Welcome to the second Feature Friday – the last Friday of the month, when I chat about books on the craft of writing. This month I am working through the chapters of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. I have many other books on the craft that I’m excited to share with you, but I thought it would interesting to put this book to use in real-time; therefore, this probably won’t be the last time I talk about it on Feature Friday.
If you aren’t familiar with Blake Snyder and the beat sheet, let me briefly explain. Blake set out to help screenwriters learn how to write their screenplays using a fifteen (15) beat structure. These beats are basically plot points. Blake claims that every great Hollywood movie ever made was structured around these same fifteen beats. The goal of the beat sheet is to help writers produce tighter and more engaging stories for the screen. Fast-forward to Jessica Brody. Jessica was a struggling novelist who was failing at selling her book. A friend gave her the book, Save the Cat!, and she started applying the beat methodology to many novels, including the great classics. It proved successful! Since then, Jessica set out to help novelists use the screenwriting beat methodology for their stories because it helped her writing career tremendously, like 15+ novels sold to major publishing houses. Impressed? I know I am.
I am in awe about the book and I am only 1/4 way into the Act 1. Each chapter is packed with practical knowledge, exercises, and check list to “Check Yourself!” It’s a slower process than other writing craft books, but I am seeing why character wasn’t where I need her to be to make it through an entire novel. Figuring out your character’s arc up front is important. It’s allowing you to see if (s)he can withstand all that will be thrown at them as the trials become a true test.
I haven’t gotten to the catalyst or the inciting incident yet. I know what I want it to be, but I will have to see if it can stand the test of the beat methodology or not. Jessica does mention how these beat sheets, aka novel roadmaps, can be sparse or detailed. I personally, am aiming for detailed, hence why I am really digging deep into the exercises. I tried the James Patterson method of creating a 6-8 sentence chapter by chapter outline to keep you writing fast, but sparse outlines don’t work for me. So I’m holding out hope for this new method.
If you are leery of purchasing craft books to help you along the way, I get it. I was able to check this book out at my public library which gave me a month-long preview to really start working through the exercises. Since I loved it, I bought it. I do this with a lot of books so I don’t have buyers remorse 😉 There are a ton of free resources on the Save the Cat! website. Once school is out for the summer, I will be treating myself to one of the many workshops they offer and who knows, maybe I’ll start incorporating the beat methodology in my classroom next year.
If you have tried the Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, please let me know your thoughts. I strongly believe that writing is a journey meant to be shared. What works for one will not always work for another, but it can help others who maybe struggling with their writing. All I know is that writing doesn’t have to be done alone. Let’s share and learn from each other.
If you need a writing companion to help keep you on track, I highly recommend, Writers on Task. A journal to help you stay focused and keep you moving closer to those writing goals..