A Writer’s View: Snowflaking, Agile, Philosophy

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr – and hey, think this should go on the Sanctum too?)

As mentioned earlier, The Snowflake Method really jumpstarted my return to writing with my new novel “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet.” It was a smart, mature take on writing that gelled both with my techniques and with Agile.

The basic idea is iteratively detailing your work. A story starts as a sentence, becomes a paragraph, becomes several paragraphs, and eventually becomes a scene-by-scene outline – or more. The author used to detail scenes out before writing them, but found it wasn’t necessary as he got good at this.

I felt most of the same way, but some scenes troubled me as I wrote them. Frustrated, I thought it over – and used the “Five Whys.”

  • WHY does this feel wrong? Because I don’t have a grasp of the scene – I’m stabbing at it.
  • WHY am I stabbing at it? Because I’m starting too ephemerally – yet when I write the scene it often surprises me with its depth.
  • WHY does it start ephemeral then get “deep”? Because I don’t start off with enough “gut” feel for it.
  • WHY don’t I have a gut feel for it? Because I’m diving in and not getting a feel for it.
  • WHY am I diving in and not getting a feel for it? Duh, I need to sort of “ease in” to this.

Once again the Five Whys comes through. I was diving into my scenes not “easing in” to them, so I’d start them without a good feel for them. The gentleman behind the Snowflake Method had long experience writing so didn’t need to detail his scenes; I’ve been writing for a long time, but was a bit rusty, so needed to “ease in” to a scene.

So now how do I ease in? Well, back to the Snowflake method and Agile.

The Snowflake method emphasizes starting small and general and expanding – just like good product design and good Agile planning. So what I did for scenes (at least when I felt disconnected) is the following.

For every scene as I prepare to write it:

  1. Sum the scene’s goal and viewpoint, and possibly a theme.
  2. Use that to create a single-sentence description. It might mean revising #1
  3. Once that sentence feels “right” write a paragraph of the scene.
  4. Once the paragraph feels “right” do an outline of all major events, in order, a sentence apiece.

What’s funny is this is what I used to do for short fiction. It had gotten kind of automatic in my writing and I think I forgot where it fit.

So once again the Five Whys, Agile, and the Snowflake method come through – however there’s more.

This has made me wonder, again, how much we can detail scenes and documents before writing them. A simpler fiction book or a general nonfiction book could probably be diagrammed to the paragraph level; something more complex, not so much. Some work requires you to get your hands dirty before you realize what’s really going on. I’m very curious what my writing will be like after this.

Then again you get to watch that process.

(Oh and if you need some other creative boosts, check out my book on Creative Paths!)

– Steve

Steve’s Update 6/26/2017

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)

It’s my weekly Scrum style standup for my audience.  I also am going to try to focus a bit more on what it delivers to you.

So what have I done the last week?

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #1: This is now queued for publication!  So you’ll be getting it ready very shortly!  I also need reviewers.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #6: Writing but frankly – not enjoying it.  I’ve got more on that below.
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” I kid you not, Chapter #1 is in draft form and I’m editing it now.  I’ll be looking for prereaders in a few days!  So hit me up!
  • Blogging: Queued up a new blog post for tomorrow on Agile methods.
  • Other: Not much else to be blunt, lots of chores and catchup and a few other things.

What am I going to do this week:

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #1: I’m going to get that out this week.  I’ll post alerts of course and will be letting people know via my newsletter and usual posts.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #6:  See below.
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” Get Chapter #1 to being editable.  Then I’ll make it available!
  • Writing: I have one or two more posts to do on writing.  I am in a regular cadence here.
  • Sprint Planning: Time to plan the sprint for July!


  • Some friends are moving, and though I now don’t think it’ll take any time, I don’t know.
  • As of Way With Worlds Minibook #6 I am actually kind of tired of writing these.  I may take a break this month to regroup as it doesn’t have to be finished for awhile.  I’ve written five of these over the years already!  I may poke at it now and then but it’s not scheduled – it’s a stretch goal.

– Steve

Steve’s Update 6/19/2017

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)

It’s my weekly Scrum style standup for the audience.  Here’s what’s up – but first a note.

The last two months have been pretty intense, its all been books and writing for the most part.  I may be changing some of my plans around so it’s a bit more diverse.

So what have I done the last week?

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #1: All formatted and ready to go!  Pretty much I can launch it any time.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #6: Writing away.  I’m going to try and block out time to just finish it, but not making any plans.
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” The plot is outlined!  In fact the “draft” was better than I thought!
  • Social: I spoke at Hydra-Con, made lots of new contacts, and had a great time.  Promising new con!

What am I going to do this week:

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #1: Setting up marketing and getting publishing queued up!  You should see it later next week.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #6:  Writing more of it.
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” Working on Chapter #1.  I might try to blitz it this weekend, but the goal is a readable draft end of month.
  • Writing: The usual blogging, plus a few other things I want to write.


  • Some friends are moving, which might require some of my time.

– Steve