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Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody (BOOK REVIEW) 4/5

Save the Cat Writes a Novel is a delightful must read for any writer. Within these pages, I found so many of the base rules and ideas of forming a story that I have always known to be true. Jessica Brody- and in relation, Blake Snyder, the original author of Save the Cat (for screenwriting)- gives a wonderful account of why people read the books they read. Not in genres of horror, fantasy, or romance, but in genres of a much more important sort: the genre of storytelling. For any writer, or reader, these tropes will be quite familiar- from the down and out underdog to the love that encourages change. The theory that any writing can fit into these beats is not just a theory, but utter truth. Even stories that are not the norm, that defies any trope, can be seen here in small, subtle connections.

While I find this novel to be accurate, and quite helpful in making the writer think about their stories, I’ve given it a four out of five stars for my personal reading experience. I judge writing craft books on two things: Useful information, and enjoyment in reading.

Useful information, this novel has in abundance. I find that I will likely use it as a reference book- something to flick open when I write a new story, to answer the questions within as I figure out where my story fits, or to reference the beats. The beat sheet within will work wonders for the hearts of plotters, though it is a little more in depth than my personal writing style, and that’s okay. This novel isn’t a die-hard blueprint to follow, but more of a guide.

However, when it comes to enjoyment of reading, I found myself struggling a little bit. A good amount of this book plots the beat-by-beat process of other novels, putting them into the Save the Cat theory format and showing why it appears again and again in our favorite novels. This is a brilliant way to show an example of the process, but I don’t think it is enticing enough to read again unless there is a specific reason. Thus, along with my lack of interest in the beat sheet, the next time I write a story, I will be pulling open the book and reading the specific chapter of the story genre I’m working with, but I don’t see myself rereading this entire book for quite some time.

Overall, I think this book is a good start for an inexperienced writer, or someone who wants to see into the mind of those who study stories for a living. Or perhaps, just to study someone who is more well read than they are, as this novel does have lists upon lists of books that are must reads. I would recommend Save the Cat Writes a Novel to anyone with a writing craft shelf in their library, a staple of the genre, but I would caution your expectations. This is a good textbook to make notes of, but the take-away of information will vary on the experience of the reader.

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