Book Review: Save the Cat! Writes a Novel
When I first embarked on my journey to become a published author eight years ago, I thought you just had to write to be successful. Write well, write often, and make sure your storyline and pitch will captivate editors and readers. Later on, I learned that there’s a whole lot more to writing than just putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). There’s a ton of non-writing activities writers need to do to improve their craft, get noticed by publishers/agents, connect with their readers, and market their books. All of these elements are important, but one of the things I think is most important is setting a solid foundation for your stories.
I’m always trying to improve my skills. I’ve joined writing associations, attended workshops, watched webinars, connected with other writers, and I’m about to go to the RWA conference in July. There’s so much to learn about writing a solid story, and I look to understand how I can be better; how I can create a solid plot sheet to work from so I know my story is heading in the right direction, the character motivations are worthy, and the transformation is impactful.
So, when I saw people posting about the Save the Cat! Writes a Novel book by Jessica Brody, I was eager to see what it was all about. I’ve attended Jessica’s courses on Udemy in the past and liked her teaching style. When I got my book, I quickly saw how important it was and how this would transform my writing process. Here are the key things she covers:
The Beat Sheet
I’ll admit, I thought I had my plotting and beat sheets down. I recently attended a few workshops that covered things like the three-act structure and the key aspects you need to include in each act to help your story flow and ensure your plot was worth reading.
But then I read the Save the Cat! Beats and my mind was blown. Yes, a number of the elements I had learned was part of this process, it wasn’t like this Beat Sheet drastically changed the structure of the story. However, this sheet gives a detailed look into what the beats are, why they are essential, and where they should be placed in your story to make an impact. Having this in-depth explanation will help me plot so much more effectively.
Jessica knows there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all plan. The Beat Sheet is used as a foundation for understanding the elements of what makes a good story. It gives you the mechanics. However, depending on your story, your beats might need to be repositioned or shorter/longer than what was suggested. Trying to figure out what works for your type of story can be daunting, but don’t worry! The book has you covered.
Dubbed “Not Your Mother’s Genres,” these story genres aren’t what you’d typically think of, such as thriller, romance, or fantasy. Instead, it focuses more on the transformation the character is going through. As you read Save the Cat!, you’ll see the emphasis put on the character’s transformation. After all, that’s what keeps people reading. They want to relate to the character. They want to root for the character. Therefore, Jessica identified genres based on these transformations and then covers what elements are needed to make it work.
This section was so valuable. Not only does it dive deep into the beats related to these journeys, but there are also examples from popular novels in each genre. There, Jessica dissects the story, shows what happens in each beat, and explains why it fits in the genre. Seeing these examples in detail really put things in perspective. It also shows how you might need to tweak the foundational Beat Sheet to work with your storyline.
The book takes learning a step further by offering additional resources to help you succeed. For example, one chapter is dedicated specifically to your pitch and synopsis. For me, I feel like it’s easier to write a 70+k word novel than it is to write a one-sentence pitch, a couple paragraph blurb, or a two-page synopsis. I know many authors can relate to my struggle when it comes to this. How do you pull yourself out from the weeds to give a high-level, concise explanation of your story?
You’ll learn it in this chapter. Jessica created an easy method to help you write your pitch by leveraging specific beats. If you already built out the Beat Sheet, you essentially did the work. At that point, it’s plug-and-play with a few tweaks!
In addition to the pitching chapter, there’s also a FAQs section and the option to leverage the Save the Cat! software to help you get started with your plotting process. You can check out the resources here.
Whether you’re a new writer or a best-selling published author, the lessons in this book can help you improve your process. I’m so glad I got it. I’ll use it as my writing bible. See for yourself! Pick up your copy here.
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