SAVE THE CAT!® by Blake Snyder is a popular screenwriting book series and storytelling methodology used by screenwriters, directors, and studio execs across Hollywood. Now, for the first time ever, bestselling author and writing teacher, Jessica Brody, takes the beloved Save the Cat! plotting principals and applies them to the craft of novel writing in this exciting new “workshop style” guide, featuring over 20 full beat sheets from popular novels throughout time.
Whether you’re writing your first novel or your seventeenth, Save the Cat! breaks down plot in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step method so you can write stories that resonate! This book can help you with any of the following:
Outlining a new novel Revising an existing novel Breaking out of the dreaded “writer’s block” Fixing a “broken” novel Reviewing a completed novel Fleshing out/test driving a new idea to see if it “has legs” Implementing feedback from agents and/or editors Helping give constructive feedback to other writers
But above all else, SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL will help you better understand the fundamentals and mechanics of plot, character transformation, and what makes a story work!
Jessica Brody is the author of more than 20 novels for teens, tweens, and adults including The Geography of Lost Things, The Chaos of Standing Still, Amelia Gray is Almost Okay, A Week of Mondays, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, the Unremembered trilogy, and the System Divine trilogy which is a sci-fi reimagining of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, co-written with Joanne Rendell. She’s also the author of the #1 bestselling novel-writing guides, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and Save the Cat! Writes a Young Adult Novel as well as several books based on popular Disney franchises like Descendants and LEGO Disney Princess. Jessica’s books have been translated and published in over 20 languages and several have been optioned for film and television. She’s the founder of the Writing Mastery Academy and lives with her husband and three dogs near Portland, OR.
Visit her online at JessicaBrody.com or WritingMastery.com. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @JessicaBrody
This book entirely hones in on one type of story structure, and is effective in explaining the different beats and providing examples to give you a crystal-clear template. I have mixed feelings about this, because on one hand, I don’t believe good stories should be evaluated by a prescriptive set of rules (especially since they are Westernized standards), but on the other hand, I think it is helpful to have a baseline to compare your work to so that you can at least deviate from the standard with purpose (gotta know the rules before you break them, yada yada). The best way I can describe this framework is the Marvelization of writing - it’s formulaic and mainstream and totally dependent on following the structure of every ‘big hit’, but might not give you room for uniqueness or experimentation with craft. It’s effective in helping you write by numbers, like you’re drawing inside a coloring book, without having to think very hard. I would certainly reference this book for when I’m stuck plotting a story and want an easy fix. But philosophically, I’m not sure if I agree with the way writers hail this book as the standard for a good story or the golden rule for writing.
If I were to stack up all the craft books I've bought over the years they would probably reach the ceiling of my office. If I were to stack up just the ones I found useful, they wouldn't be enough to prop a window open on a hot day. Suffice it to say, I'm doubtful there are any novel writing models I haven't heard of, or bought a book about, or attempted in one form or another. Hello, my name is Sebastien, and I'm a writing how-to book addict.
For those interested in such things, the ones I've found genuinely useful in my own practice have been Donald Maass's 'Writing 21st Century Fiction', Jeffrey Schechter's 'My Story Can Beat Up Your Story', John Truby's 'Anatomy of Story', Matt Bird's 'Secrets of Story' (never has one theory ever gotten so much mileage out of the concept of irony) and the umpteen Dramatica books and software editions out there (those starting out with Dramatica will do best by immersing themselves in NarrativeFirst.com which is filled with helpful avenues to enter the very deep and very dark cave that is Dramatica.)
That's not a lot of books. The vast majority of the others have either been fluff ('let your inner bluebird sing its song!') or rehashes of Syd Field's classic 'Screenplay' book only with a new unhelpful metaphor added ('Master the secrets of the Story Wrench!', 'Build your Story GPS: Goodly Powerful Story!', 'Story Psychopath: Unleash Your Inner Writer's Block Killer With The Power Of Neuroscience!') [As an aside, if you want to write your own 'writing how-to' book, just find the table of contents from any of the other ones, rename the chapters, come up with an idiotic metaphor for the title, and tell everyone to write in three acts. Don't forget to mention that the three acts are 'beginning, middle, and end'. Whoa!]
Okay, maybe this is turning into a little bit of a rant. Let me get back to this particular book.
