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How To Build a Snowman (Any Time of The Year) Tags: writing plotting character development novel writing writing methods snowflake method for writing a novel

How To Build a Snowman (Any Time of the Year)

I know, sounds impossible doesnít it? But hopefully it got your attention. †And when Iím not talking about the cold white stuff as such, it will make more sense.

When I realised during NaNo, that my story was going to be a lot bigger than Iíd originally planned, I nearly threw in the towel. It was day thirteen (ominous enough). I had a sore throat, a thumping headache and so curled up on the sofa with my Kindle. Scrolling through the unread items in the library I came across How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson. This method wasnít new to me but I hadnít read the book. Itís not a long book, in fact I didnít put it down until I had read ĎThe Endí.

Randy explains the method using familiar characters and stories from childhood. Goldilocks is the protagonist and the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs feature but it is by no means a fairy story. It takes you through the ten steps of the Snowflake Method demonstrating each one with examples of how it works in practice and more. I have never read a How To book like it. At first I thought, Ďthis is stupidí and then two hours later, I reached ĎThe End. What can I say? †Iím a simple girl at heart and love a fairytale.

There are three reasons this method works for me:

  • Plot or Character Driven: First and foremost it solves this age old issue †as the steps alternate between the two, interweaving each so that both are given equal consideration. †Makes sense when you think that a story canít do without either.

  • Small Steps: The steps for both plot and character build on one another. The analogy with the snowflake fractal is that it starts small and then becomes more complex. The actions range from writing a one sentence plot synopsis to detailed scene summaries and character point of view sketches to character bibles.

  • Ease of Change: The most important thing for me is the ability to backtrack at any point of this system. I have a scatter brain. My Ďwhat ifísí can cover three or four pages and I like to play with different scenarioís to see what impact they have. This way means that I donít have to rewrite reams and reams or discover half way through thousands of words that itís not working.

Much of the work produced by this method will come in handy at the publication stage. †It provides material that will market the story in a succinct, snappy style. It can also be used, in reverse, for an existing Work in Progress which may be floundering for whatever reason.

So no need to don your hat, gloves and coat. You can start using snowflakes to build your snowman in the comfort of your warm writing place, and not just at Christmas - or November for that matter.

Have A Listen Tags: audiobooks writing

How does your story sound? When I read what Iíve written, I hear the story in my head. I hear the mood created by the narrative passages and the sound of each characterís voice. I imagine most writers have clear ideas about how their stories sound. Of course, this doesnít mean that a reader will envision it in exactly the same way. Each reader will have his own perception of it.

Wouldnít it be great to have a format in which to present your book to readers in the way you envision it? Creating an audiobook gives you the opportunity to do this. I have to admit that Iíve always concentrated on getting my thoughts down on the page in written form and havenít been very interested in any form of aural presentation of my work (live readings or audiobooks) but this autumn I decided to dip my toes into the waters of audiobooks.

†Why? Well, audiobooks seem to be a market that is becoming increasingly popular as people lead busy lives and donít have time to sit down to read. Instead, some choose to listen to books as they do something else. Also, audiobooks give people who are vision impaired access to them, opening another market for writers.

There are several established companies that produce audiobooks, but for those of us living outside the United States, we only have access to a few of them. The primary one available to most of us is ACX.

Discussing the pros and cons of each of the companies is outside the remit of this blog post. Iíd like to concentrate on the process of creating an audiobook. So weíll stick with ACX as our model.

†ACX allows an author to either narrate his book himself or hire a narrator to do it. If you choose to hire a narrator, you can either pay for the project upfront or hire a narrator who is willing to profit share with you.

I decided to hire a narrator rather than narrate the book myself as I donít have the technical knowhow to record and produce a good quality recording, nor the right accent for the character in the story (not to mention that I wouldnít trust my temperamental computer to co-operate with me either). For my first foray into the world of audiobooks, Iíve chosen a short story (the finished recording is half an hour long) to record.

I uploaded the manuscript to my author dashboard then started making necessary decisions to get the ball rolling: before I chose the narrator, I had to decide exactly what I wanted so I could explain it to her.

†An Irish female character is the first person narrator of my story so I knew I wanted a female narrator. For a story told in the third person, the writer would need to consider whether a male or female voice best suited the book. Once the narrator is chosen, the writer needs to guide him to create the desired mood and pacing for the story, as well as explain each characterís way of speaking and any accents any of them have. The narrator needs to understand how the writer envisions the characters to portray them accurately.

