Tuesday was a bad day in first grade. It was because everyone was a little off from school being closed on Monday and then Tuesday we had a delayed opening due to snow and icy roads and I had a meeting as soon as I got to school and didn’t have time to finish making copies and get prepared for the day as I would on a normal day when I get there early.
Immediately, when I stepped back to reflect on the day, I made the connection to my current writing situation. Recently, Elana Johnson sang the praises of the book Save the Cat! on her blog. It was within a post where she discussed how to start your book, and since I have my story idea all happily settled and the beginning has been a real bugger, I was all, HELLS YEAH and my fingers immediately did the walking and ordered the book. Like, pronto. Flames, on the sides of my fingers. I typed that fast.
|"Flames... on the sides of my face..."|
Save the Cat! is actually a book about screenwriting, but as Elana said, the advice it gives is just as effective for novel writing. It's a quick and easy read, to the point, makes things so clear, and on every page, it's like, YES, THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE! Trust me. Go buy it. I'll wait.
Back? Ok. So Save the Cat! arrived at my doorstep pretty quickly (for those of you who have been following for awhile, no one stole the package from my front door! Bonus!) and I dove right in. I kinda had to, because Handsome Hubby is a TV Productions teacher and I think he is chomping at the bit to steal my new little gem. :)
Anyway... onward toward the point of this post, I promise... I have been gobbling up the book and in it, Blake Snyder wills us as writers to do some sensible planning before we dive into the writing. To have a clear logline in mind. To make our MC likeable, even if just a little, so the readers are willing to go on this journey with us, and to have the genre clearly focused in our minds because each genre has a set of beats that should be followed to make the story a success. He tells great tales of why movies flopped, generally because the moviemakers spent lots of money on effects rather than a few dollars on bettering the script.
So what did I learn from this? That the whole reason that I am having trouble with my beginning, even though I have a whole story in mind, and pieces of it written, is that there were small but immeasurably important steps I hadn't yet taken before flying into the writing itself. In essence, I jumped the gun.
|Ok, this is more like running but... yeah.|
So I stopped. And I thought. And I storyboarded. And I worked on a logline and a title that gave me a clearer vision of my own story (they are still works in progress, but I feel like I have a lot more direction). I know now how my MC will "save the cat", or perform an act at the beginning of the story that will sort of set her character in the readers' eyes. It makes sense, but I hadn't done it. I carefully read the 10 genres of screenplays he wrote about (it fits books also) and the necessary beats and focus of each one, and better identified the type of story I am writing. And it has made so much sense. I'm a complete Blake Snyder convert. (And I have a brand shiny new CP to show my story to once I spiff it up a bit! WOOT!)
So let's chat. Are you a plotter and planner, or are you a gun-jumpin' pantser? What works for you? Have you read Save the Cat!? Did it help you like crazy like it is helping me? Let me know in the comments!
Oh and by the way... Wednesday was much better in school. So much so that I have a First Grade Funny to leave you with (yes, I know that's poor grammar, sue me): So when your girls are being noisy in the hallway bathroom and you go in and ask them all sternly what they are doing, and you find that they are playing Rosa Parks and they show you how each stall is a bus seat.... You just kinda have to laugh. :)