Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Beat it out!! Because it will change your life. Seriously.

I recently got back from an amazing conference where sickness made me a total social recluse, I had to leave early the first day because my son turned thirteen (happy birthday!!), and I had to leave early the second day because I got deathly ill. But amidst all that, I learned something life changing. Now in case you don't know this already, and because I love you guys, I'm going to share it, too. Honestly, I wish I had known this years ago.

Okay. Let's start with the three-word version: READ THIS BOOK.


Now I can't say I've read this book. But I can say that I've ordered it and it's on its way to my house. I went to a class taught by the incredible Elana Johnson (who is as amazing a teacher as she is a person) on how to "Beat out your novel," and it was based on Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT. I'm not kidding when I say it was life-changing.

The slightly-longer-than-three-words-to-better-convince-you version: This a book on screenwriting, but it's really all storytelling. He says that every great story hits fifteen "beats." Different moments that need to happen for the story to have a satisfying, complete feel. Those movies that you want to go back and watch over and over? They hit all fifteen every time. Those ones that were good, but after watching once, you're done? They didn't hit all fifteen.

So, basically, your book can be really good even if you don't hit all of them. But if you want it to be GREAT--- if you want it to be a book people feel like they have to tell other people about--- you have to have all fifteen.

The book tells about what each of the fifteen are (or if you were lucky enough to get into Elana's class, she taught about each of the fifteen). Then you can go to Blake Snyder's site (www.blakesnyder.com), print out his Beat Sheet, and fill it out for your novel, to see if you are missing any of the fifteen. Or, when you're plotting a new book (if you're the plotting type), you can use this to help direct you. And, and, AND! If you write a sentence in each of the fifteen about what how your book hits that beat, you can string them all together and voila! You have your synopsis!

Oh, my gosh, guys. I can't even tell you how PERFECT and exactly RIGHT it felt to hear about this. Like it's what I had been searching for all along, but didn't know it existed. Like everything suddenly makes perfect sense. I cannot wait to "beat out" my book 1 before it goes into final revisions to make sure I didn't miss a beat, and to "beat out" book 2.

I kid you not. Yes, it stunk to have to miss so much of the conference, and I didn't get to see half the people I wanted to, but if I had only gone to this one class, it was entirely worth it.

45 comments:

Colin Smith said...

I've seen this book recommended before and I put it on my TBR list. Now it's going on my TBRASAP list! Thanks, Peggy--and I hope you're fully recovered from your illness. Sorry it kept you from some of the conference. :(

Angela Cothran said...

I LOVE this book! It changed how I write. I'm excited to see what you think. It has lots of other great ideas too :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I've heard of this book but I haven't read it. What a great recommendation! On the TBR list it goes. :)

JeffO said...

Another in the 'heard about it, haven't read it' camp. Thanks for another heads-up on it. I'll have to look for it.

Patti said...

I have this book sitting on my desk. Now I just need to find a day to read it.

Kyra Lennon said...

I've heard about this book because Angela Cothran talks about it sometimes, but I've yet to read it. Adding to my ever-growing "to read" list! :D

Shallee said...

I'm sorry you were sick, Peggy! No wonder I didn't see you much. This class sounds great, though. I've used these basic beats, and it's really amazing how much it helps!

J. A. Bennett said...

Sounds fantastic! I'll have to read it for sure :)

Laura Marcella said...

Last year everyone was recommending this book all over the blogosphere! I ordered it after Christmas and finally got around to reading it recently. It's funny how different styles of writing are really all the same. You're right, it's all storytelling, no matter if it's novels or screenplays or memoir. The chapter on beats is great, and I also like the next chapter on writing your story on 40 index cards.

Happy Birthday to your 13-year-old and I hope you're feeling better, Peggy!

Kristine said...

I'm sorry you missed so much of the conference being sick! Especially since you love it!

Taffy said...

I love the book and I agree with others, it changed my writing life and the way I write. Drat! I wish I get in on Elana's class!

Daisy Carter said...

So sorry you got sick, but happy b-day to your son! 13 is a huge year!

I've heard of this book over and over. You've just convinced me to order it. Thanks!

Jessie Humphries said...

I didn't know you could print out the beat sheet. That would have helped when me and Erin were trying to do our own ghetto ones Sunday morning. :) I hope you are feeling better!

Carrie Butler said...

Eek! I hope you're feeling better, Pegasus. :(

I'll have to check that book out. Thanks for the heads-up!

Elana Johnson said...

Yay for STC! And make sure you get Save the Cat Strikes Back, because it has some awesome stuff for storytelling as well.

Happy birthday to your son, and I hope you feel better!

Susan Kane said...

It really sucks to be somewhere you want to be, and then get sick. Like the other commentors, this book sounds like a "must".

