You may recall from one of my previous posts how I shared my experience of using the Save The Cat! book to help structure the writing projects which I am working on, and as a big reader and even bigger planner, that was a pure pleasure. I loved being able to reference the various parts of the book related to the different beats and it helped to grow my understanding of the necessary elements of successful narrative enormously.
But you may have noticed on my other blog Frugal France that I have been *really* busy lately, what with my therapy work, writing for the French Property News magazine and renovating my little French house, I'll admit that my creative writing projects have taken a bit of a back seat.
That's why when Women on Writing asked me to review the online course Cracking The Beat Sheet from Save the Cat! I was enthusiastic to undertake some training that would be a) delivered by video at my own pace (which I love), and b) remind me of the themes which I studied in the book back in 2020. But in case you didn't catch that blog post, here are a few more details:
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.
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
My review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course
If you've struggled to use the Save The Cat! book to work out the beats of your story, then this course is for you. It's full of insights, explanations, examples and guides - including really useful printouts - which help you to work out step-by-step what your beats need to contain, and what changes you might make to improve your story.
It's easy to follow and full of humour so it's no chore to watch the lectures, and there are regular breaks and prompts to work on your own beats before moving onto the next stage.
If you're serious about polishing your beat sheet and story narrative, including analysing whether your hero is actively moving the story along in the most compelling and interesting way for your reader - then this is for you. It could also be for you if - like me - you've needed a kick to get moving on your stories, and to help you choose which journey to choose for your characters.
You can 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
GUEST POST: Expand Your Horizons with Travel and Books About Travel by Kathleen Meyer and Mike O'Mary of LitNuts
First of all, thank you to Laura for having LitNuts as a guest—and for inviting us to talk about such an interesting topic: Memoirs... or more specifically, Travel Memoirs... or more specifically, Travel Memoirs about France! We’ll share some recommendations across each category.
Let me start with some credentials: It just so happens that prior to starting LitNuts, I ran an indie press called Dream of Things for 10+ years that focused on memoirs. We didn’t publish any travel memoirs per se, but we did produce a nice anthology of essays about travel called Be There Now, which you can see on the Dream of Things website along with some really wonderful memoirs.
Kathleen and I also have credentials in the form of actual travel. It’s funny... I never left the United States until I was in my 30s, but have since been fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Ireland, England, France, Italy, Spain and China, as well as all over the United States.
Kathleen started younger with a trip to Ireland at age 13, a trip to Europe with her high school orchestra, and a semester of college in Italy. She also visited London and Paris with me, had vacations in Mexico, and has returned to Italy to visit. On top of that, she currently does marketing for an international company, which occasionally takes her to Europe for trade shows and to visit headquarters.
Suffice it to say that we appreciate the value of travel. It really is a window into other worlds and cultures, and I think learning (or trying to learn, in my case) another language is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself. Even just speaking a few phrases makes for a different level of engagement and a different experience when you are in another country.
I appreciate travel in literature, too. And so I read books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at least in part as a travelogue of the Mississippi River. I also highly recommend Shantyboat: A Riverboat Way of Life by Harlan Hubbard. He and his wife Anna built their own shantyboat (essentially, a “shanty” house on a raft that floats with the river current... no power), and floated down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in the 1940s. They documented their trip, which was rich with history, folklore and tips on how to be self-sufficient, and became folk heroes for a whole generation of folks looking for an alternative way of life.
Other books that I regard as personal favorites: On the Road by Jack Kerouac, and more recently, A Walk in the Woods about hiking the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson.
There are, of course, a whole slew of great travel books, some of which I’m sure you’ve read or seen as films: Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, and A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence and Encore Provence by Peter Mayle.
Back to the value of travel more generally, Kathleen says that studying abroad is not something she thought she’d ever do. She was worried about being far from home, family and friends. But she did it and is thankful she did.
“It changed me and my life,” she says. “While I was there, I really learned to be independent and resourceful, including traveling alone for a week to Urbino, Perugia, Assisi, Naples and Pompeii. I’m still surprised I did it. I planned it all on my own, got around on the train by myself and was my own best company.”
Kathleen read Eat Pray Love before she went to Italy, and then went to the same pizza place in Naples mentioned in the book. (“Really good pizza,” she says.) And she did a lot of reading while traveling. In fact, she read all of Roald Dahl’s short stories for adults while riding a train around Italy.
I want to close with a couple of recommendations specific to France and to Paris...
If you ever visit Reims and the Champagne region, which I highly recommend, read Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times by Don Kladstrup. Taking in the history of the region (including the fact that Attila the Hun camped near Reims with 700,000 troops in 451 A.D. before a bloody battle with the Romans and Gauls) makes a visit that much more fascinating.
Finally, a plug for Paris, by far my favorite city to visit. It’s made for getting around by foot and by Metro, and it’s full of history, literary and otherwise.
On one visit, Kathleen and I stayed at a small hotel in The Marais and visited Maison de Victor Hugo. On another visit, I rented an apartment in the Latin Quarter, a half block from Rue Mouffetard, the ancient cobblestone road from Paris to Rome, and a half block from Place de la Contrescarpe, famous as one of Ernest Hemingway’s hangouts—and still a lively gathering place most evenings.
On that particular visit, I picked up a copy of A Moveable Feast at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, and read it in between long walks, similar to those Hemingway took and wrote about almost 100 years ago.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not), little has changed in 100 years. The neighborhoods, parks, cafes and bars are pretty much the same as they were when Hemingway took his long walks. If you can get to Paris and take your own walk, by all means do so. If not, pick up a copy of A Moveable Feast and go on a virtual walk with a great writer as your guide.
