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Hello, writers! I have a unique tip for you to kickstart your novel writing journey. Instead of beginning with the first chapter, I recommend starting with the last paragraph and the final scene of your story. Yes, you heard that right – write the ending first.

Why Write the Ending First?

You might be wondering why this approach is beneficial. Well, let me explain. When you know how your story ends, you have a clear destination in mind. This clarity helps guide your narrative choices, making it easier to create a focused and cohesive story.

Think about the emotional impact you want your novel to leave on your readers. Do you want them to feel a sense of closure, hope, sadness, or triumph? By crafting the final scene first, you keep this emotional impact at the forefront of your mind throughout your writing process.

How to Write Your Ending First

Start by envisioning your story’s climax and resolution. What happens at the most intense, pivotal moment? How do your characters resolve the central conflict? What immediately follows the climax? These elements will shape your final scene.

Focus on the emotional tone of your last paragraph. What feelings do you want to evoke in your readers as they finish your novel? Whether it’s satisfaction, inspiration, or something else, ensure that your ending aligns with your story’s overall message or theme.

Benefits During the Writing Process

Having a clear ending in place can be a tremendous help when you encounter writer’s block. When you’re stuck or unsure where to go next, your pre-written ending acts as a guiding light, reminding you of your story’s ultimate goal.

It also helps maintain consistency. By checking back with your ending, you can ensure that character arcs, plot points, and themes build toward a cohesive conclusion. This consistency prevents plot holes and ensures a satisfying resolution for your readers.

Knowing your ending allows you to weave foreshadowing and thematic depth throughout your story. Planting clues and building suspense makes the resolution more impactful and rewarding for your readers.

Practical Tips

Outline your story roughly. You don’t need to detail every single aspect, but having a roadmap with major plot points and character developments will ensure that your ending remains relevant and powerful.

Revisit and revise your ending as your story develops. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to keep it aligned with the journey your characters are taking.

Use your ending as a motivation tool. On challenging writing days, read your final paragraph. Let it reignite your passion and remind you why you started this journey.

Starting a novel can be daunting, but writing the last paragraph and the final scene first is a powerful way to gain direction and purpose. Yes, your ending might change as your story evolves, and that’s perfectly okay. The important thing is that having an ending in mind gives you something to aim for, helping you overcome obstacles and maintain consistency. So, before diving into your first chapter, take some time to craft your ending. It could be the key to unlocking your creativity and completing your novel with confidence. Happy writing!

The Next Step

Now that you have an idea for how you want the story you will be telling to end, It is time to write your first chapter. A crucial step before you write your first chapter is to write your outline. This is a brainstorming exercise and does not require great detail, but by understanding the “Save the Cat” beats advocated by Jessica Brody, as a first-time novelist, you can be assured your book will be structured correctly.

Unleashing Creativity with Jessica Brody’s “Save the Cat!” Structure for Writing a Novel

Writing a novel can be an overwhelming endeavor, especially for first-time novelists. The blank page stares back at you, challenging you to fill it with compelling characters, intricate plots, and vivid settings. Amidst this daunting task, having a roadmap can be incredibly beneficial. This is where Jessica Brody’s adaptation of the “Save the Cat!” structure comes into play. By breaking down the story into conceptualized beats, “Save the Cat!” offers a clear, structured approach to novel writing, making it easier to transform your ideas into a cohesive, engaging narrative.

Understanding the “Save the Cat!” Structure

Originally developed by screenwriter Blake Snyder for films, the “Save the Cat!” structure has been adapted by Jessica Brody for novel writing. This method divides a story into specific beats, each representing a crucial moment in the plot. The beats serve as guideposts, ensuring the story maintains a steady pace and emotional resonance. Typically, a novel using this structure consists of around 40 chapters, organized into three acts: Act One (Setup), Act Two (Confrontation), and Act Three (Resolution).

Act One: The Setup

  1. Opening Image: This is the first impression of your story, setting the tone and mood. It’s a snapshot of the protagonist’s life before the journey begins.
  2. Theme Stated: Early in the story, the theme is subtly introduced, often through dialogue. This is the lesson the protagonist will learn by the end.
  3. Set-Up: Introduce the main characters, their relationships, and the protagonist’s world. This section sets up the story’s stakes and goals.
  4. Catalyst: An inciting incident that disrupts the protagonist’s ordinary world, pushing them into the story’s adventure.
  5. Debate: The protagonist debates whether to embark on the journey. This beat highlights their internal conflict and reluctance.

