Friday, March 22, 2013

Save the Cat Beat Sheet Cheat Spreadsheet

This post first ran on Friday, March 22, 2013. I've been making use of Elizabeth Davis's spreadsheet for nine months now and have found it extremely useful and effective. If you haven't explored this tool yet, give it a go as you edit your NaNo novel.

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is one of the quintessential writing craft books used not only by screenwriters, for whom it was written, but by fiction writers of all flavours and varieties. Snyder's system of working a screenplay into specific story beats has been a particularly useful tool for screenwriters. Elizabeth Davis has kindly done the necessary calculations to convert the screenplay beat sheet into a beat sheet for novels, available as an Excel spreadsheet (don't be put off by that - it is the easiest spreadsheet you'll ever use: you type in one number and hit Enter). You can download a copy of Elizabeth's Save the Cat Beat Sheet for Novels here.

Jami Gold has written an excellent post on her blog explaining how she uses this beat sheet. She says: 
"Analyzing where the beats of a story fall gives us an overview of the structure of a story and makes sure turning points and scenes are showing up in the right place. We fill in the word count for our story project, and it figures out what page number each beat should fall on.  It does the math to make sure Acts I, II, and III, along with the Black Moment and everything else, are all taking up the appropriate percentages of pages."

14 comments :

  1. I like a good story with a beat I can dance to.

    Terry ... I hear and obey.

    Side Bar: Carol Atkins, a good friend and editor of my books recently passed away ... she was remarkable lady ... the Women's netWork group posted this tribute to Carol on their website:

    http://womensnetwork.blogspot.com/2013/03/carol-atkins-passes-on.html

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  2. Save the Cat and other works by the late Blake Snyder are well worth reading. They don't tell the whole story, but lay a good foundation for storytelling. You can learn a lot from the beat sheets for various movies. Thanks for sharing this!

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  3. Christopher:
    I'm sorry to hear about the death of your friend Carol. She sounds like an amazing woman.

    Diana:
    I enjoy studying movies and TV shows to learn about storytelling craft. It certainly feels less dry than reading a book on the craft and there's something about the addition of visuals and music that helps it stick.

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  4. Thanks for the link to my blog, Elle! I hope people find my tips for using the Save the Cat beat sheet helpful. I have several other beat sheets available on my blog too. :)

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  5. Thanks for dropping in, Jami. There are a lot of great resources to explore on your blog.

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  6. While I'm not a screenwriter, I am the mother of composers/musicians, as well as being a fiction writer myself. The importance of "beat" (rhythm, if you prefer that term, is quite similar) in both music and writing cannot be overemphasized. Primary theme, secondary theme, verse, chorus, bridges, crescendos, decrescendos, beat...always beat...everything to the beat — how similar this is to writing! Love this analogy.

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  7. Linda,
    It's wonderful how the various arts complement each other. We can learn so much if we step out of our comfort zone.

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  8. Thanks for sharing this method for those who like to be analyze.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  9. Thanks for sharing this method for those who like to be analyze.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  10. I love Save the Cat! And got a chance to work with Blake Snyder back in 2008 at one of his weekend workshops.

    This spreadsheet is so helpful. I tried typing the Beat Sheet into a Word Doc a while back, but couldn't fit it into one page.

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  11. Although I have not read Save the Cat, I have read Save the Cat goes to the movies. I have fun predicting plot points while at the cinema. Although Mr. Snyder is no longer with us, his estate/company continues to post beat sheets for current movies.

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  12. Save the Cat is the last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, was published in 2005, and is now in its eighteenth printing! Thanks for reminding me

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  13. I still like a story with a good a beat.

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  14. Absolutely, Christopher! Without the beat, the rhythm, to keep them engaged, our readers (or viewers, in the case of screen or stage plays) can wander away. It's best to keep them humming to our songs (aka, reading our books).

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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