A Review of ‘Save the Cat! Writes a Novel’ by Jessica Brody

This is a book about the creation and structuring of novels. If you’ve been reading my blog recently you’ll have noticed that I have been posting articles on the subject of how you should structure a novel for ‘optimal’ readability. This is a nonfiction book of writing advice, providing a no-nonsense guide to how to write.

Of all the structures I’ve examined so far, this is by far the most beginner-friendly. If you’re new, maybe give this book a read.

The ‘Save the Cat!’ style is a beat sheet, first developed in the realm of screenplay writing. A beat sheet is basically a checklist of meta-plotpoints which your story should hit in order to create an aesthetically pleasing narrative. For example, individual beats include ‘Catalyst,’ which is an event in the story which causes the plot of the story to begin (in ‘The Hobbit,’ this is when Gandalf shows up and encourages Bilbo to leave the Shire). Or ‘All is Lost,’ where the protagonist have suffered a setback and things look bleak (in ‘The Hobbit,’ this is when Smaug is off burning Laketown). I found this style of story construction to be very practical.

My favorite part of this book is the abundance (about 50) examples. The author drilled down to a variety of different storyline types (not genres, but ur-plots such as ‘Best Buds’ or ‘Superhero’ or ‘Dude with a Problem’), and she cited examples and explained them. For about a dozen of these examples, she went into deep detail explaining on a beat-by-beat level, so that the reader has an easy time understanding how the beat sheet works.

But I like to provide some constructive criticism, so here it is:

  • The beat sheet provided was too prescriptive. I get that the author provided multiple storyline types so the reader has multiple types to choose from, but the author portrayed the overall structure as being inflexible.
  • The author never really described how to handle a multi POV novel like an Epic Fantasy novel.

Letter Grade: (B+)



Overall Rating: Recommended (How I Rate Books)



Genres/Tagwords: Writing, editing, outlining, Writing Advice, Pacing, Structure

Similar books:

Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:

  • None


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