Act Two: The Confrontation

  1. Break into Two: The protagonist makes a decision that propels them from their comfort zone into a new, unfamiliar world.
  2. B Story: A subplot, often a love interest, that runs parallel to the main plot, adding depth and complexity.
  3. Fun and Games: The “promise of the premise,” where the protagonist explores the new world, facing various challenges and adventures.
  4. Midpoint: A significant event that changes the story’s direction. It can be a false victory or defeat, raising the stakes.
  5. Bad Guys Close In: The protagonist’s situation worsens as antagonistic forces tighten their grip.
  6. All Is Lost: A moment of crisis where everything seems to fall apart, leading to the protagonist’s lowest point.
  7. Dark Night of the Soul: The protagonist reflects on their journey, often feeling hopeless and questioning their ability to succeed.

Act Three: The Resolution

  1. Break into Three: A revelation or new idea that inspires the protagonist to fight back and resolve the story’s main conflict.
  2. Finale: The protagonist confronts the antagonistic forces, leading to a climactic showdown and ultimate resolution.
  3. Final Image: A mirror to the opening image, showing how the protagonist has changed, reflecting the story’s resolution and the theme’s fulfillment.

From Beats to Scenes

Each beat in the “Save the Cat!” structure can be broken down into 2-3 scenes, providing a manageable way to develop the story. By focusing on individual scenes within each beat, writers can ensure that their narrative progresses logically and emotionally. This approach allows for detailed plotting while maintaining flexibility for creativity within each scene.

Plotters vs. Pantsers

Writers often fall into two categories: plotters and pantsers. Plotters meticulously plan their stories, outlining each beat and scene before writing. Pantsers, on the other hand, write “by the seat of their pants,” allowing the story to develop organically without a detailed plan.

For first-time novelists, following a plot structure like “Save the Cat!” can be incredibly beneficial. It provides a clear roadmap, reducing the anxiety of facing a blank page and helping to maintain a coherent narrative. Even for pantsers, having a loose structure can serve as a safety net, ensuring that the story stays on track.

Why “Save the Cat!”?

The “Save the Cat!” structure offers several advantages for novel writing:

  1. Clarity: Breaking the story into beats and scenes provides a clear pathway from beginning to end, ensuring that writers stay focused and organized.
  2. Pacing: The beats ensure a balanced pace, with moments of tension and resolution that keep readers engaged.
  3. Character Development: By following the beats, writers can ensure that their characters undergo meaningful arcs, making the story emotionally resonant.
  4. Theme Integration: The structure helps in weaving the theme seamlessly throughout the story, ensuring that it is explored and resolved by the end.

Jessica Brody’s “Save the Cat!” structure is a powerful tool for novelists, particularly those embarking on their first novel. By providing a clear framework for conceptualizing story beats and breaking them down into manageable scenes, it offers a balanced blend of structure and creativity. Whether you’re a plotter seeking detailed guidance or a pantser looking for a safety net, “Save the Cat!” can help you navigate the complexities of novel writing, ensuring that your story is both compelling and coherent.

Crafting Your First Chapter with “Save the Cat!”

As a first-time novelist, embarking on your writing journey can be both exciting and daunting. One of the most crucial steps in crafting your novel is writing a compelling first chapter. According to the “Save the Cat!” approach, this initial chapter sets the stage for your story, introducing readers to the protagonist’s ordinary world before the adventure begins. Let’s explore how to create a captivating first chapter by looking at examples like the opening scene of “Star Wars” and our crime thriller “GUM,” co-written by Dan Perez and myself.

The Importance of the Ordinary World

In “Save the Cat!,” the first chapter corresponds to the beat known as the “Ordinary World.” This section is essential for grounding your story and providing context for your characters. It establishes the protagonist’s everyday life, highlighting their routines, challenges, and desires. By doing so, it creates a stark contrast with the extraordinary events that will soon disrupt their world.