Save The Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody is an unusual one for me to recommend. I'm not exactly a "save the cat" guy. First, it began as a screenwriting model and I'm a novelist by profession, second, like most screenwriting models (and every possible variant of 'the hero's journey') it fails to account for the length and complexity of novels, and third, loads of people in the business will loathe you for even bringing up Save The Cat. The argument goes that innumerable young screenwriters are following the formula so closely that they're putting out repetitive garbage (I suppose my own thought on that is that they were putting out loads of garbage long before Save The Cat came along, just as they were before and are now putting out plenty of amazing, rich stories as well.)
But here's the thing: none of that matters. What matters is if the model will help you get from "I could never write a book" to "Hey, look, here's my first novel." If there's one thing I'm passionate about in the world of writing it's that everyone has a book in them and writing that first book is an incredibly valuable experience regardless of whether it sells in exactly the same way that running your first marathon is an incredibly valuable experience whether or not you win the race. You run the marathon to make your body capable of new things, and you write the book to make your mind capable of new things. And here's where I think Jessica Brody's book comes into play: it's an excellent way to map out your first (or maybe seventeenth) novel and know that you're going to come to a satisfying conclusion at the end. She takes a writing model that tends to be convoluted and confusing by virtue of its bizarre terminology and yet makes it accessible, understandable, and practical.
If you just read the table of contents of most writing books, they all look as if they'll take you from beginning to end in twelve easy steps. The problem is, once you start reading them, you realize the explanation is mostly hyperbolically vague nonsense ('Now you'll really blow the reader's mind with your plot twist, by twisting the plot when they least expect it!'), their examples are almost entirely drawn from movies rather than books, and they only skim the very surface of each idea, favouring repetition over clarification and analysis. I can honestly say I never really understood all the beats in Save The Cat until I read Jessica's book – and that matters, because they're nowhere nearly as simple or obvious as they first seem. Something like the 'midpoint' seems simple – a turn at the middle of the book – but when you realize it's either the culmination of an upward (i.e. positive for the main character) trajectory or a negative one (and thus will dictate your direction in the third quarter of the book), the notion of the midpoint takes on a more sophisticated and actionable meaning. Oh, and while many if not most of Brody's examples have been made into movies, she's pulling from the actual books, which is much more helpful for novelists.
As a final note, Jessica Brody is, in fact, an accomplished and successful author in her own right. She doesn't write the kinds of books I read, but just reading sample chapters tells me she knows what she's doing, and given her works have been translated into a number of other languages and have done well for themselves shows that when she talks about writing commercially successful novels she's got the basis to back it up.
As to criticisms? Well, I'm not in love with the rah-rah style of the writing, nor am I likely to become a Save The Cat enthusiast since my brain doesn't quite work that way. But Brody actually delivers on what she promises and does it in a way that shows both expertise in her craft and compassion for her audience. Someone struggling to plot a novel can genuinely go through the book and come out the other side with a story that makes sense and has at least a decent chance of being satisfying to readers. Anyone who can help those who want to write but are fearful of making the journey reach the finish line is a hero in my book.
In case such things matter to anyone, I should point out that I don't know Jessica Brody personally and I paid for my copy of the book (twice, in fact – once on Amazon and once for my Kobo e-reader and I even bought her Udemy course).
I’m very glad that my sister, who is also a published novelist, sort of forced me to read this book. She was looking for help with her second novel and kept asking me questions like whether she was doing a good enough job having the A and B storylines match up, except I didn’t know what she was talking about.
This is a wonderful resource for novelists. I’ll definitely be using this book again and again as I edit and rework my works in progress. However, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to watch a movie or read a book ever again without thinking in terms things like the different genre Ms. Snyder outlines (not the typical genres we’re taught like mystery, romance, sci fi, but Buddy Love stories (The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You) and Underdog stories (The Triumphant Fool like Bridget Jones) or and Institutionalized (Jim Crow with The Help or women in The Handsmaid’s Tale).
There are lots of tips to ensure the stakes for your characters are high enough and how they can have false victories or false defeats to keep the pacing strong. I highly recommend this book to aspiring and established writers.
While this book takes on the formula of Save the Cat from the screenwriting books it still has a very different soul. I've used the Save the Cat method to write my books for years, and was thrilled when I learned this book was coming. I read it all in one sitting, and despite many books built with the same 15 beats, I still managed to tag the thing to oblivion with new pieces of information that will make my novels better. Ms. Brody takes the tried and true methods and adapts them for the novelist. I will keep this on my desk and consult it before starting every single one of my books in the future.
