Book Review – Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

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I have been really struggling with my work in progress and felt that I needed some inspiration or direction. From what I had heard about Save the Cat! I thought it might help... it did.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel is based on the Save the Cat! books by Blake Snyder, which are largely focussed on screenwriting. This adaptation for fiction writers is more specific to the literary world, whilst using the same methodology.

STC starts out with an explanation of why following a formula is beneficial, much as we (well, certainly I) might find that idea uncomfortable. Many successful stories follow this structure because it's compelling and interesting. Why not follow a successful blueprint?

The book then goes on to discuss the makeup of an interesting main character. My MC, I realised, basically had it too good. she wasn't interesting enough because life wasn't particularly difficult and she just seemed like a spoilt brat. STC helped me to see how to tweak that to make her much less irritating.

The STC structure follows 15 beats - points that a book needs to hit at certain parts of their story in order to be exciting and un-put-down-able. Once I started to read through them I had to agree that yes, my favourite stories did all follow this formula. It also helped me to figure out the pivotal moments in my story that were eluding me, by realising that I needed to focus on my MC's transformation.

STC then goes through 10 genres of story and the essential points that need to be included in each of those genres. These are not typical book genres, but rather, categories of story such as 'monster in the house' and 'whydunnit'. There is then an examination of a book within that genre, showing the beat sheet and explaining the key points. These books do mostly also have movie adaptations. This was my only (very small) criticism of this book, that by mapping the plot of these books it contains spoilers for very popular novels (many of which I hadn't read). Nonetheless, it was useful so I suppose if you aren't a fan of spoilers then you will need to read the examples first!

Overall, this book is fantastic. It is clearly and engagingly written, useful, clear and funny to boot. I will be referring to this a lot in the future and I thoroughly recommend STC to anyone who is starting out on or struggling with a writing project.

(I have also reviewed this book on my YouTube channel)

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