A Snowflake-ish Plotting System for Novellas

Today, I wrote 8k words.

I also watched far too much TV, played too many online games, and made two dinners (for later in the week) from scratch.

The only way this worked was due to two things:

  1. Using Dragon to dictate what I’m writing.
  2. Being obsessively well-prepared by using a variety of plotting tools, in a Snowflake-ish style.

So here’s the plotting system I’m using. It’s probably ridiculously involved for most people, and I’ll probably streamline it as I continue writing.

But hey, it’s working. That’s all I care about, right now.

I start with an idea, and I put it together in the Bedtime Story Model. Even with a half-baked concept, that step takes me about half an hour… maybe two hours, at the most.

Then, I take that story and plot it on the circus tent worksheet. Originally, I found that at Larry Brooks’ website. I’m not sure it’s still there. It looks like he replaced it with one that’s not an actual worksheet. (That’s the URL I originally used, but he’s updated the article, and the PDF is different.)

After that, I go to my own 10k-word template. (If you ignore the word counts, this form works fine for any length of novella or shorter book.)

Finally (yes, this is the last step before writing), I refine everything in my very own, eight-page hybrid beat sheet.

Generally, I don’t share that with anyone. It speaks to me; I’m not sure it’d resonate with anyone else.

Basically, it’s a mix of things including Super Structure, by James Scott Bell, The Secrets of Action Screenwriting, by William C. Martell, and Chuck Wendig’s very rude version of a beat sheet.

(The latter includes some VERY NSFW language, used over & over again. If you can ignore that, his summary is pure gold. If you can’t ignore his F-words – and worse – you’ll hate that summary. Remember, you were warned!)

I cherry-picked what I liked best among all those resources – Bell, Martell, and Wendig –  and threw together the final/fourth template (beat sheet) for this process.

Note: The Bell book is a must-own, in my opinion.

The Martell book is clearly self-published and could use some editing, but I don’t care; his insights are unique and… well, see if your library can get a copy on inter-library loan. I wasn’t impressed with the Kindle edition’s formatting. (Right now, used paperback copies start at $65 and worth every cent, because – in my opinion – his advice is that good. But, I bought my copy for $25, before other people discovered how helpful Martell’s books can be.)


This morning, by the time I fine-tuned the fourth/last version of the outline, I was ready to write. (I’d started the four-step outline process,  this past weekend.)

And that’s how 8k words flowed almost effortlessly, and I’m expecting the same tomorrow.

Obviously, I’m throwing this article together at the end of a busy day. So here it is, nearly 500 words of babble about what’s working for me. I’m apologizing in advance for any typos or things I could have said much better… but didn’t take the time.

(If something doesn’t make sense, ask in comments. I’ll reply later this week, next time I take a break. Or when the book is in the editing phase. Whichever comes first.)

I can’t promise my system will work for you, but – if you need to write your own books, quickly – it’s probably worth trying.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *