This week I am not reviewing a work of fiction, but a non-fiction book, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. I read this book over the past week and a half. It took me that long because I found so much of value in it that I took copious notes and covered the pages with sticky notes.
Great for Outliners and Pantsers!
Now let me start by stating that I have always been a dedicated pantser and rebelled against outlining. The most I ever usually do is a detailed character profile. And then I just let those characters roam free, getting up to whatever nonsense they want.
But I have found that this can cause my characters to wander around, lost in a desert (literally, in one of my uncompleted novels). Nothing gets accomplished or advanced. This book can resolve that problem.
Jessica Brody shows you first how to confirm that you have a story-worthy hero and then she demonstrates the 3 Act structure and the 15 Beats of the Save the Cat! Beat Sheet. The 15 beats are broken down to explain what type of action is contained in each beat, what purpose it serves to advance the story, and what order they should be in. Then she breaks down the 10 Genres and shows sample beat sheets for published novels in each genre.
Beats are points of action for the hero(es) that move the story forward. As I was reading the Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, I was mentally comparing it to my Work in Progress, thinking: yes, I have that; that too; I covered that; oh, I didn’t think of that one-that could make a huge difference. As soon as I finished reading the book, I broke down my story according to the beats, realized that I didn’t have an Act 2 nemesis and figured out who it had to be and from there I was able to flesh out the rest of the book. I feel like I will be able to finish this book now and understand where my characters need to go and what they need to do. I still have the freedom of changing the beats as the action progresses, adding or removing scenes according to my characters’ development.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is having any issues organizing the action of the novel they are writing. Even if you are a Pantser.
Five Stars *****