HOW TO WRITE BETTER STORIES | Using Your TBR & Save the Cat Writes a Novel



hey friends everybody always says if you want to become a better writer you have to read like a lot and I love that I love to read obviously but I'm always wondering how can I learn even more from the books I'm reading obviously I'm having fun reading those books but how can I actively or passively learn from those authors learn from those books and I think I found a pretty fun way to do it and to not interrupt the reading and enjoyment process at the same time and the only things you need it to do this is a book you really want to read the save the cat writes a novel book or just the beat sheet and some sticky notes first we start with save the cat and if you have not read this book I highly highly suggest it a lot of you guys were in on the save the cat experiment that Bethany and I did a whole series of videos all about this book and how it breaks down story structure and why a book works and why the pacing works and all the major elements and reasons why a book is awesome basically and the same dekap method really all revolves around this save the cat beat sheet which I'll put up a image of right now it basically has all the different beats that you should have in a story and when they should happen so the percentage or page number in which these actual events should happen in order to have a well paced and well-crafted book and while I was reading this book Jessica Brody the author actually breaks down ten different novels and really shows you that all of these novels were successful in part because the structure was so good and the character arcs were so well laid out and she breaks the stories up by these percentages by when these beats actually happen and doing a little bit of math she calculates when the beats should happen and then shows you that these books basically followed this formula so after reading this I got really curious and I picked up quite a while ago now children of blood and bone and started reading it and just right away was like this book is so well crafted like the story structure is so good I wonder if it follows the save the cat beats and so what I did is I took the beats and I took the percentages of the book of where these beats should happen and I calculated where in the book it should happen wrote the beats down on different sticky notes and place them on the pages that they should be happening and this was really cool because I was literally just reading through the book enjoying the book but then when I came to a sticky note I could then think to myself hmm is the theme stated happening here is the mid point happening here what is this cataclysmic event that's supposed to be the midpoint of the story how about the allah's last moment or the finale then once I identified the beat I would actually just write down what scene or what element of the story I thought matched that beat so for the catalyst Amaury needs a cell and she asked for help and that event happened around the 10% mark which is when the catalyst is supposed to happen and if that beat doesn't actually happen on the exact page that it's supposed to but maybe happens a few pages later or sometimes it's in a totally different place I can then move this sticky to the page that I think it's happening and then after I'm done reading the book I can go back and sort of analyze and ask did this work to like move that event to a different spot or did it disrupt the pacing and basically how did it affect my enjoyment of the story and what can I learn from this besides story structure I also will choose other stickies to just mark things specifically about characters or foreshadowing or predictions I have or lines I love or just different things I loved about the story and so I'll usually choose one side of the book to put the sticky notes for story structure and for Steve the cat beats and then another side where I just mark a bunch of other things about the story that I really loved or things I thought could be improved now when I set this up usually what I have to do is find out how many pages are in the book and then multiply that number by the percentage of when the beats are supposed to happen so I can figure out the stickies but I've done this so many times with books that I needed some kind of Excel spreadsheet that would just automatically tell me all the percentages so what you're seeing here is the Excel sprint that I created to save me all the hassle of math that I hate doing so basically there is a space for the book title then there is a space for the total number of pages and I have preset formulas really simple formulas in here to then be able to calculate all the exact page numbers that I need so if I wanted to change this to 200 all of a sudden they change then what I do is take it these three columns and write them on my sticky note so first on the top right hand corner I will do a shorthand for the single seen beat I will do the percentage right next to that and then on the right side I will put the page number that that beat is supposed to happen so I know where to put the sticky note I also include some information about the multi scene beats because they span over multiple scenes and don't exactly happen on a single page so for example during the opening image the setup is supposed to begin or when the catalyst hits this is when the setup ends and the debate begins etc at this point I will leave my Excel spreadsheet just have the stickies in my book and be able to fully enjoy the book and lightly analyze the book as I'm passing the sticky notes again I will make certain notes of what's actually happening in the story during that scene and I'll put that on the sticky note and if the page number wasn't accurate I would write the actual page number it happens on and then I would come back to it this Excel spreadsheet after I'm done reading the book and input all of the things I added to the sticky notes you might also notice that I have two additional beats in green and these beads actually come from five secrets of story structure by km wildin and I just found these two pinch points that she talks about really helpful because if you know save the cat you'll know that the fun and games multi scene beat is super long and it's hard to really identify what's supposed to happen there but can wildin really breaks it down by using a pinch point and also a reaction and realization scene sequences and to break up the massive bad guys clothes in multi scene beat she also talks about the second pinch point and scene sequences that have an action focus and a push to victory I also included the five point finale which doesn't necessarily have at certain pages that they're supposed to happen but I do like tracking the actual pages of when I find them happening so I can learn a little bit more about pacing the finale and the final thing I really love to do when I have some extra time is to actually import all of the different story beads from a bunch of different books and compare them and see what different kinds of mid points each book has how they handle the setup what kind of events they put in the fun and games or the bad guys close in and studying all of this really helps give me inspiration and ideas about how I can make my own books even better and there you go this is my magic tool in order to help me set up my stickies keep track of stories and analyze them and obviously you could set this all up yourself but if you're interested in trying this out and you want my template I'm actually going to be making it available to all of my patrons on patreon comm so I definitely encourage you to check it out because I'm constantly sharing resources just like this for my patrons also if this kind of stuff gets you excited bethany mota Zelda and I after we did our save the cat experiment video series we've been thinking about doing a kind of book club where we take a book that we've been wanting to read anyway using sort of this method to attract the story beats as we read throughout the book and then doing some kind of live stream recap with you guys of course having you guys read the book as well and talking about the story structure the beats the character arcs and all these kinds of things that we went through in the state cat experiment which I will link below if you haven't checked that out and yet then just like geeking out over story structure together as we read some awesome books we don't have any hard and fast dates of when we're gonna start this but if that is something you definitely want to see let us know in the comments below and definitely subscribe to our newsletters so that you don't miss when they're going to happen anyway guys this was just a quick writing hack that I want to share with you I'm about to dig into a sky without stars by Jessica Brody and actually I've set up all of my stickies here which you can see I've specifically written them out a certain way so I can see all the short hands on that side and yeah I'm really excited to get into this book I wanted to just share my findings with you and hopefully you guys get even more out of the books you're reading by using this method if you enjoyed this video definitely give it a like let me know in the comments what book are you reading right now that you are going to try this method out with and if you're looking for more right early help check out one of these two videos and we'll see you there

