I’ve been a fan of Jessica Brody for a long time, and I previously featured her here and here. When I found out that she wrote SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL, based on one of my favorite craft books, I knew another feature was in order!

Novelist Jessica Brody presents a comprehensive story-structure guide for novelists that applies the famed Save the Cat! screenwriting methodology to the world of novel writing. Revealing the 15 “beats” (plot points) that comprise a successful story–from the opening image to the finale–this book lays out the Ten Story Genres (Monster in the House; Whydunit; Dude with a Problem) alongside quirky, original insights (Save the Cat; Shard of Glass) to help novelists craft a plot that will captivate–and a novel that will sell.

In our last interview, you said that nothing was set in stone, and you were glad that you’d changed careers. What, if anything, would you say to writers who are afraid to take that leap? And what would you say to writers who are interested in writing full time? 

I live by the philosophy: “Leap and the net will appear.” Or the more clichéd one, “Do what you love and the money comes later.” But I do realize that’s not necessarily the most practical advice. I mean, you need money to live right? And those bills don’t pay themselves? And kids need to eat! If you are not financially set up to quit your job and wait months—even years—for a writing payday, then obviously I don’t advise you do that. I do believe that being “hungry” can inspire you to write more, but it can also put a financial burden on your creativity which may not be conducive to good writing. My best practical piece of advice for transitioning into a writing career (or any creative career) is to always do what you love first thing every day. If that’s writing, then write first and then go to your day job. If it’s painting, then paint first and then go get that paycheck. What you do first with your day, what you prioritize your life around, is crucial. Not only will you perform that first task better and more creatively and with less distractions, but prioritizing your art first is basically you saying to the universe: “Look, I may not be making money doing this but it’s super important to me. See how I’m making it a priority in my life!” And the universe will eventually respond…when it sees that you’re serious.


Very thoughtful and helpful advice! SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL takes the three-act structure methodology used in screenwriting and applies it to novels. In what ways did you feel that novel writers could benefit from an expansion of Blake Snyder’s original?

The three-act structure is a beautiful thing. It’s what almost all books and courses about plotting will teach you. But it’s also, sorry to say, a bit thin. When writing a 300+ page novel it’s simply not enough to say, “Act 1 – Set up your world, Act 2 – Throw some conflict in, Act 3 – Resolve that conflict.” You find yourself sitting there staring numbly at the screen going, “okay, but how do I just throw conflict into 180 pages!? (which is approximately how long Act 2 should be in a 300-page novel). What the Save the Cat! method does is it takes the three-act structure to another level. It breaks the three acts (and all stories, really) into 15 key “story beats” (or plot points). These are the same key beats that are found in every great story ever told.

Basically, if you’re swimming the English channel with no life vest, no support boat, and no help (approximately how it feels to write a 300-page novel), the 15 story beats of the Save the Cat method provides you with little buoys along the way. Rest stops. And shorter distances to swim between them. Getting from key story beat to key story beat breaks the daunting process of writing a novel into smaller, more achievable goals. And helps keep you on target for those goals so you don’t accidentally swim off to Fiji. Which is actually way more important for novelists than it is for screenwriters because, ahem, WE HAVE MORE TO WRITE!

(If you want learn more about the “key story beats” and the Save the Cat! method, download my FREE “Save the Cat! Starter Kit” here.)

We definitely have more to write–one of many reasons why I can’t wait for this book to come out. For you, what are the biggest challenges you currently face in your writing process?

It’s always, always letting go of what I envisioned the story to be and letting the story be what it needs to be. I’m a plotter and yes, I like to outline in advance. And while I believe that saves me time in the long run, it also creates another challenge: expectation. When I start out with an outline, especially one I’m totally excited about, it’s sometimes hard for me to let go of plot points or “beats” that are not working. And most of the time you won’t know that they’re not working until you actually get there and write that scene. At which point, you have to rethink that particular beat, or maybe even your entire story! Forcing it just won’t work. I’ve tried it (numerous times). Trust me on this, it’ll only run you around in circles and waste time. When a pesky plot point isn’t working, you have to let it go. Yes, even if it’s your favorite.

I am currently working through this on the second draft of a novel–and didn’t figure out it wasn’t working until the very end. Yikes! If you were stuck on an island and could only access two fiction books and two nonfiction books, what would they be and why? 

Ha! The dreaded island question. As a decisionally-challenged person, I despise this question. But I’ll answer it anyway, because I love you, Karen!

Fiction: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (because I don’t think I’ll ever get over how beautifully written it is) and then probably something really long like War and Peace or Les Miserables. Because by the time I reach the end, I’ll probably have forgotten the beginning. That should keep me busy for a while.

Non-Fiction: Save the Cat!…obviously! And how about, How to Get Off a Deserted Island When You Have No Survival Skills Whatsoever. That’s a real book right? If not, it should be. I would buy it! Because apparently I’m going to need it!

SPECIAL PRE-ORDER OFFER (LIMITED TIME):

Pre-order a copy of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and receive a FREE companion eBook containing bonus beat sheets (plot breakdowns) for 10 popular novels. That’s over 120 pages of extra content to help you plot your own bestseller.
Click Here to Learn More!

About the Author:

Since Jessica Brody started using the Save the Cat! method, she has sold more than 17 novels to major publishers like Simon and Schuster, Random House, and Macmillan. Now, Jessica is the author of several novels for teens, tweens, and adults including The Geography of Lost Things, The Chaos of Standing Still, A Week of Mondays, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, and the Unremembered trilogy. She’s also the author of the Descendants: School of Secrets series, based on the hit Disney Channel original movie, Descendants, and the LEGO Disney Princess Chapter Books. Her first non-fiction book, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, a plotting guide for novelists, releases in October 2018. Jessica’s books have been translated and published in over 23 countries and Unremembered and 52 Reasons to Hate My Father are currently in development as major motion pictures. She lives with her husband and three dogs near Portland, OR.

Visit her online at: JessicaBrody.com, Follow her on Twitter @JessicaBrody, or on Instagram @JessicaBrody

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

 

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

 

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.


Looking for Jessica Brody’s new and upcoming U.S. book releases? Find them here. 

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