†After providing as much detail as possible about what I wanted, I received audition tracks of several narratorsí readings and requested a sample narration of an excerpt from my story from a couple of the narrators. I initially chose narrators whose voices I enjoyed listening to and who could produce convincing British or Irish accents as I needed a regional accent for my project. Later, when I listened to the narrators I chose to read an excerpt from my story, I considered whether the story sounded the way I envisioned it. Were they able to create an air of tension and suspense without being melodramatic and could they produce the accent I wanted for character.

One of the narrators did an excellent job so I hired her and we began working on the project together. I found it an interesting process to work with a narrator. Although she grasped how I wanted to present the story with minimal direction, I did have the chance to comment on how she read passages (too fast, too slow, more tension etc), how dialogue was delivered and how words should be pronounced to fit the accent of the character. I imagine it was a bit like being a theatre director on a very small scale (I tried very hard not to let the power go to my head).

After the recording was finished, I reviewed it. At this point, itís important to be sure that everything is exactly as you want it to be because once it is approved that is the final product, just the same as when you upload a book file to Amazon to digitally publish it. Thereís no turning back after you approve the recording.

I hadnít known what to expect before I started this project but I really enjoyed the process and was thrilled when I heard the completed audiobook. I felt like my character, Bridie Murphy, had stepped off the page and become real when I listened to recording. Thatís the magic a skilled narrator can make happen. Although I had never considered creating an audiobook until a couple months ago, Iím glad Iíve dipped my toes into the water. I havenít even begun to think about marketing it yet, but no matter what the sales figures will be for the book, itís an experience Iím glad Iíve had. And, unless I find I was wrong and there is no market at all for audiobooks, I think I will create more audiobooks in future. ††

Words Waiting to be Written Tags: Waiting Words Time Writing

Words Waiting to be Written

Has it ever occurred to you how much time we spend waiting?

In the good old days, weíd wait for the postman to arrive but with the march of time, we glance at the screen and wait for emails.

We wait for the kettle to boil, wait for the train, wait for the rain to stop, wait for the long overdue baby to be born, wait for the kids to come home and wait for the results of medical tests. Doubtless there are many examples of waiting but you get the idea.

Wouldnít it be wonderful if we could harness this time and get some of it back?

The question is -how?

Do we use that waiting time wisely?

Lately, I have spent a lot of time in doctorsí waiting rooms with my husband. There are days when he doesnít want to talk so my options are to read a book (there is always one in my bag!) gaze at the dusty old pot-plants, out-of-date magazines or retrieve the notebook (also in my bag) and jot down ideas relevant to writing.

Which brings me neatly full-circle. I am waiting (thereís that word again!) for my writing spirit to return. Did the anaesthetic I had for my recent hip replacement kill off my creative side, has the last month of worrying about my husbandís health caused writers block? It certainly feels big enough to be more aptly called a writerís blockade. Twelve-foot-tall, six-foot-wide, a mile long and made of concrete. A definite wall through which words to paper cannot pass!

Just writing this blog and sitting at the desk and reconnecting with my laptop has been a good thing. I hope Iím not imagining things, but it feels like the neurons or pathways in the creative hemisphere of my brain are beginning to fire.

Having said all that, the idea of all this waiting fascinates me. This morning I had to ring a courier. After the 7th ďYour call is important to usĒ I hung up, sick of waiting.

The time I spent on hold, I could have walked the parcel of faulty goods to the depot, based the other side of Sydney. The rising frustration prompted me to google the idea and surprisingly, there is a lot of relevant information. Included below is one of the better links.


It was while I was leaning on the kitchen bench, phone in hand and waiting to be answered I realised how much writing is done in the head. This is before one commits ideas to paper.

Again, turning to Google, I find this link and share it with you below.

Scroll down to Item four for the paragraph on writing in your head, itís worth a look.


In conclusion, how do you spend your time when waiting? What examples of waiting cause you the most frustration? Have you learnt a secret mantra, or perhaps you breathe deeply to achieve a state of calm?

Is your latest masterpiece composed in your head whilst doing that very thing Öwaiting.

I shall wait your reply!†


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