Literary Snowflakes

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Between my transcription and editing work, critiquing for one of my CPs from last year’s WriteType match up, and proofreading for an editor-friend, I haven’t gotten to do much writing lately. The last few days, I’ve been diving back into a short story idea that I thought of last year and only worked on briefly when the muse was particularly strong. (If you’d like to contribute to my research for that, find out more in this post.)

Today, I’ve been pushing through a synopsis as part of my “Snowflake” planning (credit: Randy Ingermanson).

Can I just say it? Development is painful. If you groaned with me at the word “synopsis,” I know you agree. But then, all growth is painful to some degree, right? My oldest kid is losing her baby teeth, and I frequently hear how uncomfortable that process is. I mean, bone is growing inside her jaw, hormones (or something) are causing the blood vessels and nerves attached to the baby teeth to dissolve so that this new bony growth can force them out. It sounds like something out of a horror movie or a flick about an alien parasite infestation. But nothing will burst out of her gut, thankfully–she’ll have new, strong, permanent teeth that, if she takes care of them, will last a lifetime.

It’s the same way when you plan out a story. Now, this one luckily came to me courtesy of a very bizarre dream. But for the sake of publishing it, I do still have to do some serious work with it. How many of our dreams actually make any sense, after all?

My favorite method for planning is by far this Snowflake method, whereby you start small and build outward. After I get the basics down, I may still go back and outline each scene as I did with Blaze in preparation for NaNoWriMo (which I highly recommend–the more you prepare in advance, the more easily you can stay on target). That, as it turns out, is also something Mr. Ingermanson discusses on his website–Dwight Swain’s Scene & Sequel combos. As this project will be a short story, I’m torn right now between wanting to map these out in order to be as efficient as possible and wanting to let myself write more organically so that I’m not going over my word count trying to squeeze everything in. It’s a balancing act, though. I could just as easily go over my target by not having enough structure to constrain myself.

Right now, though, I’m on Snowflake Step 4–turning my 1-paragraph summary from Step 2 into a 1-page synopsis. And as much as I really do love writing, I am really having to force myself to stay on task. It’s very much like what you learned in middle school about writing research papers, taking topic sentences and expanding them into full paragraphs, each with an introduction, body, and conclusion that are still somewhat independent while part of a whole.

It is my hope that by putting myself through this mental exercise, I’ll have the story fleshed out enough that the actual writing will be easier, clearer, and cover everything I want to cover so that I can deliver you–my hopeful readers–a quality story with which to entertain yourselves. For now, here is my 1-paragraph summary to tease your imaginations.

After watching his father deteriorate from cancer treatments, Jackson agrees to sponsor him at a remote retreat center that offers the promise of a peaceful, legal death. Once there, he begins to wish he had taken the time to research the place more himself, unsure how exactly the proprietors will be able to skirt the law, how the “transitions” will occur, and other details that seem strangely lacking. But it isn’t until another sponsor points out that several clients are “repeat customers” that he grows genuinely concerned: a good third of the retreatants were actually sponsors for one of their own loved ones sometime within the past year and returned to the Ranch when they suddenly fell devastatingly ill themselves. Jackson and his new fellow-sponsor acquaintances must use their limited time wisely to determine the link between the Rancher and the ex-sponsors’ illnesses in order to avoid a similar fate.

Stay tuned to my blog or follow me on Facebook for updates on this project. I’m very excited about it and hope to get it completed fairly quickly.

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