As a bookstagrammer, a former English major, and an all around book lover, I get asked about writing books a lot. Mostly… “Would you ever want to write a novel??” And the answer is sure! If I could ever figure out an entire plot for one! Part of me just enjoys being a reader, and getting to enjoy how great books are. But the other part is like, I have so many ideas, I have to write them all down! I’ve never quite found the bridge between the ideas I have for plots and the actual writing of them.
That’s why when I got the opportunity to review the Save the Cat! Writes a Novel book and software, I couldn’t pass it up. I’ve never read a novel writing book, so I can’t compare this one to others, but I can say that I was learning great novel writing tips from the first page. I think that if you want to write a novel, but you don’t know exactly where you want to start (me! me! me!), this is a great option for you.
Save the Cat! was initially written as a screenwriting advice book by Blake Snyder. It was adapted into a book on writing novels by Jessica Brody. You’re probably thinking the same thing I was — how can you adapt a book about screenwriting to novels? I know it probably took a lot of time, but Brody sure made it seem easy. She flawlessly related Snyder’s screenwriting “beats” into plot points for novels. Save the Cat! takes you through the beginning, middle, and end of the novel writing process.
One of the things I loved the most about how she did that: She related all of the advice back to published books! Using books like Jane Eyre or Everything, Everything, she was able to to show how these beats are applied in popular novels and how they are applied to different genres. Here’s a PDF from Brody that shows this off.
So the book is a solid A++++. If you haven’t tried out other novel writing books, this is a solid one to start with. I learned so much (literally, even how long my book should be for middle grade or adult fiction), and I know you will do. The software, while helpful, was a little harder to navigate.
The great thing about this software is that it takes you through every plot point discussed in the book. You can click on a button, let’s say “The Saga Begins” and it takes you through each of those beginning points and allows you to add the scenes you want. I also love that it lets you visualize where your novel is going. You can add notes and each box is a new scene. You can leave gaps to add something later, and even put in your half thought-out ideas. In concept, it’s a really great program. But in reality, it was a little hard to use.
Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like on my computer. As you can tell it’s a little outdated, and it does run a little slow. And to be honest, I haven’t used it much because it makes my computer make that hellish whirrrrring noise that sounds like it’s dying. I think if you have the patience to go through all of the How To videos and watch all the tutorials, you will be happy with this software, but that isn’t me.
Admittedly, I hate figuring out hidden features. I prefer when I can just hit the ground running, and that’s not this software. If you are like me, you probably won’t enjoy it. But if you have even an ounce of patience for technology, you’ll enjoy all the different features there are.
I think it’s great for keeping your clutter in a program that allows you to untangle your ideas. You definitely need a newer computer than mine, and some strong work ethic to figure out each layer of the program.
Overall, the book is completely worth it. I think it’s a great investment in your writing, even if you only have 10% of a plot figured out. For the software, I think you should be farther along before you get it. Know what you are writing, and now that you really are going to follow through with it, before you buy the software program.
Oh, and if you’ve made it this far, I feel like you deserve to know what “save the cat!” even means. I know I was curious! In the original screenwriting book, Snyder said that in order to make an unliked character more likeable, you need to make them save a cat. In other words, make them redeemable and give them a soft heart (like all my favorite villains).
Find out more about Save the Cat! by visiting their webpage at www.savethecat.com.