I just finished listening to Chapter Four of Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.
It has me completely intrigued with story structure. Story structure isn’t a new concept, and his book is geared towards writing screenplays, but I find it fascinating that so many of my favorite movies—and books—fit within this structure.
I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words. Most of them are tucked away in notebooks and in “slush” document files. My first stories were TERRIBLE, but bit by bit, my writing has improved. Now, I’m trying to learn how to outline and write without the hassle of needlessly throwing away thousands of words due to poor planning. I understand my first drafts are still going to be rough, but at least I’ll know what direction my story is going.
To me, story structure is like a puzzle. You put the pieces in the right order and (hopefully) the story makes sense. What makes Blake Snyder’s book so different? He tells you where to put your scenes. Literally. Writing a 110 pg script? Simple, the “All is Lost” scene goes on pg 75.
If you’re looking to write something a little longer, there’s an online site created by The 47 Ronin Media group with a “Beat Sheet Calculator.” You plug in the page count of your book, and it tells you the approximate page number where your various scenes should go.
For example, let’s say you’re writing 55,000-word manuscript. That’s about 200 pages in paperback form. You plug your info into the calculator and you get this:
It tells you what scene goes on what page!
Is this gimmicky? Maybe. Is it using a formula? Most certainly! Could it help a newbie writer figure out story structure? I don’t think it could hurt, especially if you think of it as a tool and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to follow this to the letter.
It’s a three-act structure, broken down further into a 15 part outline. Blake Snyder goes into more detail in his book. Writing a horror novel is going to be different from writing a romance, but he made a strong argument about the use of an outline, regardless of genre.
Every writer is different, but this was a fun tool to find. I could certainly see where it might be useful during NaNoWriMo!
What do you think? What’s worked for you? What writing advice can you give?