Nicole J. Simms

Book Review: Save the Cat! Writes a Novel

Post date: 12th April 2020
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Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

Last year I started watching writers on YouTube (AuthorTubers), and that’s when I discovered the Save the Cat! Writes a Novel book.

Many of the AuthorTubers recommended the book to help with planning a novel, so I decided to buy the book to help me plan my next novel.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel is a novel-writing book that is based on the best-selling Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. The Snyder version was created for screenwriters, but the tips and advice can also be useful to novel writers. And this is what Brody has done in her version of this book.

This book will help you create a story-worthy protagonist, and it explains the fifteen beats, so you can create your own Save the Cat! (SC) Beat Sheet for your novel.

Brody also reveals the ten universal story genres. And she ends the book with tips on how to create loglines and synopses to pitch your novel.

So, let’s explore the book further.

Creating a Story-Worthy Hero

Save the Cat! starts with why your story needs a story-worthy hero. It then explains how to create a story-worthy hero by considering things like wants, flaws and needs.

And to help you understand how to do this, there are examples of main characters in novels like The Hunger Games and how these characters are story-worthy.

At the end of this chapter, you have an exercise to complete before moving onto the story beats: you are asked to create a story-worthy hero, using the mentioned steps. And there is a checklist to make sure your hero is story-worthy.

The Save the Cat! Beat Sheet

Once you have your character sorted, you then move onto the SC Beat Sheet. What is the SC Beat Sheet, you ask? Well, simply put, a SC Beat Sheet is your novel’s roadmap. At the beginning of this journey (literal or figurative), you have a flawed hero, but by the end of the journey, your hero will have transformed — well, that’s the idea.

The SC Beat Sheet is divided into three acts: Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3. And it is then further divided into fifteen beats (also known as plot points):

  1. Opening Image
  2. Theme Stated
  3. Setup
  4. Catalyst
  5. Debate
  6. Break Into 2
  7. B Story
  8. Fun and Games
  9. Midpoint
  10. Bad Guys Close In
  11. All Is Lost
  12. Dark Night Of The Soul
  13. Break Into 3
  14. Finale
  15. Final Image

At the start of this chapter, you see the order of the beats and a summary of each one. And then each beat is explained in more detail, giving you examples of each beat in published novels. For example, in the Opening Image beat, you see what the Opening Image is for The Hunger Games, Pride and Prejudice and Confessions of a Shopaholic.

At the end of the chapter, there is a checklist to make sure your novel beats pass the transformation test. So, as mentioned above, your hero must have transformed in some way by the end of your novel.

Now, this may seem complicated, but the Save the Cat! book breaks down each point, making it easier for you to understand — the book is your guide through your novel writing adventure.

Now, you may think the book ends here, but it doesn’t because, after the SC Beat Sheet, you have the Save the Cat! Story Genres.

Save the Cat! Story Genres

The Save the Cat! Story Genres are not the regular genres you get, such as horror, science fiction, etc. — these are described as categories of tone. SC Story Genres are categories of story — so it’s what kind of story you want to tell, your hero’s type of transformation and the central theme or question of your novel.

And once you figure out what SC Story Genre your novel fits into, you will know what elements are required to make your story work.

There are ten SC Story Genres in total:

  1. Whydunit
  2. Rites of Passage
  3. Institutionalized
  4. Superhero
  5. Dude with a Problem
  6. Fool Triumphant
  7. Buddy Love
  8. Out of the Bottle
  9. Golden Fleece
  10. Monster in the House

Each SC Story Genre has its own chapter. And within that chapter, you get an explanation of the SC Story Genre, the key ingredients needed for each story genre and examples of novels that fit into the genres.

And so you can see how a novel fits into a SC Story Genre, there is a novel beat sheet at the end. For example, in the Whydunit chapter, you can read the beat sheet for The Girl on Train by Paula Hawkins — I love this book.

I must warn you — the chapters contain spoilers. But there is a list of what books will be used in the chapter, so you can decide whether you want to read the books first or not.

Pitching Your Book and FAQ

Last but not least, you have the last two chapters of the book: ‘Pitch It to Me!’ and ‘Save the Author’.

The ‘Pitch It to Me!’ chapter shows you how to write a logline and a short synopsis to pitch your book. Like the other chapters, there are novel logline and short synopsis examples, and a template to help you create your own.

The ‘Save the Author’ chapter is the book’s FAQ (frequently asked questions). Here you are given further guidance on how to deal with common issues, e.g. what to do if you have more than one character.

Save the Cat! is a perfect tool for those who prefer to plan their stories, as I do. But, pantsers can benefit from using this book, too — it can be used to make sure your written novel has all the elements it needs to be a good story. I plan to create a beat sheet for the novel I’m currently editing, so I can see if I’ve missed anything.

This book has helped me to think deeper about my story and my characters; I’m even thinking about things I never considered before, such as making sure my characters are story-worthy. I would happily recommend this book to any writer — I just wish I bought this book earlier.

I bought my copy of the book from Amazon, but you should be able to find a copy on other book-selling sites or stores.

Have you read Save the Cat! Writes a Novel? Or are you interested in reading the book? Let me know in the comments below.

Stay safe and keep writing, folks!

Don’t forget, if you want email alerts of my latest posts, then please subscribe. And you can follow me on Twitter, Goodreads or like my Facebook page — you can also join my online writing group Setting Self-Doubt on Fire Squad.

Also, I’ve also created a Nicole J Simms YouTube channel. On my channel, I will be sharing videos of my performances, trips, writing group adventures and my stories.

And, you can also download my e-book The Book of Drabbles for FREE, so check it out.

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