How To Outline Your Novel: The Beat Sheet Method



hey everyone my name is Jess Mena and welcome back to my channel so I already mentioned in some of my previous videos that my preferred method for planning novels is the beat sheet method by Blake Snyder and I've also promised that I was gonna make a video about that so this is what that is so in today's video I am going to introduce you to the beat sheet method from this book saved a cat by Blake Snyder this is a book on screenwriting it says the last book I'm screenwriting that you will ever need but it works just as well for fiction writing I'm hoping that this might be helpful to some of you who might be new to planning a novel who might be new to you know writing in general I want to present this as a option of writing your book of planning your book there are many other structures many other ways you don't need a method this has really helped me and so I want to share that information because it might help some of you guys as well and I'll also present to you some different ways to plan your novel in the future videos okay so first of all what is the BG method so the big sheet method is a plot structure template it basically breaks down the 3x structure into bite-sized pieces if you know about the 3x structure I think this is a more manageable way of writing that so this template is broken down into 15 steps so 15 beats so I will introduce you to each and every one of them to explain this beat sheet method better I will use examples from the first Harry Potter movie Harry Potter in the Philosopher's Stone or it's also stone if you're American if you haven't seen this movie I probably spoil you so I'm sorry but I think everyone at this point has seen that movie so I don't feel too bad plus it's one of my favorite movies and more my favorite stories that were told obviously and I think it fits really well and this beat sheet method so I'll use points of it to show examples of how you can achieve this so the first beat is called the opening image so think of the opening image as the first impression what kind of tone do you want to set for your book this can be done in the first sentence in the first paragraph in the first page and the first 10 pages usually it's done as soon as possible so the first paragraph or the first page the opening image is also an opportunity to introduce the character and give us a snapshot of the character's life so what does his normal life usually look like this is a course something that you do in order to contrast with what comes afterwards so the point here is not to show us the most boring day of this character's life but a little bit before the inciting incident happens the second beat is called theme stated this basically means have the theme of your book or the message you want to convey clearly stated in the first five to ten pages of your book this can be anything from a side character telling the main character to man up or to try this new thing or tell them a truth they don't yet understand and they will understand by the end of the book the point here is to convey what your story is about every story has to be about something what is the theme of your book what is the message that you're trying to achieve through telling the story your book has to have some kind of message it doesn't have to be in your face in fact it shouldn't be in your face but it should be there meat number three is the setup and this also contains beat number one and beat number two so the setup is the very beginning of your book in screenwriting terms it would happen in the first 10 minutes or four-minute 1/2 minute 10 and novel format of course it would happen in the first I don't know 10 pages let's say right the setup is supposed to show the character's life in the before snapshot this is also a way to introduce most of your main characters I would say so to use my Harry Potter example the entire set up a perry potter in the first minutes of the movie Dumbledore uses his illuminator to set the entire Street of privet Drive to darkness he turns up all the streetlights so first we see something interesting maybe magic he then meets a cat on the street who turns into Professor McGonagall again ooh magic we then see Hagrid on a flying motorcycle coming down and delivering a bundle who is baby Harry with a weird lightning shaped scar on his face and then McGonagall says this boy will be famous there won't be a child in the world who doesn't know his name that is the team stated right there in the movie we then go ten years in the future and we see Harry waking up in his small bedroom in the cupboard of the stairs and we see what his life is like with the Dursleys and how abused here some things like that so you can see how these things set up the story really really well the next beast is called the catalyst and this is really where the story starts this is the reason the plot happens this is the inciting incident so what happens to your main character that changes his life completely what happens that sets the story in motion this is what you have to think about there has to be some big thing that happens it completely changes the trajectory of your character's life the catalyst and my Harry Potter example would be Harry finally reading the letter that tells him that he's a wizard and that he's invited to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that changes Harry's entire life obviously the next beat is called the debate and this is a more personal beat is more introspective beat and this is basically your character's reaction to the catalyst something wonderful or terrible has just happened so what is your character's reaction to this are they excited are they nervous are they terrified sometimes change comes with fear so this is a way to show your characters inner turmoil about this thing that happened the character is basically asking themselves should I believe this you know should I stay in my normal life or should I go through the cupboard into this magical world in the Harry Potter example after reading his Hogwarts acceptance letter he stares at Hagrid and he doesn't understand he says wizard but I can't be a wizard I'm just Harry that's kind of debate fair the next meet is called break into two and that means breaking into x2 so up until this point everything was done in act 1 and now we move on to act 2 but before we move on to act 2 this speech basically shows the characters decision to move on to act 2 and that short debates they had of whether they should take this opportunity or not they have made a decision so show that decision the next beat is called B story this is a more intermediary feed where we show the subplots of the story or not all the subplots but the main subplot of the story usually this involves a love subplot so we introduce the love interest in the story and we introduce the relationship between the main character and the love interest before the relationship