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M L Swift's Progressive Book Club - Save The Cat

This is the second edition of M. L. Swift's Progressive Book Club. (For more information, click here. For the linked list of participating blogs, click here.) This month's book is Save The Cat by the late Blake Snyder.

Here's what the website says about the book:

The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need

Here’s what started the phenomenon: the best seller that’s in its twelfth printing! Blake Snyder tells all in this fast, funny and candid look inside the movie business. “Save the Cat” is just one of many ironclad rules for making your ideas more marketable and your script more satisfying, including:

  • The four elements of every winning logline
  • The seven immutable laws of screenplay physics
  • The 10 genres that every movie ever made can be categorized by — and why they’re important to your script
  • Why your Hero must serve your Idea
  • Mastering the 15 Beats
  • Creating the “Perfect Beast” by using The Board to map 40 scenes with conflict and emotional change

How to get back on track with proven rules for script repair This ultimate insider’s guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a showbiz veteran who’s proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat.

Me again.

I'm going to take a shortcut this month. I wrote about Save The Cat for an Insecure Writers Support Group post a few months ago, so I'm going to link that here. If you haven't already seen it, I encourage you to click over and skim it, even if only to see the picture of my pretty plot cards.

The short version is: I loved the book and, even though it's geared for screen writersmeaning not everything applies to novelsit's worth the time and effort to read for the plot insights and beat sheet alone. It gets really good at about the 40% mark. ;)


P.S. This comment is for those who visited my blog last month and read my non-review review

The library copy of Bird By Bird came in the same day of the PBC bloghop. I did read it and, for the most part, enjoyed it. But that didn't sway my opinion much. 

I still would not pay $10+ for this book. There are tidbits of wisdom here and there, but not enough to justify the price, IMHO. After writing three novels, reading nuts-and-bolts craft books, and immersing myself in the writing community for over two years, I'd either heard or figured much of this out for myself.

Bird By Bird is probably best suited to writers who are just starting outthose who have unrealistic, romantic notions about writing as a career. In fact, if it saves you from wasting time and money investing in the business only to abandon the venture later when you realize your first attempt at fiction isn't going to be the next NYT bestseller, then it's worth the cover price.

If you do decide to read it, consider borrowing a copy first before buying one for your shelf at home. And prepare yourself for some language and tongue-in-cheek humor. Don't take everything the author says seriously.


Two reminders: 
Kelley Lynn’s debut novel, Fraction of Stone, releases tomorrow 
(Congratulations, Kelley!), and Carrie Butler, author of Strength
will be visiting my blog Friday with something special to cap off her book tour. 
Trust me. You don’t want to miss it. ;)


  1. I enjoyed reading your take on both books. It's great you found the index card thing so useful.

  2. I really enjoyed Save The Cat from a nuts n' bolts perspective. I think his "formula" translates very well into writing books, especially the part about the beats. I know a number of authors who take his advice quite literally. If I ever work on another work of fiction, I'll purchase the book and reread the advice.

    I've been writing for awhile and love Bird by Bird. While it's definitely not a how-to book, it is one that reminds my heart why I write. I own this book, have reread it and refer to it for quotes from time to time. :) Thanks for the review, Melissa.

  3. Yes, all good advice, I agree with that.

  4. Thanks for posting this as your post could help make decisions for some indecisive writers just heading out.

    I liked your take on both the books as I heard some great things about them before.

  5. Heard a lot about Save The Cat, I'll have to check it out one of these days.

  6. I agree with you on Save the Cat! being very helpful and on Bird by Bird not having enough substance as a 'how to' guide (although I was probably even less impressed than you). I love your pink and blue index cards, I use index cards too and have a colour system based on the amount of conflict in each scene (to help with edits).
    Great review!

  7. This sounds like an awesome book. Hope to get my hands on it sometime.

  8. Love StC! One of my 'go to' resources when I get overwhelmed with those 'I'm a poop writer' feelings. Stripping things back to the basics and thinking about what makes a good story, good, does it every time. :)

    So I'm a Bird By Bird fan. *ducks* Let me explain! I read it in exactly the state of your recommended reading suggestion--it was probably 15 years ago and I wasn't even considering being a fiction writer, or any kind of writer really. But I was someone who loved being creative (mostly doodling comic book stuff, painting, etc.) and it spoke to that part of me on a very basic (but inspiring) level.

    Basically, I wasn't someone who believed in pursuing those creative impulses as anything but a hobby. (Hey, I grew up as a farm boy/country kid and the son of a mechanic--getting a Master's degree was dreaming plenty big for me at the time.:) Bird By Bird kind of made me rethink/re-priortize the value of those things. So it holds some nostalgic value for me, I think.

    100% agree that it's not a resource for becoming a better writer, more just insightful about being a writer (or undertaking any creative/artistic endeavor seriously) means.

    1. Very good point. I probably was a little harsh on BBB. It did have a lot of redeeming value. I think it matters where one is in the writing journey as to how one receives and perceives it.

      Motivation and reality check status about writing are not my issues right now. I want detailed how-to information to help me go from a good writer to a great one. And it doesn't help that I tend to be a 'just the facts, ma'am' type of person. LOL

  9. I enjoyed BBB. It was well written, gave me somethings chew on and made me laugh a little. I guess I didn't expect how-to, so I wasn't disappointed.

  10. Thanks for the mention Melissa! Haven't read this one. Adding it to the list :)

  11. Yep, those fifteen beats are really handy to know.

  12. sounds like you could teach us a few things! glad to have more perspectives in this group! i feel like such a newbie!


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