I see writers asking all the time how to stick with a project. They get a few chapters in and things die out. They don't know what to do with it, or they find their excitement for the story fades away and leaves them unmotivated to continue. When I ask these people how they prepare for their story, the most common answer I get is "Oh, I just get the idea and start writing." Sound familiar?

I've been in the same boat. In fact, despite desperately wanting to be an author since I was 9 years old, I could barely finish a story for years, let alone get anywhere near publishing it. It wasn't until I was 17 that I came across the Snowflake Method of outlining and decided to experiment with it--and proceeded to write the entire first draft of Dreams of Otherworld, what would go on to be my first published novel, in just over a month.

Now, the Snowflake Method isn't magic. Everybody has a different process and is wired a different way, and if you're happy throwing yourself into an idea and seeing where it takes you then more power to you. But if you find yourself struggling to figure out what direction to take your story, or with getting yourself to keep writing beyond the exciting few days of starting, then I advise you try it out. It may not be the method for you, but it may just solve your problems, or at least set you on a path to find a method that does.

Also keep in mind that many of the steps of this method do not have to be done in the order posted here--or done at all. If one doesn't work for you or works in a different place feel free to reorder or adjust them to suit you best.

The Snowflake Method is named so for the way you build up your story before writing it--starting with one simple piece and adding more and more to it until you have a fully fleshed-out plan. Like the image to the side shows, you add increasingly more intricate, detailed bits onto the basic shape of an idea. While that can be done in a dozen different ways, the official method is broken down into 10 steps.

Step 1: One-Sentence Summary

The first step of the Snowflake Method is to boil your idea down to its essence. The idea behind this says that it's critical to understand the core of a story, and this forces you to nail that down without getting lost in all the other elements. This one sentence should sum up the most basic idea of your story, and ideally is kept under 30 or so words and avoids any names.

Examples: A boy discovers he's a wizard and is sent to attend a magical boarding school. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

Four siblings discover a magical world hidden beyond a wardrobe, ruled by an evil witch. (The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe)

When she goes to visit an ailing relative, a girl discovers a hidden faerie kingdom and befriends its prince. (Arcatraissa)

Your one-sentence summary will serve to give you a direction to move forward from and focus your planning.

Step 2: Paragraph Summary

With the core idea down, you can move on to expanding it into an actual story. This summary should follow the entire length of your story, beginning to end, but kept to one paragraph in length, meaning only the most basic, overarching ideas of each part. If you're using the traditional three-act structure, this summary is most easily done in 5 sentences, but if you're doing something else you can adjust it to suit your needs.

Sentence 1: The set-up. How things start out--who is your protagonist, where are they at the start, and what is the expectation before things change? (If I was using Arcatraissa for this, I might write something about Cassie's family intending to visit her ill Aunt Julia for the summer, and Cassie's initial feelings on this plan.)

Sentence 2: The inciting incident. The event that interrupts the status quo--how does it happen, and what is your protagonist's reaction to it? (In Arcatraissa, this would be Cassie meeting Tae and discovering faeries are real.)

Sentence 3: The first disaster. A brief summary of what happens following the inciting incident, and how things change yet again. Does something happen to raise the stakes? Does the protagonist discover something shocking? Is a plan interrupted or not go as expected?

Sentence 4: The second disaster. Similarly to sentence 3, this should be a summary of what happens between the first disaster and an event that changes the stakes or expectations yet again. The second disaster most often becomes or leads into the story's climax.

Sentence 5: Resolution. How the climax plays out and the story ends.

Step 3: Flesh Out the Characters

Before writing, you want to know your characters just as well as you know your plot. After all, they're the ones driving most of these events you're writing about. So to make sure all these many pieces you're juggling fit together perfectly in the end, you need to know as much about your characters as possible. For each of your major characters, and even some side ones if you feel it necessary, write a short summary of their arc through the story. This can be done as a bullet pointed list, in prose form, or whatever helps you the most, but it's most helpful to include the following things:

Their goal: What does the character want to achieve? All characters--protagonist, antagonist, or in between--have a goal of some sort, and it's a crucial part of understanding their role in the story. Harry Potter wants to defeat Voldemort. Katniss Everdeen wants to win the Hunger Games.

Their motivation: Also called a character's "why", their motivation is the reason behind their goal. Every goal has a driving force behind it, sometimes more than one, and a motivation often plays into a characters' backstory and makes them more real and relatable. Harry's motivation is to protect his friends and the Wizarding world. Katniss wants to protect her sister and return home. Be sure not to gloss over your antagonists' motivations--they care about things too, whether we agree with them or not.

Internal conflicts: What does your character struggle with, beyond the outside factors going on? Are they unsure or scared of what they're doing, have their loyalties torn, or know something that conflicts with their goal?

