Snowflake Method for Planners or Pantsers

Snowflake Method Book Cover of Randy Ingermanson

The Snowflake Method can help whether you are a planner who plans everything out in advance, or a pantser who flies by the seat of their pants. Whether you are a planner or pantser, it saves time if you start with the first two parts of the ten-part snowflake system.

The first part of the snowflake system is to write the complete story in a single sentence of 15 words or fewer. The famous elevator pitch.

Imagine getting into a lift with someone who is getting out at the next floor, and you only have seconds to describe what your story is about. Here are a couple of examples.

  1. It’s the story of a civil war taking place in a distant galaxy told from the perspective of the rebels fighting evil Imperial forces (Star Wars).
  2. It’s the story of a pilot flying bombing missions who tries to fake insanity to get sent home, but the fact he does not want to fly into a war zone proves he is not insane (Catch-22).

The second part of the snowflake system is to enlarge that single sentence into a paragraph of five sentences. Introduction, three crisis points, conclusion.

Purist who are pantser’s will scowl by now, but a paragraph explaining your entire book in five sentences can be truly liberating because you know the story works. You know where you’re starting and you know where you want to end up. Once you’ve started writing, you have a destination to aim for.

If you’re a planner, there’s lots more planning to do. If you’re a pantser, that single paragraph is all you need. It’s like a walk in a strange country. Planners may want a map and compass, and a detailed description of the route. Pantser’s only need to know where to start and the destination they’re aiming for. They’ll find the route for themselves.

The crucial advantage of the system comes if you work on that single paragraph before you begin writing your novel. If you can write the paragraph, then you know your story will work. If you can’t write the paragraph, then you need to rethink your story.

Ultimately, it gives you more confidence (if it works) or prevents a lot of heartache down the road (if it doesn’t work).

So write a single sentence to describe your story, then enlarge that sentence into a five sentence paragraph taking you from the start to the end of your story. That simple process will keep you on the right track, whether you are a planner or pantser.


For those who are planners, once you have got your five sentence summary, the Snowflake system continues as follows.

Take each of your five sentences and enlarge each sentence into a five sentence paragraph.

Take each of your twenty-five sentences and enlarge each sentence into a five sentence paragraph.

Take each of your 125 sentences … and so on.

There is, of course, more to it than that, and there are various pages on the internet. Those pages are of varying quality, so if you want to get the full picture I’d advise you to read the book written by the person who devised the Snowflake Method. His book, ‘How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method’ by Randy Ingermanson, should be available to order from most good book sellers (and before you ask, I’m not supplying a link and we have no financial interest in the book we are recommending. We just like it and recommend it).

Snowflake Method Book Cover of Randy Ingermanson
Cover of Snowflake Method Book

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