Emily R. King said...

I'm pumped to read this book. It's currently in the mail from B&N. I should crack it open by the weekend.

Nicole Mc said...

Ummmm.....SOLD!!! LOL This sounds awesome. Will be ordering ASAP. (oh, and guess what??? My pitches went amazing!! I still thank you for boosting my confidence after that post!)

Valerie Ipson said...

Love this book!

Clarissa Draper said...

I'm going to pick it up now!

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

I love that you are doing a post on Save the Cat and DPK is doing a post on Kick the Dog :)
Both work, I suppose.
This has been on my TBR list for a while. I've scoured his site and put a lot of my stories through a good beating. I think what I like most about it is that sometimes there is something wrong but you can't put your finger on it. This has helped me say, "aha! that's it!" on more than one occasion.

Angela Brown said...

Glad you were able to spend time with your son but sorry you also lost time due to getting ill. Hoping all is better at this point.

I've read a lot of stuff about Save the Cat. So many writers have mentioned this book as a craft-helper. I'm trying to make sure I have this moved up on my TBR list for reals.

M Pax said...

Sounds like a fantastic workshop. I'll have to check that book out.

Christine Rains said...

I love workshops with moments like that. I'll have to check out that book. Recently I read HOOKED by Les Edgerton. It's a book on writing beginnings. It's another one of those life-changing books.

Kimberlee Turley said...

Reminds me of a picture someone used to have hanging in their cubicle of a cat hanging on a branch and the inspirational words "Hang in there".

Still have no idea why it's such a popular reference image or why it had to be a cat in a tree of all things.

Libby said...

I'm glad you found inspiration. It will be neat to see if your novel hits all 15. Keep us posted!

Katie Dodge said...

I need that book. Anything to help with the blasted synopsis writing process! Hope you're feeling better. I missed seeing you more at the conference!

Nicole said...

I like the idea of "beats" in a story. I might have to check this one out!

Kelley Lynn said...

I did theater and we had to map out the beats in each scene before we were even allowed to get on stage. This idea is brilliant. I'm going to have to order this book!

Leigh Covington said...

I wish I would have been in this class. I know it was amazing. And I am ordering this book... like... NOW! Thanks for the reminder.

And sad you got so sick :( I hate that. Hope you're all better and doing good. And happy birthday to your son!

Iain said...

I didn't know about the beat sheet.
And, I never thought to use the beats as a synopsis. That's my next task :o)
I'm going to have to re-read it again to refresh myself.
(Sorry to hear you were not too well)

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I have this book but haven't read it yet - too much to do, too little time - but now I must! And thanks for the link to Blake's site - I didn't know you could print the sheet! Hope you're feeling better and happy birthday to your son :)

Tara Tyler said...

thanks for that fab info! i printed out an example and will put my ms to the test!

Connie B. Dowell said...

Sounds like a great book, and any book called Save the Cat has to be awesome. Hope you are doing better!

Coleen Patrick said...

I love this book! I have read so many writing books, but this is the one that made structuring my story so much simpler. Although I can't help pointing out all the beats whenever I watch a movie now! :)
Glad you're feeling better Peggy.

Kim said...

Thank you SO MUCH for this great tip! I've been looking for something like this to help me with my writing.

*Beat Sheet downloaded and printed.*

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

This sounds great! Anything to help get the plot exactly right and to hit the spot with readers is going to be fine by me! I must read this book...

Jenny Morris said...

So sorry to hear you were sick for the conference. I hope you're feeling better.

I know what I want for Mother's Day. A cat!

Cherie Reich said...

I hope you're feeling better!

I keep hearing about this book. I think I'm going to have to break down and get it. Not that it takes much for me to break down and buy a book. :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Wasn't that a great class? I've downloaded my copy, and I'm kind of stewing on the information before I start doing the beats on my current WIP I'm editing.

Mark Koopmans said...

Hey Peggy,

I was at a writer's conference and met Erik Bork (a screenwriter for "Band of Brothers") and he talked about STC - and you both are right :)

Any writer can use this book, and my well-thumbed copy is now one of the family :)

MTeacress said...

I never fail to learn something when I attend one of Elana's classes. She's a great teacher.

Have a lovely week, Peggy!

Peaches Ledwidge said...

Getting that book. Thanks for sharing.

Dawn M. Hamsher said...

Peggy,
I will check into this. I just went to his site and downloaded the beat sheet and a sample of one already filled out. Very interesting stuff! Thank you for sharing.

Leslie said...

I read that book not long before the conference and it really opened my eyes about writing with more impact. I wish I could have attended that class to hear even more about the ideas in the book. There were just too many amazing classes all held at the same time!