In der Vergangenheit habe ich einige Schreibratgeber gelesen, nun würde ich so weit gehen und behaupten, dass dieser hier mir bislang am meisten gebracht hat, zumindest was das Plotten angeht. Und das auf mehreren Ebenen: Das Buch hat neue Gedankengänge angeregt, mich dazu verleitet, mich noch detaillierter mit meiner Handlung und den Charakteren auseinanderzusetzen, es hat mir Schreib-Motivation und kreative Energie gegeben. Also hat es alles ausgelöst, was ich mir von dem Buch erhofft habe. Vieles war mir bereits (unter-)bewusst, dennoch war es mehr als interessant, mithilfe des Buchs die eigenen Geschichten und Storytelling allgemein zu reflektieren. Ist dieses Buch der heilige Gral, wie es in einigen Schreib-Bubbles (z.B. dem amerikanischen AuthorTube) behauptet wird? Ich sehe das Ganze nicht als unausweichliche Formel oder Schema, sondern als Plotting-Mechanismus, der Denkanstöße und Orientierung bieten kann. Und in dem Sinne finde ich das Buch echt empfehlenswert!
You too can write like Sophie Kinsella, if you follow this easy 15 step formula! Hurrah!
This is how I'd sum up the first half of the book, wherein we are introduced to a system of "beats", which is a structure very similar to all the other creative writing structures out there, but it's sold like it's super unique somehow. Brody claims all good novels have this structure. Which is obviously not true.
The second half of the book is made up of a bunch of novels broken down into these beats. There's Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, which I like, but there's also a lot of BAD books, that are partly bad because there are so incredibly formulaic and partly because they're horribly written. Why I would I want to learn to structure a novel like a boring Hollywood movie we all know the ending to the second it starts?
Don't get me wrong, I believe 3 act structures and plotting can be helpful, and that's why I wanted a book to help me plot because I'm terrible at it. But this book was such a chore to get through and made me feel super depressed about writing. The chirpy buddy-buddy tone didn't help. I believe the structure presented in the book might be helpful, but I feel the way she presented it was very vague and not very applicable. I think you're better of looking for a book that just explains different classical plot structures without making them the end-all.
I don't read a ton of non-fiction but I REALLY want to improve my writing and I've dedicated myself to reading more books on craft. This was a fantastic, informative, and super user-friendly look at structuring a novel and character development. LOVED it and will be referring back to it often.
Disappointed. The book contains a lot of fluff. Here are four specific reasons I didn't find the book as enlightening as expected, from the general to the specific:
1.) Generality of Advice: Before diving into the beat sheets, most advice was so vague and generalized I couldn't directly apply it to my work-in-progress. For example, "The A Story is the external story. It's the stuff that happens on the surface... it's the exciting stuff. The cool stuff." Then later that same chapter, "The life lesson is the inner journey that your hero didn't even know they were on, that will eventually lead them to the answer they never expected. The life lesson should be something universal." This kind of generality doesn't really help us plot our story at all; it needs to be translated into more specific steps, like in a grid or outline, with clear examples that aren't made to fit the peg. Too often, the examples that came in later chapters were bent to fit the generality than the other way around. It felt both vague (to the degree of inapplicability) and artificial (stories were not analyzed in depth, but rather bent around the 15 beats) at the same time. I think the author should have been more technical, with more tricks of the trade and fewer overarching slogans and truths. Even the beat sheets resorted to plot summary rather than digging deep into the internal (B) story.
2.) Language: The diction was too fluffy; where there were valuable nuggets of knowledge, the author's expressions wrapped them in largely useless fluff. For example, "Apparently, you need two Rs in your name to be successful in the quest genre." or "Is anyone else suddenly getting hungry?" or "We've all been kicked in the butt by life at some point or other." Reading the book felt like I was seated at a diner booth next to a table with a chatty girl on the phone. Every time something juicy came out, it was surrounded by chitter-chatter, casual slang and jokes that made me feel like the author couldn't take the content seriously and dissect it down with the depth we writers need.
3.) Categorization: The author lost me once she categorized Harry Potter as a Superhero story, with its theme as being the chosen one. Harry Potter is not a Superhero story; he has no super powers. The entire foundation of his survival of Voldemort's attack is the unconditional love and sacrifice his mother showed in protecting him i.e. love is immortal. If there is any theme in Harry Potter, it would be that love triumphs over death. Even as people like Harry's parents (and later friends) die, their love remains. Very little time or words in the book deal with Harry's powers, and the reason readers relate to Harry is his ordinary status as just another boy, who dislikes homework, wants to make friends, and doubts his own worth. Superhero is as far a characterization as you can get.
4.) Quality: The book seems like it wasn't ever professionally edited Spelling Nicolas Flamel "Nicholas Flammel" and Quirrel with one L and later two Ls on the same page (154). Referring to the hero in the plural with "them" and "their." Excessive use of exclamation points throughout. The book screamed unprofessionalism throughout and seemed like the author never took the time to really pay attention to details.
