Character + Event = Conflict

An exhausted new mother braves her first proper blog entry, but the dirty dishes are piling higher and higher…

Luckily, Mr Moore has decided to clean the house and baby is having a snooze, so this story has a happy beginning. Today I want to start the long process of plotting out, reorganising, and revising the last novel I wrote, which I’ve tentatively called The Grey Space. Or The Greyspace. Or Greyspace. I sense this is going to go really well.

In the past I’ve tried different methods to plan out my writing. One method I’ve always liked is called the Snowflake Method of novel design. Created by Randy Ingermanson, it is a highly systematic approach to building up your novel – there are steps and layers and cool diagrams of triangles turning into snowflakes… Check it out here. You can use it for a novel that you’ve already written too, but the best thing about this method for me at the moment is I can probably fit the steps in around a baby… And going back to work next week… And getting the house ready to sell…

The first step in the Snowflake method is to take a little time and write a one sentence summary of your novel. That’s it. Easy right?

I thought so. But trying to boil down my messy, binge-written, odd little book into one hook filled, intriguing sentence is not easy at all. That’s probably why Ingermanson says planning a novel before writing it is the better way to go. Still, I’m giving it a go!

My first attempt:

A mentally unstable young woman discovers a magical space in her new workplace.

Wow. Dull. And not particularly kind to my protagonist either, not that I have to be kind to her. I think there are two main problems with this summary – the phrase ‘mentally unstable’ is off putting, and the word ‘magical’ is just really… Blah.

Looking at the New York Times Best Seller list (which is one of Ingermanson’s tips), most of the summaries go something like this:

“An Australian lighthouse keeper and his wife decide to keep a baby who has washed ashore” Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

“A travel writer on a cruise is certain she has heard a body being thrown overboard, but no one believes her” The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

What strikes me about the best summaries on the list is they seem to follow a formula: Character + Event = Conflict. I certainly want to read both of these books – and if I want people to read mine, I need to follow the same kind of pattern. Here’s what I have settled for:

“A graduate takes a job in a publishing house and finds a secret on the top floor, but starts to lose her grip on reality.”

One of the things about the Snowflake method is you can go back and revise the previous steps as you progress and discover more about your novel and characters. I definitely need to spend a bit of time re-reading the book and making notes – so I better get to it!

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