Randy Ingermanson is the creator of the "Snowflake Method" for writing a novel. We talked about that the other day. In a nutshell, you start by defining your novel in a single sentence. Then you expand that to a paragraph, and finally to a page. From there, you flesh out your characters and begin brainstorming the scenes you'll need to tell your story. At that point, you should be ready to write.
Snowflake Pro guides you through Ingermanson's method from start to finish. It doesn't force a particular structure or story design on you, but tries to help you flesh out the story using whatever structure works for that story. You won't write your novel in Snowflake Pro. It's not a word processor. Ingermanson describes it as a "design tool" which is an apt description. It helps you design the story, but the structure and writing are all up to you.
Getting the Software
You can buy Snowflake Pro directly from the developer's web site. List price for the software is $100, but if you have purchased the Randy Ingermanson's Writing Fiction for Dummies book from Amazon or another retailer, you can get 50% off (making the software $50). Compared to some of the other writing tools on the Internet, that's cheaper than some and more expensive than others.
Once you purchase the software, you'll download it from the author's web site. Versions are available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. This post will focus on the Windows version, which is what I use. You'll install the software on your computer, launch it, and start using it.
Welcome to Snowflake Pro
|Snowflake Pro Welcome Screen|
When you're ready to begin, you click the Start tab near the upper-left corner of the window.
Here, you'll provide information about your novel - its title, subtitle, category, expected word count, and target reader.
If you need help with these things, clicking the "Play Lecture Audio" button will play a recording of Ingermanson himself telling you what belongs in the various fields. This audio is available for each step in the process. You can also click the "View Lecture Notes" if you prefer to read rather than listen. The Lecture Notes are a written version of the audio in most cases.
You can also view the Help Notes, which often provide similar (sometimes very redundant) information:
Ingermanson includes sample Snowflake files for the first Harry Potter book, Gone with the Wind, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Pride and Prejudice.
If all this isn't enough help for you, there's also a Help menu in the product with links to the product support page, frequently asked questions, feature requests, bug reports, and more.
Next, you'll input your Author Information for the story.
Step 1 - One Sentence Summary
The point of crafting this one-liner is to focus in on the most important elements of your story. This is your "elevator pitch" for the novel you're about to write. With this summary "skeleton" created, you're ready to start fleshing out the next level of detail.
Step 2 - One Paragraph Summary
With your storyline summarized, you're ready to move on.
Step 3 - Defining Your Characters
Once you've gone through this exercise for all your characters, it's time for the next step.
Step 4 - The Short Synopsis
Now that you've expanded on the big-picture view of your story, it's time for the next level of detail.
Step 5 - Write Character Synopses
At this point, you've gotten down a lot of detail about the story and the characters. In the next step, you'll flesh things out even more.
Step 6 - Long Synopsis
Now that you've detailed a lot of the story, it's time to further enhance your character detail.
Step 7 - Character Charts
Next, it's time to brainstorm the scenes you need to tell your story.
Step 8 - Make a List of Scenes
Step 9 - Notes and Ideas for Scenes
Now that you've brainstormed this novel thoroughly, it's time to look at your Proposal.
Much of the information that goes into the earlier steps gets automatically carried over into this one to make it easier for you.
And that's pretty much it. You've brainstormed your story, characters, and scenes. You should have a good long synopsis of what's going to happen, which serves as the roadmap for your writing efforts.
If you wanted to take the Snowflake Method for a test drive, you might do a web search for Snowflake documents. You'll likely find a number of spreadsheets and word processing document files that ask all the same questions that Snowflake Pro does. Those tools won't include Ingermanson's audio discussions, lecture notes, etc. They probably won't come with support. And you might have to adjust them to work with your word processor or screen size. But they won't cost you $50. If you try those and like them, you might want to get Snowflake Pro to have the advantage of a tool supported by the creator of the method. If you try some of those freebies and don't see the value in them, or you read Ingermanson's book and decide it's rubbish, save your money.
As for me, I'm giving it a shot. I've written six novels now, but I've never brainstormed one from a single-sentence description up to a full synopsis. It seems like a complementary approach to things that have worked for me in the past. I find that if I try to do a "seat of the pants" write that I go wildly off topic, forget critical events that I wanted to have happen in the story, etc. Perhaps brainstorming with this top-down approach will deliver better results. Perhaps not.
I haven't had the software long, so time will tell how much I use it, how often, etc. Right now, it's one of the tools in my writing toolbox. Others include Dramatica Pro 4.0, StoryCraft, Scrivener, Power Structure, and Mariner Contour. There are probably some others in there, too. We'll discuss them eventually.
I will say that Snowflake Pro seems to be reliable software that does what it claims to do. I've not had it crash on me or lose anything I've written. I can't say the same for some other tools I've used over the years.