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[Thanks so much to Random House and Women on Writing for sending me a copy of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel for review. After you read the review, take a look at the author’s website, buy a copy, or check out the Save the Cat! website and other blog tour stops.]
About Save the Cat! Writes a Novel
An Amazon #1 best seller with over 500 reviews, it’s the first novel-writing guide from the best-selling Save the Cat! story-structure series, reveals the 15 essential plot points needed to make any novel a success.
In this revolutionary novel-writing guide from the best-selling Save the Cat! series, novelist Jessica Brody demystifies each beat, making it simple to learn the complexities of storytelling. The best-seller also reveals the ten universal story genres to help you drill down into what makes your type of story work. Featuring sample “beat sheets” for hits from the likes of J. K. Rowling, Khaled Hosseini, and Stephen King, this practical guide also includes real-world advice on pitching your novel, plus the quirky, original insights (like the eponymous tip to “Save the Cat”) that make this series unique. By the end of this book, your own imaginative beats will combine to create a story that thrills readers from start to finish.
Print Length: 320 Pages
Genre: Writing References
Publisher: Ten Speed Press/Random House Publishing LLC
Save the Cat! Writes the Novel is available as a print and e-book at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody is a book that explores plot, genre, and storytelling for writers who need a little help putting the pieces together. Jessica Brody explains the Save the Cat structure (originally detailed in the screenwriting book Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder) and adapts it to novel writing. The novel edition includes a detailed explanation of the 3-act structure with the 15 Save the Cat “beats” as well as a breakdown of the 10 basic story genres, a guide to writing a synopsis and pitching, and a FAQs section that I found really helpful.
Both newbie writers and experienced writers could benefit from Jessica Brody’s insights into novel writing and the expert way she adapts the Save the Cat structure to novels.
Let me be straight with you for a minute:
Before this book, I didn’t understand how to plot a novel. Not even a little bit. I can write characters I love all day long, but when it comes time to send them on their adventure, I lose steam. This is probably the reason literary fiction has always appealed to my tastes, but even an amazing character-driven novel still needs a plot.
That’s why I was so excited when I came across Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. Reading this book was the confidence boost I needed to believe I could actually finish writing my book. Some of you know that I’m primarily a poet, but I’m working on my first YA novel, so my timing for reading Save the Cat was perfect.
Reading about the beat structure…
As I read about each story beat, I tried to imagine my characters and what plot points I could dream up for them to fit the Save the Cat structure. There were times when I was stuck, so reading this book helped me realize how much character development and plotting I still have left, and I appreciated that.
Throughout the book there are references to well-known novels that help you get an idea of how the beats look in action. Brody also includes “Beat Sheets” which are basically a synopsis of a popular book broken down to show what happens in each beat of that book so the reader can gain a deeper understanding of how the beats might appear in a story. Personally, I really enjoyed the references to The Hunger Games because my novel has similar themes.
Knowing that Save the Cat preaches a specific structure (the 15 beats), you might worry that following the structure will make your book formulaic. Brody does a great job of addressing this fear at the beginning of the book by showing all the amazing novels (from centuries ago to modern best-sellers) that follow the structure while remaining fresh and interesting to read. So if you’re worried that Save the Cat might make your writing too formulaic, I urge you to at least pick up the book so you can see all the variations that Brody pulls in to illustrate her point.
The 10 basic genres that Jessica Brody explains in Save the Cat! Writes a Novel are probably not what you’d expect. They don’t fall under the same labels that we would use to describe books we’re reading, like “fantasy,” “young adult,” or “thriller,” for example, but each of those genres do fall into a Save the Cat genre like “rites of passage” or “monster in the house.”
I found that thinking of my story in this context was a little difficult at first. I just wasn’t sure which genre I should plot my story in since I’m still in the early stages of writing and planning. Thinking outside the genre-boxes that we’re used to can be helpful, though, as it gives us another vantage point to see our story and potentially plot a better path to make it enjoyable for the reader.
It was a lot of information to take in, but overall, I think the genres outlined in Save the Cat! Writes a Novel are useful tools for any fiction writer.
Some things to keep in mind
Like I said, there is a ton of great information in this book. I realized early on that I wasn’t going to be able to absorb everything in one go. If you decide to use this book to help you plan your novel, just know that it may take several reads to really work out your story's details, and you’ll probably want to refer back to the structure section and the genre section that applies to your book even during revision.
If you’re a very experienced writer (like you’ve already written several books that you were happy with), I can imagine that it might be a little frustrating trying to fit the Save the Cat structure into the way you think about your own stories. That being said, I still think it can help you quite a bit if you’re open minded. You might even find that you’ve learned some of the Save the Cat principles through your own reading and writing. This book could help you flesh out your story even further.
If you hate spoilers, you might not enjoy reading Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. Brody tries to stay general enough that I wouldn’t consider every detail she includes a spoiler, but there are some. She notes what books she’ll be discussing at the beginning of each chapter, so you can use that as a reference if you really hate spoilers, but most of the books have been around for a while already, so I urge you to read Save the Cat anyway.
Overall, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel is a book I know I’ll come back to and learn even more from in the future. I recommend it to any writer who wants to connect the pieces of their story a little better and improve their draft, or anyone like me who loves reading and writing but struggles to articulate the plot of their own novel and plan it out properly. It’s definitely a worthwhile book and one you should keep on your shelf for reference!
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Poet. Reader. Lifelong Student.