Monthly Archives: October 2013

Save the Cat and other ways to ruin a good book

I am reposting this from January because I think it could really help all of my writing friends out there preparing for NaNo. I have chosen to skip NaNo this year, after much internal discussion, because I have too many manuscripts needing revision. My resolution for 2013 was to improve my craft. So, working on revision seems more important than drafting something new.

My post title might lead you to believe I’m against such techniques, but that is not the case. My meaning will, hopefully, become clear below.

Recently I read Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and was amazed by how much of what he suggests is already out there in the world, in the blogosphere. I knew what his title meant at least 2 years ago. I still learned plenty and I’m so glad I read it. I don’t know yet how much it will inform my writing and/or plotting, but I love learning new techniques and new ways to look at books and movies.

However, the downside to reading books on writing craft is that you never read the same way again. Books and movies aren’t mere entertainment anymore. They are learning opportunities, offering both positive and negative examples.

Then again, it’s fun, in a really dorky way, to recognize techniques in a movie and get all excited about seeing them in action. That’s how I felt when I watched Cowboys and Aliens a few years ago and saw the Save the Cat moment for the antagonist who now had to learn to work together with the hero. I think I actually grabbed RocketMan’s arm and whispered, eyes wide and bright, “He just saved the cat!”

If you’ve somehow missed all the stuff Blake Snyder has put out on the web for free, click here. But you can easily find the book at your local library, at your local indie book shop, or online. It’s definitely worth the read, even if you start watching movies (or reading books) and yelling out things like, “Pope in the Pool!” or “Laying Pipe!”

You’ll never read a book the same way again. But you’ll also never plot or write the same way again.

If you’ve read Save the Cat, what’s your favorite Blake-ism? If not, what’s your favorite plotting advice?

Good luck with NaNo!

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30 Day Challenge

My day job (where I teach French and manage children’s programs for a private language school) is running a challenge for October. Students and teachers commit to study their language for 30 minutes a day for 30 days.

Since I couldn't find any of our pictures from Greece, I'm sharing one from France. My freelance writing will pay for our incidentals in France next year. So it's all connected!

Since I couldn’t find our pictures from Greece, I’m sharing one from France. 

The idea is to build a habit.

This would work with writing, too. And it doesn’t have to be thirty minutes.

At my first ever writing conference, about five years ago, Laurie Halse Anderson advised us to write for 15 minutes every day. No, that doesn’t sound like much. But again, it’s about building a habit.

When I’m drafting, I just have to make time for those 15 minutes each and every day. Some days I have no problem getting my butt in the chair. But other days, if I’m not particularly feeling the love for my WIP, I have to force my butt into the chair. But I know it’s only for 15 measly minutes, so I do it.

Usually, those 15 minutes turn into hours, depending on the time I have available. Those 15 minutes turn into hundreds of words, sometimes thousands. And by taking that tiny bit of time every day, I don’t lose the flow of my narrative. I don’t have to take time to read over what I wrote during my last session, because it was only the day before (or mere hours earlier, depending on how obsessed I get).

So take your own 30 Day Challenge. Get your butt in the chair and write. See how long you can stretch your 15 minutes. How many words will you draft by the end of the month?

If you’re doing NaNo next month, you can plot for 15 minutes a day now, and write for 15 minutes (or more!) every day in November. You can win it!

And if you happen to speak Greek, maybe we can chat when I finish my challenge. One week in and my Greek is really coming along. Γειά!

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