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Saturday, June 07, 2014

Novel Writing: What Does a Cat Have to Do With That? Everything, Believe It or Not.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If you hang around here a lot (and I really hope you do!), you've probably heard me talk about LDS Storymakers.  The organization, which is made up of writers from the LDS community, hosts an annual writing conference which draws hundreds of attendees from around the country.  It's a fun, informative event that always has great teachers/presenters like Brandon Sanderson, Jessica Day George, Aprilynne Pike, Janette Rallison/C.J. Hill, Dan Wells, Melanie Jacobson, Kimberley Griffiths Little, Sarah Eden, Elana Johnson, Natalie Whipple, Brodi Ashton, Anne Perry, and many, many more.  I attend most years, not just for the writing advice, but for networking opportunities, the chance to see old friends, etc.  While the 2014 conference wasn't my favorite (the keynote speaker soured the experience quite a bit for me, but I won't get into all that drama), it was a good ole time.

My point?  Although the focus of the conference is not religious at all, it's amazing how much time the presenters and attendees spend gushing about the Bible.  I'm not referring to the Holy Bible, oh no.  I'm talking Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder, a screenwriter who's hailed (at least at LDS Storymakers) as a kind of writing god.  What, you might ask, does crafting a movie have to do with penning a novel?  Lots, actually.  Especially when it comes to plotting, pacing, and populating your story with all the elements that dazzle moviegoers as well as book readers.

The thing that makes the book so helpful is Snyder's identification of the "beats" that every good movie needs and in which order they should appear to maximize their effectiveness in the telling of the story.  This formula can easily be applied to novels (in fact, I know several authors who use Save the Cat! Scrivener templates every time they draft a book).  Just as Snyder breaks down popular movies into identifiable "beats," you can do the same with any novel, which helps you to understand why they do/do not work.  It's very revealing.  Snyder's beat sheets are especially helpful when plotting a novel, as they help you recognize potential slow, weak spots in your story.  Again, extremely helpful.

So, does the book—and the ideas it contains—deserve the reverence it receives every year at Storymakers?  I think, yes.  I found it to be not just informative, but also entertaining, encouraging, and enlightening.  If you write (or try to write) novels or screenplays and you haven't read Save the Cat!, do it.  Before Snyder passed away in 2009, he wrote two sequels:  Save the Cat Goes to the Movies and Save the Cat Strikes Back.  If you can't get your hands on the books, there's also a fabulous Save the Cat! website as well as frequent Save the Cat! workshops around the country.  Obviously, Mormon writers aren't the only ones extolling the virtues of Snyder and his famous cat :)

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall; also, the other Save the Cat! books)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and references (not graphic) to sex

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Save the Cat! from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.


  1. I never thought about screen writing helping plot a novel. Cool idea! I hadn't heard of this book before. Thanks for the review. :)

  2. Mmm... how come I've never heard of this book! Do you know when I was writing my book I saw it as a movie in my head? So I can see how his advice works for novel writers.


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