Friday, March 10, 2006

Save the Cat


In Save the Cat Blake Snyder has written the first book that I have been tempted to sit down and USE. Meaning, not use bits and pieces of enlightenment and tips, but actually use the whole book.

Now maybe part of this comes from the fact that plot has always been the most difficult part of writing for me. I've been knocking heads with plots since I wrote my first novel.

"But Carol, I'm on chapter seven and I don't even have a plot!"

"Just keep writing, it'll show up sooner or later!"

I somehow managed to write eight books (five published) by guts, trial and error.

Then I decided to write a script, bought Screenplay by Syd Field, and almost fell off my chair.

He told how plots were constructed. Three act structure, page numbers, etc. Now, I'll admit it was too rigid, but I didn't even care about page numbers -- I was overwhelmed by the idea that there was a specific structure I could follow because -- and this is vital -- every one of my published books fit that structure. If I'd understood structure when I wrote them, instead of following a general storyteller's instincts, I could have made them better. So whether or not it's everybody's cup of tea, I realized that what he was talking about in that book fit the way I tell stories.

There have been other books, particularly Making a Good Script Great where Linda Seger picks up where Syd Field left off, and I've picked up lots more from talking to screenwriters, attending conferences, watching movies, etc.

But I reached the point where I was ready to read what Blake Snyder has to say, and ready to throw myself onto the tracks and just DO it. I've tried various outlining techniques from no outline at all, to 3x5 scene cards, but never have I tried a system as clearly defined as his.

I am using his system to write my current script. So far I'm pleased with it. But the script isn't written yet and hasn't gone out into the world to be tested. So all I can say is, if plot is my toughest challenge in any script, Save the Cat seems to be my strongest weapon to combat it.

I'll update when I'm through with the script.

And for those who are interested, I'm blogging about the writing process "next door" at guiltyofbeing. In the sidebar you'll find links to the posts about writing, most of which involve Save the Cat.

5 Comments:

Blogger Cynthia said...

I read Field when I first started and got the completely wrong idea -- which of course, wasn't Syd's fault.

Why plot is so hard?

I wonder if you'll experience the script writing going faster after STC the way I did?

I'm just full of questions this PM.

10:54 PM  
Blogger pooks said...

What had you written before? That might make a difference. It was the combination of having him use movies I'd seen as examples so that I could immediately "click," and having written 8 novels so that I could easily compare to my own work, that did it for me.

I hope the script goes faster. I feel like it should, but I've never written as fast as you do!

5:36 AM  
Blogger Candace said...

Pooks, the two things that have helped me SO MUCH in writing my (unpublished) novels are:

(1) YOUR course on "Basics of Novel Writing"

and

(2) Save The Cat! on writing screenplays!

When I decided that the current project would be a mystery, as you suggested all along, I found a great book for that. It's Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, by Hallie Ephron.

But it was YOUR COURSE that really clarified the process for me. Thanks!

10:40 AM  
Blogger pooks said...

Thanks, Candace. That means a lot.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Cynthia said...

Before this last script, 10 other scripts. Before that, a novel that didn't get published and a lot of news that did. A humor column in my local paper. Then I decided to change to fiction and was never heard from again. (It's those hads.)

I'm not really fast. The way it usually goes is -- I write two pages, think about what happens next for six months. Write a couple of more pages then work on something else for a year. That's how I drive myself crazy when I look at the writing log I keep and see it was only six weeks of actual writing and it took two $%#@!!! years to finish the script. At this rate I'll need a walker to get up on stage to collect my Oscar.

'course, Dolly was still looking pretty spry. Perhaps, there's hope still.

2:02 PM  

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