Adapting the Snowflake Method

Last Friday I sent my second completed dissertation chapter to my director! I must admit that I underestimated how long it would take me to put this chapter together. I was beginning with two literary analysis term papers (one that was 26 pages long and another supplemental 10-page paper that made new claims but also repeated some analysis from the first paper) and thought this would significantly speed up the writing process.  I’m sure it did, but it was still a lot of work and the compiling was more time-consuming than I expected. Moreover, my discussion of an adaptation of “Little Red Riding Hood” necessitated a lot of secondary source reading given the number of books written on the topic.

Today, I happened across Randy Ingermanson’s “Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel.” While I’m not writing a novel, I think this method can be adapted to dissertation writing, or in my case, dissertation chapter writing. After only a weekend break after submitting my last chapter, I find myself highly motivated to begin work on another compilation chapter. This next chapter currently exists in a much more fragmented and incomplete form: approximately five term papers focus or touch on my topic but unlike my last chapter, I do not have a longer paper focusing specifically on the analysis my dissertation chapter will present. Therefore, this chapter is going to require more organization and more additions on my part, and I think an adaptation of Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method will help me achieve this organization and quickly identify and begin to fill in the gaps in my existing (fragmented) argument.

Ingermanson’s method consists of ten steps that I’ve adapted to dissertation chapter writing below:

The Snowflake Method Ingermanson’s Orignal Method for Novel Design Adapted for Dissertation Chapter Composition
Step 1 One-sentence summary of novel Thesis statement detailing chapter argument
Step 2 Paragraph-length summary of novel (expand Step 1) Paragraph-length overview of chapter
Step 3 One-page summary sheets for characters Brief analyses of primary texts discussed in chapter
Step 4 One-page skeleton of novel (expand Step 2) Outline chapter
Step 5 One-page character synopses (tell story from characters’ POVs) Connect brief analyses of primary texts to thesis statement/overall argument (expand Step 3)
Step 6 Four-page synopsis (expand Step 4) Introduction to chapter (expand Steps 1 & 2)
Step 7 Character charts (everything there is to know about each character) Complete, in-depth literary analysis of primary texts (expand Step 5)
Step 8 List of scenes in spreadsheet Research and compose list of secondary sources
Step 9 Narrative description of story (describe each scene in list) Read secondary sources, noting information and/or quotations that contribute to your argument/analysis
Step 10 Draft novel Layer in secondary sources and fill in remaining gaps in draft to form a cohesive argument; Add conclusion

Following this adapted method, I can organize and determine what fragments of my chapter already exist and what needs to be written, and by the time I complete Step 10, I should have a full draft of my chapter that is already relatively polished. We’ll have to see how this actually works out, but at the very least, I think the adaption of Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method has given me some direction for moving forward with my next dissertation chapter.

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One thought on “Adapting the Snowflake Method

  1. Pingback: Update: Adapted Snowflake Method & HabitRPG | shandi lynne wagner

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