Book Review: Save the Cat – Writes a Novel

Author:  Jessica Brody

This book came highly recommended on Instagram and when Bethany Atazadeh and Brittany Wang did their #STCExperiement – YouTube videos of them using the book to outline a novel – I decided I had to get it so I could join in.  

What is the book about?

The book is based on books by Blake Snyder who writes guides for scriptwriters.  Jessica identified that the best novels use the same structure.  In this guide to writing she adapts the ‘Save the Cat’ beats for novel writing.  She also gives plenty of examples form best sellers – even if you haven’t read them you will know their names.  

How it works?

This guide splits the novel into four Acts.  Each act is broken down into beats.  The Beats have names and descriptions to prompt you what needs to be happening in your novel.  

Once you read the book you will start noticing the beats in films you watch.  It is a real eye opener. 

How I used it?

Editing (Jewel of the Sea)

When the book arrived I had just decided that Jewel of the Sea needed yet another edit!  I wanted to re-write the ending, however, that’s not as easy as just jumping to the end and writing it.   There are little details that need to be woven in throughout the novel.

After reading STC, I created a spreadsheet based on my word count and used the percentages to see where certain beats should be happening.  It turned out I had a lot of the beats but in some places my pacing was off.  I then used STC to help with that.  

Plotting Act 1 (Scarlet Dresses)

For Camp NaNo April, I used STC to draft out the first Act for a new novel called Scarlet Dresses.  During the challenge I made a really good start on this novel.

My only hold up was that I felt my characters were a bit flat as I had not spent long enough developing them.  I feel the story had got potential so I plan to return to this project and complete it… one day.  

Plotting and editing (Diamond in the Sky)

This month, I decided to do Camp NaNo July.  Jewel of the Sea is out with Beta Readers and I need to start thinking about writing the next novel in my shifter series.  Now, Diamond in the Sky has been started but never finished.  Now I am more familiar with STC, I decided to use it for both editing and plotting.  

To start with I need to edit what I already have.  I have used STC to plot the first Act and created my spreadsheet to check the pacing is right.  There are a few instances where it is slightly off and I have noted this on my spreadsheet to check later.  First, I want to get the novel written.

The next step will be to use STC to plot the rest of the novel – the unwritten chapters.  I will use STC to check that when I create the different beats that I am getting the pacing right.  

Final thoughts…

This book has changed the way I write.  I have always been a pantser and found editing incredibly hard.  Writing without a plan often can take you off on wayward paths that are not necessary or haven’t been preempted to create the right impact.  This results in a lot of editing – something I hate. 
With STC, I feel have a guide keeping me on track and I can check my pacing is working.  Previously, my outline was incredibly brief and left a lot of gaps for me to fill but having a plot keeps me on track and I don’t get stuck.  
If you need help plotting and with pacing, then I highly recommend this book.  Now, it is always close to hand and I wouldn’t write a novel without it.  I love it.  
Do you have any writer resources that you swear by?

If you like this, you may enjoy:

How I edited my novel – 12 tips for self editing

Where to find great story ideas…

Book Review: Who runs the world by Virginia Bergolt

Book Review: Lion’s Share

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Book Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Author:  Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen

This is the first book in the series that I have read and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  The funny thing is I first heard about this book at YALC 2017 when they were promoting it with #RedQueenForADay but it had taken me almost two years to pick it up to read.

Please excuse the silly picture, I was not feeling very photogenic after the long train ride to London.

What is the book about?

The book is set in a world with two species of humans.  There are those with red blood who are treated as a low class species and those with silver blood who are treated as nobles and have super power type abilities.

How it starts?

The MC, Mare, is a red blood.  She lives in a family that are struggling to get by and she hasn’t got a job to be able to contribute to supporting her family.  Mare is a thief.  Eventually, when she comes of age she will be sent to war, to fight for the silvers on the front lines with a high risk of being killed.

Mare’s best friend is due to be sent away very soon and Mare decides to help them escape but first she needs to get enough money to pay for their travel.  The risks are high so those that could help them escape have set a high fee.   

Mare’s sister has a good job where she makes fine clothes for the Silvers.  Mare tags along with her to get into the city.  Whilst there a terrorist attack takes place causing bedlam.  Mare panics and tries to pick a pocket but gets caught.  Her sister takes the blame to save her and has her hands broken, resulting in losing her trade.  The girls return home with very bleak prospects.

An unexpected request comes for Mare to come and work at the palace.  This will save her from war and give her family money to survive but she will have to leave them behind.

The middle

Early on, Mare discovers she is different from other Red Servants when she accidentally manipulates lightening.  She earns the nickname Little Lightning Girl and the attention of the Queen.  

The Queen fears that news that a red could have powers will encourage the rebels so she marries Mare to her son and concocts a story about how Mare is a silver that was raised as a red.  

Mare is watched by the Queen’s guards and the cameras in the palace.  She has to keep up the ruse but despite falling for the princes (both of them), her heart is still red and wants revenge for her kinds spilt blood.  Under the watchful eyes she seeks to join the rebels and take down the silvers from the inside.

How it ends

I don’t want to spoil it for you but there is a big battle where the odds are not in Mares favour. 
She is placed in an arena for her execution where, for entertainment, selected silvers will use their powers to torture her before her end.  Mare will have to battle them all if she is to live.

Final thoughts…

I wish I had read Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard sooner.  If you like powers, submersible world building and a touch of romance then give this YA Fantasy is worth a read.
Can you guess my next read? There’s a sneak peak in the photo.

If you like this, you may enjoy:

Book Review: Who runs the world by Virginia Bergolt

Book Review: Lion’s Share

Book Review: The Gender Game

Book Review: Rebel of the sands

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