I've said over and over I'm a pantser. I don't usually plot--instead I fly by the seat of my pants--and in earlier attempts at writing a novel, it resulted in one disaster after another. Rambling manuscripts. Boring stories that weren't really stories. I was at a loss at how to outline or plot a novel-length piece...
... until I found the book Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. This how-to book taught me the structure I needed, but it also had enough room for fleshing things out, making me feel like I was still pantsing--a little.
At the time I was working on a contemporary middle-school/YA novel about a young girl who "channels" Emmett Till. She's a cutter. She's plagued by bullies. In preparing to work on the plot, I inhaled Save the Cat! in huge gulps. I decided to do something large and visual. I bought 8 wooden yardsticks (when cut in half, there would be 15, one for each beat or plot point). I bought different colored index cards, and different colored push pins. (That last one even has me flummoxed. I think I just wanted everything matchy-matchy.) My brilliant idea: I would have the whole plot portable. I'd have the index cards--after I filled them out with the scenes--they'd be tacked to the yardsticks, and when I wasn't working on the story, I could prop them up in a corner.
How did that work out? Well, the yardsticks are neatly stacked under a futon in our spare bedroom, communing with the dust bunnies. The push pins and index cards? Who knows where those puppies went? I realized I needed more help.
Thankfully there is a set of cards and a course, and they're exactly the nudge (and guidance) I need.
First, the beat cards and scene cards.
The beat cards are each labeled with helpful reminders to keep the writer on track. If you use the reminders on the scene cards (including the reminder I need: "emotional change of the main character") you won't head toward the ditch and get stuck, plot-wise. I've already started filling the cards out... and I'll probably use the yard sticks in our fire pit.
The course is self-paced, and so spot-on. There's videos, homework assignments, and things to read. Some of the advice from the course I'm repeating to myself over and over include:
- Keep the beats simple--1 or 2 sentences.
- All the beats should fit on one page, so you can easily get the big visual.
- How does the story begin and how does it end? Like bookends, these should be opposites.
- What does the main character want, and what do they need? The external goals are easy, but as writers, we have to dig deep to find out what the character needs.
- Does my hero lead the action? That means I need to make sure there is action.
- Is there a variety of emotions, or it one long, flat note? My story is serious, but I need to include some humorous moments as well.
First, what is Save the Cat!®?
Save the Cat! provides writers the resources they need to develop their screenplays and novels based on a series of best-selling books, primarily written by Blake Snyder (1957- 2009). Blake’s method is based on 10 distinctive genres and his 15 story beats (the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet). Our books, workshops, story structure software, apps, and story coaching teach you everything you need to unlock the fundamentals and mechanics of plot and character transformation.
Find out more about Save the Cat! by visiting their webpage at https://savethecat.com/
About the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course
This course is designed for writers to turn their idea into a movie or novel. This learn-at-your-own-pace online class helps you develop the 15 key “beats” or “plot points” of your story. Strung together, in the right order, these 15 beats make up the blueprint to a successful screenplay or novel.
You'll Turn an Idea into a Story by Learning to...
• Create a solid beat sheet that will serve as the road map, and “backbone” of your story
• Identify and know the key components of your story genre • Learn the clichés of your genre so that you can break them like an artist
• Plot your hero’s journey and “transformation” • Troubleshoot your story idea for viability
• Write a compelling logline or elevator pitch
This Course Is for Those Who...
• Want to troubleshoot an existing story
• Have so many great ideas and struggle to choose "the one"
• Are ready to write but not sure how to start
• Are determined to finish a half-written story
• Want to learn
This Course Includes…
• Over 3 hours and 17 minutes of original video production
• 9 downloadable worksheets • 3 reading assignments (book not included)
• 4 homework assignments
Course Value: $59
Find out more information about the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course by visiting https://www.savethecatcourses.com/courses/cracking-the-beat-sheet.
About Save the Cat! Story Cards
Introducing Save the Cat!®Story Cards, consisting of Save the Cat! Beat Cards and Save the Cat! Scene Cards, all designed to outline and develop your story.
Save the Cat! Beat Cards
Crack your story from the “Opening Image” to the “Final Image.” Save the Cat!® Beat Cards provide writers with the 15 key plot points to map out your script or novel. Every set contains 15 individual index cards with helpful explanations of each beat to form the foundation of your story.
Save the Cat! Scene Cards
Every scene of your story needs to communicate “place,” “basic action,” “emotional transformation,” and “outcome.” The Save the Cat!® Scene Cards help writers nail the purpose of every scene. Each set of cards contains 40 color-coded cards broken down by act, with 10 extra cards because we know you’ll need them.
Cards Value: $10.95
Find out more information about Story Cards at https://savethecat.com/story-cards
More information about Save the Cat!:
Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course
Save the Cat! Website
Save the Cat! Best-Selling Books
Save the Cat! Story Cards
- Blog Tour Dates
March 7th @ Help Me Naomi
Visit Naomi's blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards and the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.
March 8th @ World of My Imagination
Guest writer, Stephanie Anne, reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and Save the Cat! Story Cards on Nicole's blog World of My Imagination.
March 9th @ Cathy Stucker's Selling Books
Visit Cathy's blog again where you can read a guest post from the Save the Cat! team about why structure is a friend, not a formula.
March 9th @ Sandy Kirby Quandt
Sandy shares her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.
March 10th @ Brooke's Reviews and Sweeps
Join Brooke as she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.
March 11th @ Jill Sheet's Blog
Visit Jill's blog today and check out her insights into the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.
March 12th @ Finished Pages
Join Renee as she reviews her experience with the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.
March 13th @ Writer Unboxed
Visit Therese's blog again as she reviews the Save the Cat! Story Cards. You'll want to check these out if you want to storyboard your novel!
March 14th @ The Margate Bookie
You'll definitely want to catch today's guest post where Save the Cat! discusses the power of the writer's board.
March 15th @ My Heart is Booked
Join Danielle today where she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! story cards.
March 15th @ LM Harley
Visit Laura's blog and check out her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.
March 18th @ Cathy C. Hall Writes
Join Cathy as she shares her thoughts about the Save the Cat! Story Cards.
March 19th @ One Writer's Journey
Visit Sue's blog today as she shares her insights into the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.
March 21st @ World of My Imagination
Join Nicole and read her review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards.
March 22nd @ Mint Miller Writes
Mint Miller treats us to a review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards. Don't miss it!
March 23rd @ Karen Brown Tyson
Join Karen as shares a Save the Cat guest post discussing the benefits of using a board.
March 25th @ WOW's Editor Blog
You don't want to miss WOW's editor-in-chief, Angela Mackintosh' review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.
March 26th @ World of My Imagination
Writer Kate Mahony is a guest reviewer at World of My Imagination and she shares her thoughts about the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.
March 27th @ Joyful Antidotes
Visit Joy's blog today where you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.