blossoms this is also a place to have breather so you've just moved on to actu and everything is different and everything is terrible or wonderful but this is a way to have a little break and introduce something else that will also be important but not as important as the main part of the story this is also an opportunity to expand on the hem of your book or the truth of your book and I think in Harry Potter this is the moment when Harry chooses his wand again this moment mirrors the theme stated in the beginning of the book so where McGonagall said that that this boy will be famous Ollivander the wizard who sells Harry's wand says the one chooses the wizard mr. Potter it's not always clear why but I think it is clear that we can expect great things from you after all He Who Must Not Be Named did create things terrible but great the next bit is my favorite beat and it is called fun and games coincidentally this is also the longest beat you have so word-count wise this should probably be the longest part you will have this is basically the promise of the premise right the premise in Harry Potter is boy goes to Wizarding school and this is the part where we see boy going to Wizarding school we see all of the classes that Harry takes all of the magic all the teachers all of the characters all of the fun stuff before all the bad things happen this is that part then we have the midpoint of the story now depending on the kind of story you're telling this can either be a great moment or I can be an awful moment so if you're telling I'm not so nice sorry this is the moment where things start to go down for the character he's made a mistake or something else has happened and things are not looking as great as they were in the last speech on the opposite side if you're telling a more optimistic story this is the point where the character feels at its highest you know he's genius he solved all of this issues he is fantastic I would say the midpoint in Harry Potter is that entire section where Harry gets is invisibility cloak and they started investigating the Forbidden corridor to find fluffy at this point making Snape is hiding something as well as Harry winning his first Quidditch match but again they think Snape is up to something so I think that whole entire section and Harry Potter would represent the midpoint the next feat is called bad guys closing so this is where your character has started on this journey have started the fight there's a moment there where they feel like they will lose this the bad guys are closing in there's fear there's jealousy they think that everything they've ever known is false and Harry Potter I think this is the part where they go through the trapdoor and they start going through all of the challenges and the challenges get the better of them Ron gets injured at the chess game and Hermione stays to help him and Harry is meant to go face Quirrell alone next beat is called all is lost as the title suggests this is the part where the character feels like they've lost everything everything they've accomplished so far everything they've been fighting for whatever it is they feel like this is it they've lost it there is no point going on Harry Potter this should be Harry facing Voldemort for the first time and Voldemort extracting the philosopher's stone from Harry's hand and he realizes that he's about to die and there's nothing he can do about it following up to that the next point is called dark night of the soul so this is when the worst thing happened this is when Harry fights Voldemort and he faints can be your main character losing a friend it can be the main character losing the fight that he's been fighting or the item that has been trying to recover his goal have died his dream has died it doesn't have to be a literal death it can be a metaphorical one then we have break into three so breaking into act 3 so this point act 2 is done the worst has happened and now it's time for the final part of the story the resolution this is wearing the bow seems lost gandalf comes in to save the day with his army that he's promised a bit before but then he never mentioned again this is basically where your main character thanks to a fresh new idea or thanks to help from an item or another character your main character wins the fight that he thought he had lost in Harry Potter Harry touches Voldemort and he disintegrates into bits because he cannot stand love and love is the greatest weapon but he has this last minute idea and he manages to win the fight our second to last beat is called the finale so this is the resolution of act 3 this is where everything ties up all the loose ends tie up the evil has now been defeated and everyone rounds up again and talks and discusses everything any questions that we may have are now answered Fedora wins the house Cup despite everything because Dumbledore is biased and in the last beat of our story is the final image and this is supposed to be opposite the opening image this is your chance to show that the change has occurred so whatever you did in the opening image you should try to do the opposite here in Harry Potter of course part of the opening image is Harry being abused by the Dursleys and feeling horrible in his own home and the closing image of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is Harry saying I'm not going home not really because now Hogwarts is his home and he's not scared of going home to Dursleys anymore because he knows that there's this magical world where he feels like he belongs so those other five beats of the beat sheet method I hope this was helpful to you I tried my best to explain them in the best way I can not always easy it always depends on what kind of story you're trying to tell I will leave useful links in the description box below and of course I will leave a link to the actual book that you can buy and read I also wanted to show you the way I visualized this beat sheet method this is the board that I'm using for the second book that I'm writing and I'm almost finished drafting it I don't know if you can see this at all but it's a card board with all of the main beats all the titles of the main beats and then the post-it note explaining in general what should happen in that section though I keep this above my desk so that when I'm writing I always see it and I always know what I'm supposed to write next but honestly guys I think this is a great way to organize your story it also helps you come up with better ideas for your story and it guides you for good destroy telling in general try out this method see if it works for you if it doesn't that's simply fine but I found it so much easier writing this draft compared to writing my first book because of using the beat sheet method is it's so easy and it's so much faster if you're new to my channel please remember to Like and subscribe I make videos every Monday but that's it guys I'll see you next time put so much dust you