Their epiphany (or epiphanies): This is how the character changes through the story. A realization they have or something they learn on their journey. It might change their goal or motivation, or it might be the result of succeeding or failing to achieve their goal. It might result in a new goal to lead into another story. A character's epiphany can came about in a thousand different ways and be anywhere on the spectrum between positive and negative, so let your creativity have fun figuring this out.

Step 4: Expand the Summary

You should now have the skeleton of your story and a good idea of the major characters and events in front of you. Now it's time to add the meat of the story by expanding your summary. Turn each sentence of your paragraph into a paragraph of its own, adding in details, side characters, and subplots so you have a more rounded summary of that section. By the end of this you should have a much lengthier, detailed summary that gives you a solid idea of what needs to happen and how the major events from your paragraph summary lead into one another.

Step 5: Different Perspectives

Now that you have a more detailed summary, head back to your characters and figure out how they each see the events going on. Each character should have their own unique view--they may agree on certain things, but events will ring different to different characters based on their backstories, internal conflicts, and goals. Write up a brief summary of the story from the perspective of each major character, exploring how they react to things and anything they do "off-screen" that affects other events or characters.

Step 6: Expand Again

Jump back to that 5-paragraph summary you wrote in step 4. Time to expand again. Using what you've figured out about your characters and how they fit in with these events, write a more detailed summary from beginning to end fleshing out everything that wasn't explored fully before. It's recommended you have a 3-5 page summary by the end of this, but don't worry if you go over or under. As long as you feel you understand your story well by this point, you should be okay.

Step 7: Refining Characters

We're going back to your characters for this step. You should know them pretty well by this point, but now is the time to sort out any kinks in your planning. Refine their character arcs, write out their backstories, make a chart of their role in the story, figure out their relationships with other characters, or anything else that will help you fill in any remaining gaps.

Step 8: Outline

Using your detailed summary, break the story up into scenes. It shouldn't be too hard by this point to figure out where things need to break into natural scenes or chapters based on the events. Take this list and put it into a spreadsheet, outline, or bullet point format with notes on what happens, who's involved, and any other information you feel you might need. The resulting outline will be, I find, the most useful tool for during writing, to reference as you go.

Step 9: Synopsis

This step isn't strictly necessary, but can be very helpful if you're hoping to go through the traditional publishing process. Take each scene from your outline and expand it into a short paragraph. You'll end up with a draft synopsis you can use for reference as you write, or as a basis for a synopsis you may need to give literary agents later on.

Step 10: Write!

Sit back and admire your hard work before jumping into your first draft. You should now have a solid, well-developed road map to guide you all the way, and your writer's block should be (mostly) eliminated.

The little parasite (I say lovingly) that is my son is sucking my energy today so I'm just gonna get right to it. It's character rambling time, this time with my favorite boy, Raeth.

Raeth, or Tiraethsi if you want to get on his bad side quick, is one of the major players of Tide and, personally, a favorite of mine. A siren of the Dragon Court, he's known for his cunning and merciless nature, and for parading around his "girls", some of the most beautiful women of the Court whose exact jobs are more or less unknown (though not for a lack of theorizing and gossip.) Raeth embodies everything about the tidespeople that Hania's village fears: beauty, danger, power, and a penchant for seeing people as pieces in whatever game he feels like playing.

With his goals and motives unclear, it's hard to say whether he's someone to trust or avoid--and being a siren doesn't help that. He's far from shy about the music in his very voice, or about the many things he could do with it if he chose to.

Raeth gets a spot among my favorite characters for a few reasons. He was incredibly fun to write; he has a way of leading every situation he's in however he wants it, and is very good at going unnoticed when he does. He's opportunistic and conniving and brilliant, and likes to be two steps ahead of everybody else. He can play any role he feels he needs to--friend, master, leader, weapon--and does it all with a kind of snark and dark humor he can't quite get rid of.

Check out some of the music that inspired Raeth:

Meet Raeth in the sneak peek below, and remember, Tide is available for sale now!

He ran one finger down the grimy wall of my cell and inspected it, cocking his head. As he did, he began humming, so soft at first I wasn’t sure I really heard it, but the sound grew louder. The melody was slow, smooth, growing and echoing in my head until I could do nothing but listen to it. It was a song like the ocean, like the wind, sweet and stormy and exotic. In the first seconds of it, I wondered how it was an answer but then it drove all thought from my head. It didn’t matter whether it was an answer or not, I wanted to keep listening.

Then my knees buckled, my legs too weak and dazed to hold me. The impact when I hit the floor jolted the realization into me at the same instant he stopped. My head cleared, the lovely, foggy admiration replaced by cold terror. I scrambled up, tripping over the chains in my hurry.

“Get out,” I gasped, feeling my back hit the wall opposite him. “Now.”

“You’re not in any position to be ordering me about, now, are you?”

“You’re a siren.”