Overall, I thought there were nuggets of knowledge sprinkled throughout the book, but to reach them, I had to fight through clouds of fluff and hordes of overgeneralities. More than anything, until the final two chapters, I never felt like I was ingesting material I could directly apply to my work, because it was so general. I would have preferred diving deeper into a single work, beat by beat, with the mapping of scenes or chapters to a plot outline or beat sheet, rather than trying to fit every book into the same 15 Save the Cat beats.
Also, the virtual corkboard advertised on pages 280 and 281 -- an excellent visual aide -- as available on SaveTheCat.com costs money for a yearly subscription. It's not free, and it's not easy to find on the website. The upsell is obnoxious and makes the book feel incomplete. It should be a one-time simple download that comes with the book.
I've been aware of Snyder's 'Save the Cat' screenwriting advice for some time, and thusly was pretty intrigued/excited to see that the formula has been adapted for novels.
Now don't be freaked out by the mention of the F-word! Brody successfully produces a piece that presents useful advice for both plotter and pantsers - the points raised in Save the Cat! are general enough to be helpful to most writers, without losing any impact from vagueness.
In terms of writing advice the book mainly targets high level plotting, e.g. 3-act structure and 'big' beat sheets. There is a small amount of introductory chapters on characterizations, however the real meat of the book is in the beat-sheets and analysis of different published "genre" works. (in this book genre isn't like fantasy/romance, Brody is talking about types of story, e.g. chosen hero, underdog, buddy, monster).
Unlike other writing books I never really felt overwhelmed with the presented material, and felt almost instantly helped by the piece - most 'on writing' non-fiction I need to reflect on and process to make full sense of them (and/or I'm just so overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I have to keep in mind when writing) - In Save the Cat! I felt like the material was challenging and painted a realistic picture, in a way that was motivating and fun.
In short, while the book is a little audacious, and I'm sure some people will come up with exceptions to the proposed formulas or genres, its a real must read for novel writers!
So I definitely skimmed/skipped to parts of this book. Some may say it shouldn't be counted as read but you know what? SCREW THEM THIS IS MY LIFE!
Anyway. This book is BRILLIANT and I am so happy I bought it. Even though I know it won't work for all writers, it has already been IMMENSELY helpful in opening up my mind and giving me more tools to work on novel writing. I have such a hard time with plotting books and this book makes it all so simple? Of course I haven't actually sat down to use the tips yet but...I'm confident they'll make a difference.
There are several types of craft books. You can start with The Elements of Style to learn how to avoid many grammatical issues. You can also just use ProWriting Aid. Then there're structure books, like this one. Finally, there're industry books, which contain contradictory information from what you read online and hear at writer's conferences. I would rather trust what I hear from authors who've published the books I enjoy. As far as structure goes, this book is useful and easy to use. I have been a pantser before, writing without outlining. I have also outlined. You should decide whether you would rather plan before or rewrite after. Either way, books require rewriting, and adhering to a formula won't prevent rewrites. It may lessen them, but there is no sure-fire method aside from proper re-writing, implementing feedback and making compromises.
There could have been fewer examples. It is not too hard to find your own. I recommend giving the book a try, along with the formula. Doesn't mean you have to stick to it in your next draft. Whatever motivates you to write and rewrite more. Books come out in such numbers these days the last thing we need is generic writing. Not everyone can write Ulysses, that is, a book which relies on lyricism and subtext rather than plot. To capture an audience authors have to give the reader reasons to read and keep on reading, and this guidebook can help you get started.
Ο δυσληπτος τίτλος του βιβλίου, γίνεται κατανοητός εύκολα ως εξής: Υπήρχε πιο πριν ένα βιβλίο ονόματι Save the Cat!, γραμμένο από άλλον συγγραφέα, ο οποίος εξηγούσε τις αρχές ενός καλού σεναρίου. Η Jessica Brody σκέφτηκε πως αυτές οι αρχές, με κάποιες τροποποιήσεις, μπορούν να αποτελέσουν μπούσουλα και για τους μυθιστοριογράφους.