All of that said, I’d love to hear from others. What are your favorite travel memoirs and travel books?
As a “thank you” for dropping by, here are a couple of parting gifts:
Further info on the WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING TOUR OF LitNuts.com
So, LitNuts brings you books of short stories, essays, or poetry that many other newsletters refuse to include (because collections don't sell as well as novels). LitNuts also features new releases and award-winning books that other newsletters exclude because of price. (Many newsletters feature ONLY ebooks priced at $2.99 or less, which is fine – but not all great books are $2.99 or less!).
For authors, you'll be happy to hear that LitNuts founders Mike O'Mary and Kathleen Meyer handled publishing and marketing for an indie press for more than 10 years. This is important because that means they understand the challenge of getting your books in front of readers.
LitNuts is an affordable vehicle that focuses on indie books and has engaged subscribers. Their goal is to help authors increase their book's sales rank with online retailers, generate more reader reviews, and create positive word-of-mouth.
Toward that end, they are building a subscriber base of book lovers who want to hear from indie presses. And we are focused on keeping things simple and flexible for authors. They offer a flat price of $25, so it's simple. No tiered pricing or convoluted advertising offers to analyze.
At the same time, they give authors the flexibility to advertise short story, essay and poetry collections, to link to your website so book lovers can purchase directly from you, and to set the price of your ebook according to your needs.
About LitNut and owners Kathleen Meyer and her father, Mike O'Mary:
LitNuts is a woman-owned, family-run business founded by Kathleen Meyer and her father, Mike O'Mary, who share a love of literature and reading. Kathleen is an avid reader with 10 years of marketing experience, including with Dream of Things, a small press founded by Mike in 2009. During its 10 year history, Dream of Things published three New York Times Best Sellers, three winners of the Hoffer Award, and one book that has been optioned for a film. Kathleen and Mike drew upon their experience of publishing and marketing books on a shoestring budget to create LitNuts, in the hope of helping other indie presses achieve success.
Authors and readers, visit LitNuts.com to sign up for their newsletter, where you can hear about incredible books from indie publishers that you wouldn't hear about anywhere else.
You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
As many of you know I'm currently working on a few pieces of writing that I've found really hard to move forward through the COVID-19 pandemic.
I started well in March with my own Nanowrimo of sorts managing to write several thousand words in just a few days. Unfortunately, that story was set in a post-apocalyptic version of London, and I don't know about you but I didn't feel as though I needed to experience a surreal life and death event in both my day-to-day living and my fiction work, so I stopped writing.
Getting through pandemic writer's block
Occasionally I would still get pangs of wanting to write though, especially since I had uncorked the creativity earlier in the month. Fortunately, a solution fell into my lap when I was given the chance to try the Save The Cat! Writes a Novel software.
Many of you who are writers will be well aware of the famous Save the Cat! Writes a Novel book by Jessica Brody. Save the Cat! provides writers with 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). Their 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. You can find out more about Save the Cat! by visiting their website www.savethecat.com.
The Save the Cat Structure Software
Save the Cat! Story Structure Software is adapted from the Save the Cat! methodology to help screenwriters and novelists unlock the fundamentals of plot and character transformation. The Story Structure Software is a virtual writer board with digital index cards to help map out your story against the 15 beats or plot points to your story. The software enables writers to track emotional shifts of characters from scene to scene, develop profiles and edit and version your story with ease.
I had not got round to reading the book at the time of receiving the software, but I have since and loved how Jessica guides writers through understanding story-structure and reveals the 15 essential plot points needed to make any novel a success.
How I used the Save the Cat! software
The software allows the user to define the various elements which the book identifies as integral to the success of the story. It goes on to demystify each beat, making it simple to learn the complexities of storytelling. As I had been pantsing my previously mentioned dystopian novel I was not used to this way of working, at first I worried that the structure would stymie my creative flow - however to my delight I found it to be quite the opposite. Working through the various sections of the software and them all being organised into a logical timeline encouraged me to keep going with my plotting. So much so that I was able to completely plot out my next novel in one sitting.
It was a wonderful feeling and I can't wait to get back to this particular piece of work. My characters are well defined, my plot is completely devised and I know what needs to be in each part of the book. For someone who would have identified as a lifelong pantser, I have to say that I am converted. If you're struggling with the idea of sitting down to work out your story and need some extra support as I did (and will continue to) then I highly recommend heading over to the Save the Cat! website to learn more.
You can purchase a subscription to the Save the Cat! Structure Software at Save the Cat's website.
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.
About the Author, Jessica Brody
Jessica Brody worked for MGM Studios as manager of acquisitions and business development before becoming an internationally best-selling author of more than fifteen novels for adults and teens including The Geography of Lost Things, The Chaos of Standing Still, A Week of Mondays, and Better You Than Me. She travels the country teaching Save the Cat! workshops to novelists.
Hello! And welcome to my blog. Here I shall deposit my musings on the writing process as I endeavour to fulfil my lifelong ambition of writing my first fiction novel.
I'll be posting my experiences with various courses, podcasts, videos and books as I build my professional reputation as a fiction writer, and hopefully entertain with my stories along the way.
If you'd like to learn more about me click here. I'll be sure to come back soon with my thoughts on the latest tools I've been using to build my career.