18 thoughts on “HOW TO WRITE BETTER STORIES | Using Your TBR & Save the Cat Writes a Novel

  1. Wow. The spreadsheet you created looks awesome! Can't wait to test it out when I dive into my next read. πŸ™‚

  2. This is such a great idea! I've been trying to make notes on books I love to see how my own books measure up but this is brilliant! Thanks for sharing ❀️

  3. Before I started writing I actually wanted to direct movies, so I studied movies pretty much since j was 15. Life happened and I fell into writing instead, however I tend to write from a sort of director point of view at times which some people like and others don't which is fine. But to this day directors like John Carpenter& Alfred Hitchcock have influenced how I approach my books.

  4. I have been doing this for YEARS! Long before I ever even knew what the save the cat beat sheet was. I've had an outline template that gives names and descriptions to certain points in the story (basically a type of beat sheet). And I've used it with every book I've read and lots of movies too. It really helps you to learn structure. Thanks for putting all these tips in a video (:

  5. I’m going to do the same thing with my writer friends! We’re planning to analyze Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

  6. I've thought about doing this where you read a book and then take note on all the beats and where they fall in the story. Awesome video, Brittany!

  7. I would love to be a part of a book club where we analyse the story structure!! Love this so much πŸ˜€

  8. I'm also super excited about your STC bookclub livestreams!! Such a great idea. Also helps people whittle down that TBR list. πŸ˜‰

  9. This is so cool. I need to do this with my TBR! And a good way to use all those sticky notes I have. Lol

  10. Brittany, I love this! After reading STCWAN, I wanted to analyze books but was afraid of spending more time analyzing than reading. Ahh, this is so cool and I'm an Excel nerd. I'm so going to do this!! :0)

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