Αν αφιερώσετε λίγο χρόνο ανατρέχοντας στην αποδοχή του βιβλίου, θα σας δημιουργηθεί η εντύπωση πως είναι ένα εξαίρετο λογοτεχνικό εγχειρίδιο, που θα ξεκλειδώσει τα μυστικά της τέχνης της αφήγησης. Υπήρξαν πολλά ενδιαφέροντα σημεία, μάλιστα κράτησα κι αρκετές σημειώσεις. Η Τζέσικα λέει πως οι καλές ιστορίες διέπονται από μια βασική διάρθωση, η οποία είναι αμετάβλητη από τις απαρχές του χρόνου. Οι καλές ιστορίες φέρουν κοινά χαρτακτηριστικά. Και για να μας το αποδείξει παραδίδει παραδείγματα. Είναι εξαιρετικά αποκαλυπτικό, και σίγουρα χρήσιμο για έναν συγγραφέα πως πρέπει να παίρνει ρίσκα, και να μην είναι μυγιάγγιχτος με την πλοκή του και τους χαρακτήρες του. Επιπλέον, χρειάζεσαι ανατροπές. Παράλληλα θες υφέσεις και εξάρσεις, βαλμένες με μια ισορροπημένη συχνότητα. Α, επίσης πρέπει να μπορεί ο αναγνώστης να δεθεί με τον ήρωά σου, για να νοιαστει για αυτά που τον βάζεις να πάθει.
Εδώ τελειώνουν οι χρήσιμες σημειώσεις μου και ξεκινούν οι παρατηρήσεις μου: πέραν του ότι το βιβλίο μπορεί να συνοψιστεί πολύ γρήγορα, τα παραδείγματα που δείχνει πάνω σε γνωστά βιβλία, πολλές φορές πιέζονται για να μπουν στο καλούπι που σχηματίζει το αφηγηματικό μοτίβο των 7 σταδίων, του Save the Cat. Δεύτερον, ήταν παντελής η απουσία λογοτεχνικότητας στην γραφή της. Αν' αυτού είχε ένα ενθουσιώδες ύφος που επαναλάμβανε συνεχώς τα ίδια (κυρίως, πόσο θα σε βοηθήσουν αυτά που λέει), το οποιο μου δημιουργούσε μια νευρικότητα. Δεν μπορούσα να καταλάβω τι είναι ικανή να γράψει η ίδια, πέρα απο βιβλία-κονσέρβες, με τις αρετές της μεθοδολογίας, αν δεν μπορεί να μου εξάψει το ενδιαφέρον με την γραφή της. Τρίτον, η συνεχής επανάληψη της επιτυχίας που σε περιμένει, της αλλαγής που θα βιώσεις ως συγγραφέας, μόλις χωνέψεις για τα καλά την φόρμουλα, ήταν μια πλύση εγκεφάλου. Δεν θέλω να γράψω τον επομένο Χάρι Πότερ, ούτε το επόμενο, μαζικής απήχησης βιβλίο! Τα παραδείγματα που παρουσίαζει, σπάνια ξεφεύγουν από αυτήν την προσέγγιση, και το λέει ξεκάθαρα: θες να μάθεις πως θα γράψεις το βιβλίο που θα συγκινήσει όλο τον κόσμο όπως το τάδε βιβλίο; Εγώ το παραφράζω ως: θες να γράψεις θυσιάζοντας κάθε προσωπική σου επιδίωξη και να ικανοποιήσεις μια ματαιοδοξία που ίσως δεν είχες πάντα, αλλά που προσπαθεί να σου καλλιεργήσει ο καπιταλισμός;
Υπάρχουν αρκετά χρήσιμα πράγματα στο βιβλίο. Κυρίως, μαθαίνεις να καταλαβαίνεις πως λειτουργούν κάποια πράγματα στην τέχνη της διήγησης. Κι αυτό είναι ενδιαφέρον είτε είσαι αναγνώστης/θεατ��ς είτε δημιουργός. Για το ανέμπνευστο ύφος του, την επανάληψή του, και για το ότι το δεύτερο μισό του βιβλίου είναι παραδείγματα των βασικών αρχών του Save the Cat μέσα από γνωστά βιβλία, το οποίο είναι ενδιαφέρον στην αρχή, αλλά μετά τα 5-6 πρωτα έχασα την υπομονή μου - για όλους, λοιπόν αυτούς τους λόγους, το βρήκα ένα μέτριο βιβλίο.
I want to thank Jessica Brody from the bottom of my heart for writing this book. To all the writers out there: Whether or not you’re struggling with writing your story, I recommend giving this book a try!
*Trigger/content warning in this book for HP references*
As I’ve been writing this, I've found that this will sound like a more of a emotional journey rather than a review telling you whether or not you should read this book. So I’ve divided this review into two parts: The first part, “My Thoughts”, will be my thoughts on this book and why I recommend it. The second part, “What This Book Means to Me”, will be how this Save the Cat has impacted me, as both a writer and a person. So if you just want the review and not the sappy stuff, just read the first part!