He smirked. “Smart girl. Now keep that up and pay attention.”

“I don’t care what a siren has to say, get out.” Despite the brave words my voice shook. I kept against the wall; I couldn’t avoid being cornered, not here, but I could stay as far from him as possible. As if a simple distance of a couple yards would prevent him from killing me if he chose. Aven’s warning echoed loud and clear in my mind.

“Look.” The siren stepped toward me again and I flinched. “You and I both know that if I wanted to hurt you it’d be done already. A few words, a bit of song, and I’d be able to make you do anything I wanted. But I haven’t. Do you think there might be a reason?”

Of course there was. But I didn’t like any of the potential reasons I could think of. I decided not to suggest them and asked, “Who are you?”

“Always with the most boring questions, you humans,” he muttered but answered after a brief pause. “Call me Raeth.”

I forced myself to relax a fraction, though I didn’t take my eyes off him. “Hania.”

“I know. The Court gossips.” He turned away, strolling along the wall separating me from the next prisoner as if exploring the tiny space. The strange light danced across him, and where it hit bare skin revealed tiny scales for an instant before he moved away. “You are the…whatever you are, of our queen’s new plaything. And you’ve come to free him, I presume.”

“I have.”

“Do you think you can manage it?” A pit in my insides said no, I couldn’t. I had no hope of standing up to people like this. Just looking at Raeth made my legs watery with fear; I couldn’t win out against his queen. The siren must have understood my answer in my expression, because he nodded. “I thought not. That’s why I’m here.”

“Why you’re here?”

“To help.”

I stared, disbelieving. Why would a siren want to help me? Unless he meant to give me some sort of false hope, get me close to saving Tobin to make crushing me all the sweeter. A sick game? “Why should I trust you?”

“Because you’ll die if you don’t.”

If you follow my social media you've probably seen Enchanted Kingdoms popping up, but I figured it's time for an official announcement here for anyone who hasn't, and I should explain a little more about this awesome set. Enchanted Kingdoms is a limited edition box set of novel-length fairytale retellings by a collection of bestselling and award-winning fantasy authors. I'm very honored to have been offered a spot in it, and will be contributing a Snow White and the Seven Dwarves retelling, which I'll tell you guys more about in the coming months.

While I've always loved fairytales and enjoyed retellings, I never thought of them as something I'd write myself. I was completely caught off guard when my Snow White story came to me, and I'm very excited for you guys to check it out. I've gone a little out of my comfort zone with protagonist Neyva and this story definitely had its challenges for me to write, so I'm hoping you all enjoy it in the end. It's already been a crazy ride working on this set with the other authors, and I can't wait to read their stories as well.

The other cool thing about this set? The proceeds go to Puzzle Peace United, a charity dedicated to spreading autism awareness as well as helping autistic children and their families get the resources and tools they need to succeed and connect with a support system of people like them. This is a topic close to my heart, as my little brother is on the autism spectrum and I've seen the challenges he sometimes faces in a neurotypical world. You can learn more about Puzzle Peace United here.

Ready to jump in? You can preorder Enchanted Kingdoms now for only $0.99! Every Nook preorder comes with a load of freebies including a fantasy-inspired cookbook (head here to get yours) and more to come, and if you're not a Nook user look out for deals on other platforms in the coming weeks.

Click here to preorder!

Old tales: New twist The stories you loved as a child have been twisted into wildly addictive tales that will bewitch you as an adult: enchanted castles, spellbinding magic, handsome princes, beautiful princesses, and as many happily-ever-afters as your heart desires. Cherish this mesmerizing set of 20 classic tales retold by a collection of best-selling and award-winning authors. Each novel-length story features a different take on your favorite fairytale.

Your every fantasy will come to life in ways you could never have imagined, packed full of heart-wrenching romance, gripping adventure, and magic that will weave you in its spell. Grab this limited edition set before the clock strikes midnight!

The box set includes:

Alice in Wonderland by J. A. Armitage and J.A. Culican Cinderella by Kimbra Swain Snow White and Rose Red by Eileen Mueller and A.J. Ponder Beauty and the Beast by Beth Hale Aladdin by Zara Quentin Rumpelstiltskin by Craig Halloran Sleeping Beauty by Stacey O'Neale Wizard of Oz by Amanda Marin Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Lacy Sheridan Red Riding Hood by May Dawson Rapunzel by Anne Stryker Sinbad the Sailor by Cassidy Taylor Robin Hood by Jacque Stevens Little Match Girl by Lee Ann Ward Twelve Dancing Princesses by Kit Winters Mulan by Charlotte Daniels and Charlie Daniels The Nightingale by IreAnne Chambers and Rachel McManamay The Girl without Hands by Daphne Moore Nix of the Mill Pond by Astrid V.J

© 2018 Lacy Sheridan | Author

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