25 thoughts on “How To Outline Your Novel: The Beat Sheet Method

  1. That is a really cool video. I like how you explained the beats in terms of the first Harry Potter movie. I am a hard core Harry Potter fan. I have fond memories of the first movie. I interpret the plot differently. The time when Harry is at Dursley home and shopping with Hagrid is all Act 1 stuff. The break into two is when Harry rides the train to Hogwarts. The time when Harry is studying in Hogwarts is all Act 2 stuff. One of my favorite scenes in the series is the troll in the bathroom scene. It is probably the midpoint because there are changes. Harry gets Hermione in his trio. It is so touching. Afterward Harry puts the troll, the three headed dog and the Gringotts break in all together. This is a major shift in the story. Act 3 would start about the time that Harry sees the dragon, and he looses a ton of house points. That is a lowest point right there. Then there are enounters with Voldemort. One is in the Forbidden Forest and another is in the chambers under the trapdoor. Act 3 can alternativly be thought of just the trapdoor part. I think this organization makes things clearer.

    I just thought of something. I may be able to analyze my favorite Star Wars movie, A New Hope, in terms of Save the Cat. This is a nice and easy movie to do. I am familiar with the whole origional trilogy. I know how it works in terms of the Heros Journey. So I can take my favorite movie and reinterpret it in another system. Here is a brief rundown.

    1. Opening Image- Leia gets captured by Darth Vader
    2. Theme Stated- Obi Wan Kenobi explains the Force to Luke. In this movie, this step is between 4 and 5.
    3. Set Up- Luke lives a boring life on a moisture farm.
    4. Catalyst- Luke finds R2D2 and C3PO. He finds Leia's message for help in R2D2
    5. Debate- Luke refuses to go with Obi Wan because he is obligated to stay on his farm. Later he finds the farm destroyed.
    6. Break Into Two- Luke and Obi Wan go to the Cantina and meet Han Solo. They go on the Milenium Falcon and leave the planet.
    7. B Story- Obi Wan trains Luke to be a Jedi.
    8. Fun and Games- Luke has a nice exciting space ride on the Milenium Falcon.
    9. Midpoint- Luke and his friends are captured by the Deathstar.
    10. Bad Guys Close In- Luke and Han rescue Leia. They have to deal with the resident storm troopers.
    11. All is Lost- Luke and most of his friends escape the Death Star. Obi Wan fights Darth Vader and tragically dies.
    12. Dark Night of the Soul- Luke rides on the Milenium Falcon. He mourns the death of Obi Wan.
    13. Break into Three- Luke and friends go to the rebel base and deliver the Death Star plans in R2D2. The Rebels plan a space battle.
    14. Finale- There is a climactic space battle between rebels and empire. Luke blows up the Death Star.
    15. Final Image- Leia is free. She awards Luke and Han in a ceremony.

  2. Your video is very good and it opened my eyes about a lot but I could not find Point number 7 anywhere. Thanks for clearing up so many questions

  3. I think I like more time spent on the intro/ setup. Because a book I recently started reading, things did quickly get going, but I thought it was too soon. I wanted to see more of the MC's day to day life. So the changes of the catalyst are more stark in contrast. So for me, 2 chapters, perhaps more if they're short.

  4. This was very useful! It cleared up the method perfectly for me (the familiarity of the story helped too). Thank you!

  5. Can i also use, for example, only 7 of these points when all points together dont fit into my idea for a story or a twist? Or is it better to use all points in the right order?

  6. 2018.08.15 1137h EST
    What a great connection, to have the blouse with felines, while you use Blake Snyder's _Saving The Cat_.

    Your content is captivating, and creative and constructive.

  7. Great video! I've been a bit overwhelmed lately with trying to figure out the best way to outline. I like the way you explained this method. Thank you 📚

  8. I’ve adapted this method, and it is making the writing process sooo much easier. Great video!

  9. This method is really good, unconsciously I have been using this method. You explained it really good! Have a blessed day!

  10. Hope you guys enjoy this video! Have you used this method before? What do you like/dislike about it? And if not, what other novel planning methods do you use?

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