Whether you're a plotter or a pantser; whether you're writing your first draft or you’ve just completed your one hundredth draft; whether you’re in the process of publishing your first book, or have published several...READ. THIS. BOOK.
Pansters, I know that most writing books tend to be promoted for plotters. But Jessica Brody clarifies at the beginning that this is a book for both plotters AND pantsers. I know that sounds weird, but trust me on this! Brody states that her goal in this book isn't to change your writing process, but “enhance it.” And as a planster (both plotter AND pantser), I feels Brody stays true to her word. Brody does a PHENOMENAL job explaining the Save the Cat method in detail, all without it feeling overwhelming. She explains how each plot point works, and gives several book examples for each (I even found references from some of my favorite books in here!). Brody also explains different types of common story plots we see in books, movies, and TV shows, and how to incorporate Save the Cat into EACH TYPE! And any question you may have about writing a series, unlikable protagonists, and multiple POVs can be answered in this book. So again, whether you're a plotter or pantser, I definitely recommend reading this!
ALSO, if you need more help that was not included in Save the Cat! Writes a Novel (or need a more condensed version of a certain lesson that IS in the book), then I recommend visiting Brody's writing blog! Here's the link
I’ll start this off by stating the obvious: Folks, writing a novel is NOT easy. It can be tedious and frustrating and sometimes even make a writer question why they’re even trying. ANY writer you meet will tell you this. Non-writers might hear this and wonder, “If it's so hard, why do you even write?”
A few months before reading Save the Cat, I wondered this as well. During my freshman year of college, I found myself struggling to put ANYTHING into a word document. I really started to doubt myself. I hated practically every sentence I wrote down. I didn’t think my stories were as intriguing and original as all the bestsellers I’d read. All this advice about getting inspiration (listening to music, going on walks, creating boards on Pinterest, etc) wasn’t helping. I eventually realized I was in a writing funk.
However, this was unlike any writing funk I’d had in the past. Sure, I’ve had my struggles with. I’ve had moments when I didn’t know what to do with the middle. I’ve had times when I debated whether to cut out a certain scene or not. But this harshness, this FRUSTRATION I was now experiencing was different from anything I’d felt about writing. It was a frustration actually made me consider stopping writing altogether. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. The writing and story that I did have already sucked. Why should I even try to continue?
A lot of people know this book for the Save the Cat plot method. And yes, the method definitely helped me think about how to write my characters and each plot point. What I don’t see people talk about is the section where Brody discusses the common problems many writers run into. One of the problems she brings up was how to deal with writer’s block. When I first found this question included, I thought, “Yes, please, Jessica Brody, tell me what to do!!!”
But I ended up being stunned at Brody’s statement about writer's block. She argued that what many writers experience wasn't writer’s block: It was actually PERFECTIONIST’S block (which is a term she learned from author Emily Hainsworth). “Perfectionist’s block”, Brody explained, is the fear of not being good enough. It's not that we CAN’T write because we're all out of ideas. Most writers DO have ideas waiting to be written down. We’re actually just afraid that WHAT we’ll write won't be good enough, surprising enough, or interesting enough.
Reading about perfectionist’s block actually had me crying a little bit, because I finally realized my biggest setback as a writer. It wasn’t that I hated writing. I’d never lost my love for it! What I’d been struggling with is feeling like I couldn’t write a good scene or story. I worried that my characters were boring, that my world-building was confusing. I’d been so hard on myself about writing ANYTHING, which then affected my confidence and certainty that I could write. So now that Brody helped me pinpoint what the problem was, I could (and will continue to) use the lessons from this book to fight it.
I know learning about perfectionist’s block is something unusual to cry over. Non-writers might say “It’s just a story” and that worries about writing aren’t something to stress about. But folks, writing has made a huge impact on my life. I’ve been creating stories since I was seven. This is an activity that has helped me get through difficult times. Writing has been a way for me to express myself in a way I couldn't with people. So when I considered stopping writing...it was a terrifying moment for me. Giving up writing would giving up a part of my identity.
So when Brody not only explained perfectionist’s block, but VALIDATED it...yes, I’ll tell unapologetically you I was in tears. Not only had Brody helped me understood what my biggest problem was. She helped me realize my love of writing never STOPPED. It just got buried under layers of fear, doubt, and perfectionism.
My perfectionist’s block isn’t TOTALLY gone now that I’ve learned about what it is. But with Brody’s validation of the fear, her advice to be kind to yourself, and her just writing this book in general will definitely help me write and confront those moments of doubt in the future.
