Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The twinkie method

Many of you writers have heard of Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method for planning novels. Some of you, I know, are actively flakin' away. Mr. Ingermanson makes no claim that his approach is the best; he freely admits there are other successful techniques. Well, here's mine: the twinkie method. Unlike the Snowflake, the twinkie does not require many oodles of column inches of explanation. It's a simple two-stepper you could do in your head, though I prefer to work it out on paper. My memory just isn't that trustworthy. 1. First, figure out the novel's outer shell. 2. Next, figure out what manner of creamy goodness you're gonna use to stuff that shell. I'm not sure, but I strongly suspect Terry Pratchett uses (and Douglas Adams used) this technique. Be honest: don't most Discworld novels feel like a series of great set-pieces crammed into a rather loose framing plot? (Night Watch is a notable exception.) For those folks trying to establish a correspondence between the twinkie and the snowflake, my step 1 is the same as Ingermanson's step 1. My step 2 is Ingermanson's step 2 through 10. Isn't that helpful? But, seriously, folks. I tried to start a snowflake last night for the sequel to The Brakan Correspondent. I hit on this 14 word* one-liner after an hour's work: Nothing will stop an unscrupulous extraterrestrial talent scout from snagging Earth's hottest new writer. Short and sweet, but it barely hints at what I have in mind. How do I tell the reader that the action will take place on Sylvanon, the galaxy's ultimate Planet Hollywood? How do I keep the reader from thinking I mean me when I write 'Earth's hottest new writer'? (I mean, don't you just hate it when Stephen King puts himself in his novels? Think Misery, which wasn't misery enough.) In fact, the Earthling in question writes for Hallmark Greeting Cards ('The next Kahlil Gibran!' my protag will gush. 'A Richard Bach's Richard Bach!') And how do I work in the fact I'll be stirring in two characters from Brakan Correspondent to thicken the stew? Here's what I've managed thus far: On planet Sylvanon, entertainment hub of the galaxy, an unscrupulous talent scout intent on snagging Earth's hottest new greeting card writer finds himself in the middle of two Brakan expatriates' deadly conflict. Whew. Thirty-two words, and isn't it a mouthful? I'm not entirely happy with it, but I'm too eager to move on to step two. Time to think up some creamy goodness**. D. *Ingermanson: "Shorter is better. Try for fewer than fifteen words." **No, I haven't finished the novel . . . but it's damned close, and I'm feeling some nascent separation anxiety. I think the birthing process will be less traumatic if I know I am already pregnant with the next novel. And how's that for an over-extended metaphor?

8 Comments:

Blogger Pat said...

Still flakin' away, as you say. Working on the zeroth draft, and I've had some ideas that will fit nicely into my framework.

I do like the twinkie™® concept, I have to admit.

I also note that I've replied to your blog more often than I've generated content in mine, lately. What's that say about me?

5/04/2005 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Hmm. What does it say about you?

One of the big SF guys -- Bruce Sterling, maybe -- wrote somewhere that blogging was a lot like stand-up comedy. I suppose that's why I like it. Also, blogging obliges me to write every day, something I wouldn't have the discipline to do otherwise.

I suspect the reason I'm getting any traffic at all to this blog (more than 50 hits in the last day!) is that I post on a daily basis. I may not be consistently entertaining, but I hope at least a few of my bits are tasty. It's Psych 101, Pat. Intermittent positive reinforcement works best. No positive reinforcement = extinction.

You are all my mice, muajajaja*.

*Spanish for muahahaha. I learned that on a blog.

5/04/2005 09:25:00 PM  
Blogger Jona said...

Pregnant again, before you’ve given birth? You gorgeous slapper! (You’ve made this ‘ol bird happy ;o))

Having decided to dump 60% of my NIP and attempt a less drastic finale (I killed my heroine off – well it’s an end, right?) will try your twinkie method in the hope of creating some structure. Wish me luck, I need it!

Debi

P.s. Haven’t read Richard Bach in years and now have the urge to dig out The Reluctant Messiah, (but that Seagull one wound me up, they’re a bloody nuisance and folks got all romantic about ‘em after reading his nonsense!)

5/05/2005 02:15:00 AM  
Blogger Jona said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/05/2005 02:15:00 AM  
Blogger mm said...

Doug - I'm resurrecting my blog (I start and delete it every couple months - I have blogADD) Can I add a link to yours from it?

5/05/2005 08:14:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

No prob, Maureen. I've linked you to mine.

Doug

5/05/2005 05:12:00 PM  
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