and back to her passion of helping people with their technology needs. Eventually, Sanye interviewed for a tier one position on The Helpdesk. Career-wise it was a huge step back; but no sacrifice was too great for Sanye to make to have peace and happiness in her life. She was offered the job right after the interview, but there would be a delay in her start date. Sanye’s salary would be $10k higher than techs that had been on The Helpdesk for 10+ years. Management was already in the process of creating a Tier 2 for The Helpdesk to elevate those long-term employees and increase their salaries, but it had not yet been finalized. Knowing that if any current member of The Helpdesk found out Sanye’s salary was so much higher than theirs there would be a stream of complaints to HR, The Helpdesk Manager and the Director of I.T. delayed Sanye’s start date until after they created the new tier for The Helpdesk. Even with creating the new tier, however, Sanye’s salary would still be significantly higher than her Tier 1 counterparts because she was coming to The Helpdesk from a networking position. It also meant that her salary would be commensurate with the salaries for the Tier 2 level that management was in the process of creating. When Suhailah learns of this, she vows to keep Sanye at arm’s length. A colleague and acquaintance, but there would be no friendship there. Suhailah knew she would have a hard time working with someone on a lower level but who was getting paid what Suhailah herself was getting paid at Tier 2. Suhailah had worked there for 4 years already. She had put in her time! Yet they were still going to bring someone in at her salary who was on a lower tier. Suhailah promised herself that she wouldn’t dwell on it but rather avoid friendship with Sanye altogether… But D’Angelo thwarted that approach by assigning Suhailah as Sanye’s mentor. For the first 6-weeks, Sanye will be shadowing Suhailah at work which means they will be working closely together. Suhailah will not be able to avoid Sanye as planned. It is this mentorship that forges the strong friendship, both professional and personal, that evolves.

Now the task at hand is to condense that into a 5 sentence paragraph… This step is supposed to be done in an hour. Yeah. Right. It took me about an hour to craft that grossly huge paragraph! It will take me more than an hour to cut the fluff. Truly I didn’t attempt to write only 5 sentences this first time around. I wrote out what I would say in “one” paragraph that would setup the story, tell the disasters that occur along the way, and then end the story. I wasn’t aiming for the ultra condensed version — I just wanted to get the summary out of me and onto the page.

Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash

From here, I will slash and dash the excess words and sentences to make this “one paragraph that setups the story and describes the major disasters and ending of the book.” It will become my Step 2 in the Snowflake Method, but it will also take me much longer than an hour…

Again, I’m loving the Snowflake Method. It allows me to do a bit of both planning and pantsing. I am a pantser to the end! But this method allows me to plan out the book by actually writing big chunks of it. It doesn’t feel like planning to me at all! And it is helping me to come up with ideas and story lines for later on.

I am not sitting in front of my computer or inside my writer’s journal plugging out a I., II., II, a), b), c) outline. That’s dry and boring to me, although to some extent I do that with the chapters in the book. Write them down in the order they will come… It helps me ensure I cover everything that needs to be covered in the book because I have a logical progression of chapters. But that outlining stuff is for the birds! Writing actual sentences and paragraphs and meat of the story? That’s me all day…

Step 3 of the Snowflake Method entails writing a one-page summary sheet for each of the major characters in the story. That is a bit of planning BS to me… The beauty of the Snowflake Method is that you can do all of it or just those steps which call to you. As much of planning as this step feels to me, I am going to do it wholeheartedly though.

The Method gives you a series of details to flesh out for each of the major characters. It’s a lot of writing and not one answer or short answer type writing. Right up my alley! I have always done a bit of character sketching, but nothing in depth. I have kept track of names and ages, marital status or other encumbrances, relationship of that character to the others in the story — that sort of thing… I have never done anything detailed or in depth when it comes to character building. This step I am looking forward to.

What I am not looking forward to is trying to get those 495 words — roughly 27 sentences if I counted correctly — into 5 sentences…

Those parts that are underlined are the “disasters” that will occur in this story. I learned that little trick from the website that details the Snowflake Method. It helps ensure you have all the parts you’re supposed to have, no more and no less. I don’t know if I mentioned this to you, but The Helpdesk will be a series of books. The story spans over 15 years, far too many to try to condense into one volume. Since I’m not J.K. Rowliing nor am I writing a Harry Potter-ish tale, I don’t think a creative non-fiction book of equal length will fly. As you can see by the three “disasters” that are underlined, there’s clearly more to the story about “The Helpdesk” then 2 women forging a friendship after meeting at work and working together.

In order to accomplish this, I will have to write a series of books…

It will be cool too. The 15 year span that The Helpdesk covers is going to be a hilarious tale. I couldn’t make up the stuff that will be told if I tried, thus the creative non-fiction genre I have selected to write in for this series. This first book in the series sets up what will transpire in the rest of the books in the series. One book builds on the happenings of the book before it, culminating in Sanye’s ultimate “escape” from The Helpdesk — but not an “escape” you would imagine.

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