I’ll end this review by saying this: Writers, if you're struggling with perfectionist’s block as well, PLEASE know your feelings are valid. Screw ANYONE who tells you “It's just a story” or “Stop overthinking it.” Writing is personal and emotionally impacts people in different ways. Whatever your fears and doubts are, it’s not small or insignificant at all. I understand it. Jessica Brody understands it. And just like Brody says, if you do find yourself stuck, be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself. Your books are going to be amazing. I believe in you!
A lot of really helpful information. Really appreciate the breakdown for different genres. Obviously there is so much more that could’ve been explored but for anyone starting out-I think this is a well worth it resource!
I think if you want to write a novel and have no clue where to start, my first recommendation is: try first on your own. There is nothing that can give you more satisfaction than to do research and learn on your own, try and try different methods until you find your own or even create your own. Read! Watch videos! Just try on your own first.
Why do I say it? Because, if you jump right into books like this, you’ll always believe this is the one and only formula and will never find your own way.
That said, my short review of the book: it’s quite good! It has interesting things to check, like the shard of glass thing for character development, the genres of the novel (which applies to every novel, doesn’t matter the genre), and the formula to plot. Since the original STC is about screenwriting, I started paying attention to movies and damn... they are worse than books since they allfall in the same formula over and over, just like the author said. And while I don’t think ALL books fall into the formula, I do agree it's a great tool for those just starting to write their first book and those like me who struggle with the damn middle part.
The steps from the STC novel were more fun for me to study since I watched some of my fav YouTubers made an experiment called #STCexperiment where they attempted to write an outline/plot in 10 weeks with the help of this book and of course the viewers. So of course, the book helped to give some guidance throughout the way. It was an amazing time, and I confess I bought the book just because of that (and of course, many other writers recommended it).
Would I use it? Definitely. Would I recommend it? Of course. Would I stick only to this? No way. Writing is a type of art, and like every artist, we need to find our own ways to do it. These types of books are guides-only and the type of things we read to find out what works for us and what doesn’t, but we don’t stick to other authors’ formulas. We need to create our own.
Having read all three of Blake Snyder's "Save the Cat" books (and loved them), I seriously debated whether or not it was necessary to read this one, too. I am so glad I did. It's already highlighted up and sticky noted all over the place. Although novelists have been using the Save the Cat screenwriting method for a long time, this is the first book that actually applies the method to novel writing. And it has made all the difference in my head. I was pleased to see lists and lists of novels that I have read that help me understand how the beats work in contemporary novels as well as classic novels, in long novels as well as short novels, and in novels of all different genres (both STC genres and traditional genres).
This book has cleared up mysteries about how many scenes should each beat be in a novel? How to deal with reimaginings of other stories? How to plot out novels in a trilogy and even longer series? And even more importantly, how to write pitches and short synopsis and how to use those tools to discover holes in your plot.
I have written ten novels. I have used Save the Cat on two of them. I have yet to write a successful plot. I don't know why I'm such a remedial learner when it comes to plot, but after reading Brody's book, I feel excited to try again! Wish me luck!
I am walking around my apartment and voice texting into my phone so if there are any typos I am sorry
A close friend of mine said this was the worst book they have ever read. This is why we toasty to always listen to our friends because I fucking loved it.
As far as building elements towards creating a compelling story, this is one of the most straightforward and direct craft books I have read. It not only broke down the original beats from the original book, but then applied it to 10 different generic genres and further specified it by breaking down the original beats into 10 examples of fiction in those 10 different genres.
By the end of the book I was ready to write a dozen novels at once.
My one piece of advice when reading this book is accept you’re not going to retain all the information the first time around and prepare to revisit it as needed as you dive into different genres. It’s kind enough to make each genre its own chapter so you can find your place quite easily as needed. Best of all when you are done it also has a section on log lines and synopses so you can apply it to your own marketing plan (or pitch)
This is the book for anyone who wants to learn more about writing as a general craft. It's got a lot of the basics you'll need to know going into storytelling, so if you're new to creative writing and you want something that's less opinion and more instruction, this would be a great book to start with.
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel breaks down the world of fiction into several types. These include Dude with a Problem The Road Trip, and Buddy Love. Then the author breaks down the book into it's beats. It's a great way to think about books and if you were a plotter, a good way to plan. As a pantser, I know I get there, but I have no idea why or when.
Looking for a how-to that's a kick in the pants for your novel writing? Here's the book for you. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel lays out in simple English and format a well thought-out method to plot your next story. I think it makes so much sense that I'm giving it a whirl on my current manuscript.
