Save the cat

In my efforts to organize my next few projects,1 I’m thinking a lot about plot right now. I’m basically in “plotting mode” which is fine, but doesn’t feel much like writing. In fact, it feels a lot like procrastinating.

One thing I really love to do when I’m procrastinating is look at other people’s “method” of story. Not, like, fabula and syuzhet level conceptualization of story, but the really simple, “how to write a book” stuff. For someone who should know better, I just LOVE how-to books about fiction. They give me so much reassurance, because every time I open a Scrivener file, my first thought is “I don’t know how to do this.” And then there’s this really reassuring book that says, “Let me show you how, in 10 easy chapters!” and I calm down, list out some action items, and get to work. I never actually follow these formulas. I just like using them as training wheels.

The thing I’m fooling around with right now is Save the Cat. Save the Cat is a plotting methodology that really seems like it has the potential to get you to that “just filling in the blanks” comfort zone of writing. I think that’s what most “plotters” really want: a division between the creative work of wordsmithing and the mathematical work of plot. My most successful writing in the sense of pure sentence-level prose is also the most tightly constrained by form. There’s just something about trying to hit certain points that keeps you from getting stale. It also lends itself to my other favorite tool, excel sheets. Boy howdy, if I could write excel formulas that would output a novel, I would be set for life. Alas, we have not arrived at the computer generated novel just yet.2

So, anyway, that’s how I’m kicking off the new year: with a bushel3 of self-doubt and a peck4 of cat-themed writing comfort. Come tell me on twitter if you actually have written a Save the Cat novel. I’d be curious to hear.

instead of writing a novel today, I think I’ll just put my cat in a sock
  1. I’m currently working on 1) a partners in crime mystery I’ve been trying to make time for since at least 2014 2) my next YA novel, and 3) this MG series I’ve been thinking about since whenever the last time I lived in PDX was, which must be ages now. I have notes scrawled for these three projects across like 7 devices and yet putting them in “ready to write” mode is just impossible when you’re starting out.
  2. About once a year, though, I have this insane idea that I am the chosen one, that I am the one who is destined to build the novel-bot. Is this the year I commit this atrocity? Sorry, space cowboy, I got three and a half books to write. 2020 maybe.
  3. About nine and a third gallons.
  4. About two and a third gallons.