I notice that I have a particular pattern whenever I sit down to edit a book... I panic and dive for the closest book on the craft of writing I can find. You would think after a certain number of my own books - and all the attendant rounds of edits each entails - I would start trusting myself. Let's just say panic isn't rational.
The good news is that, since I'm not a research junkie and only took a couple of creative writing classes in school, these panic-reads have slowly provided me with the language many of my fellow (mored educated) writers use. Thanks to Save The Cat! I now know what a three act structure is. Turns out I'm pretty good at writing it just from having read and practiced a great deal on my own.
Overall, Save The Cat! provides some excellent insight on important aspects of any story, and provides a template for writing stories where the stakes keep rising to a fantastic crescendo. They also play to readers' expectations, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I would caution readers not to sacrifice their story to exactly follow their chosen template... which, frankly, the author also tells us, more or less. I just think it bears repeating.
A quick, well-written primer on story structure and the various elements vital to different types of stories. It will absolutely not be helpful to me because... I'm an intuitive writer, and having a template is antithetical to my creative process. But I can see it being useful to plotters and outliners. For those folks, this would be a recommended read.
I am assisting my friend with a detailed developmental edit on her novel and using this as an excellent resource for that.
The book emphasizes and gives strong guidance on story structure. The goal for the reader is to develop what the author calls beat sheets, very detailed plotting of the character and story arcs.
A few months ago, I took a writing course through adult ed. It was all wrong. It was just a grab bag of techniques without an overall story-telling strategy, as well as some concepts that are significantly out of date.
I think this book is distinctly more helpful for writers than "A Hero With A Thousand Faces" and "The Writer's Journey" and pretty much any other bo0k I've read on writing.
The author uses contemporary novels as examples, but the structure she is laying out in detail could apply to Homer (especially the Odyssey), The Epic of Gilgamesh, as well as The Divine Comedy.
She rightly assumes that we like stories. So what's an effective way of telling a story?
Some are concerned about following a formula. The author addresses this. But, look, it's still YOUR story you are writing, with YOUR hero and YOUR characters. The challenge is to connect with readers in YOUR writing of it.
Just finished. A primary emphasis is on the psychological depth of the main character in the book that one writes. What is her character like at the outset of the story? What does she go through and where does she end up? Is she changed? Is she wiser? Does she understand herself and others better? Has she solved personal problems as a result of her journey? The author uses Jane Austen as well as contemporary examples to illustrate this. But for modern readers this is laid out in an active style, where the story is always in motion. There are no drawing room scenes. The main character must act for the story go forward and complete its arc and for her to reach her destination.
Okay, so I went into this book thinking that it would save all of my writing problems and it just didn’t. I went into this with high expectations that were not met. It has taken me two months to force my way through this book to the point where today I was practically yelling “I’m so happy. It’s nearly over!”
The reason that this gets two stars instead of one is that the advice was actually helpful. Chapters one and two were really helpful and from there on it just goes downhill.
The whole premise of this book is that it teaches you how to write a novel, but it does that by spoiling a book every other sentence. I could live with it in the first part just skipping the occasional paragraph, no big deal. But, when I got to chapter 5 onwards I was just so done. These chapters give you an insight into writing in a particular genre with broad and general advice and then end with an example. The issue? These examples gave you a play by play of an entire novel, spoiling everything there is to be spoiled. I skipped around 70ish pages in this book because I just didn’t want to be spoiled 😞
I think the concept is very good, and as I said the advice is solid and I will probably refer back to it at a later date. However, the execution could have been so much better. Had they just explained what would happen at each of the beats in each genre as opposed to just directing a novel (which can be helpful but just not by itself) I feel like I would have given this book a higher raising.
I also found chapter 14 (pitch it to me) another let down as I expected so much more. The examples were briefly explained but in barely any detail.
This book wasn’t terrible, but my main issue was the amount of books it spoiled within its pages.
Great expansion on the original book by Blake Snyder, which dealt with screenwriting technique. Though I've read that one too, I didn't find it entirely applicable to novels. This book takes it that extra step, and since many books become screenplays, the two play off each other nicely. While this book isn't going to help you write literary masterpieces, it will make for a great tool to use while outlining a book or to help with brainstorming ideas. Including the suggested elements will help ensure page-turning plotting.
That being said, not every story will fit so nicely into this "15 essential plot points " approach, and writers may find their stories cross between the ten discussed genres. Still, its contents should definitely help create the ground-floor architecture for a well-structured novel.