Example: “Star Wars”

Consider the opening of “Star Wars: A New Hope.” The film begins with a dramatic scene of a starship battle, but soon shifts to the ordinary world of Luke Skywalker. We see Luke living a mundane life on a desert farm, yearning for adventure and feeling constrained by his circumstances. This initial glimpse into Luke’s life allows us to understand his motivations and sets the stage for his epic journey.

Example: “GUM”

In our novel “GUM,” Dan Perez and I used the first chapter to introduce readers to the protagonist’s ordinary world. Our main character, living in Wichita, faces everyday challenges and mundane routines. These early scenes establish who they are and what their life is like before being thrust into the thrilling cat-and-mouse chase that defines the book. By showcasing their ordinary world, we provide a foundation for the character’s development and set up the stakes for the story.

Crafting Your First Chapter

When writing your first chapter, focus on developing your main character and introducing important elements of the first “Save the Cat!” beat. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Introduce Your Protagonist: Begin by presenting your main character in their ordinary world. Show their daily life, routines, and relationships. This helps readers connect with the character and understand their baseline before the story’s inciting incident.
  2. Highlight Everyday Challenges: Showcase the struggles and challenges your protagonist faces in their normal life. These challenges can be small, personal issues or larger, external problems. This establishes the stakes and gives readers a reason to root for the character.
  3. Set the Tone and Mood: Use descriptive language to create the atmosphere of your protagonist’s world. Whether it’s a bustling city, a quiet suburb, or a desolate countryside, the setting should reflect the character’s state of mind and the overall tone of the story.
  4. Foreshadow the Inciting Incident: While the first chapter is focused on the ordinary world, it’s a good idea to hint at the upcoming disruption. This could be through subtle foreshadowing, a brief mention of an unusual event, or a sense of unease. This keeps readers engaged and builds anticipation for what’s to come.
  5. Develop Relationships: Introduce key relationships in your protagonist’s life. These can be friends, family, or colleagues. Understanding these dynamics adds depth to your character and provides additional context for their actions and decisions later in the story.

Encouragement for New Writers

Writing your first chapter can be a daunting task, but remember that this is just the beginning of your journey. Focus on creating a vivid and relatable ordinary world for your protagonist. Let readers get to know your character, understand their struggles, and connect with their desires. By setting a strong foundation, you’ll make the upcoming adventure all the more compelling.

In the course, we offer guidance and support to help you through this process. Our private Facebook group is a space where you can share your progress, ask questions, and receive feedback from fellow writers. Additionally, private sessions with Dan Perez are available to provide personalized insights and assistance.

So, dive into your first chapter with enthusiasm. Craft a world that feels real, develop characters that resonate, and set the stage for the exciting journey ahead. Happy writing!

Crafting “GUM” with Dan Perez: A Journey Through “Save the Cat!”

When Dan Perez and I co-wrote “GUM,” our crime thriller set along the New Mexico interstate, we knew we needed a solid structure to keep our story tight and compelling. We turned to the “Save the Cat!” approach, a method that has proven invaluable for screenwriters and novelists alike. This framework allowed us to break down our narrative into manageable beats, ensuring that every chapter advanced the plot and developed our characters.

Outlining with “Save the Cat!”

Using “Save the Cat!” as our guide, we divided “GUM” into specific story beats. This method not only gave us a clear roadmap but also ensured that we maintained a balanced pace throughout the novel. Here’s how we applied the “Save the Cat!” beats to our book:

  1. Opening Image: We set the tone with a gripping scene of a mysterious crime along the desolate New Mexico interstate.
  2. Theme Stated: Early on, we hinted at the novel’s central theme – the lengths people will go to for survival.
  3. Set-Up: We introduced our main characters, laying out their motivations and the stakes.
  4. Catalyst: A shocking event thrusts our protagonist into the heart of the crime.
  5. Debate: The protagonist grapples with whether to get involved or stay safe, highlighting internal conflict.
  6. Break into Two: Our hero makes a decision that changes the course of their life.
  7. B Story: We wove in a subplot that adds depth and complexity to the main narrative.
  8. Fun and Games: The protagonist navigates the new world of crime and deceit.
  9. Midpoint: A significant twist raises the stakes dramatically.
  10. Bad Guys Close In: Tension mounts as antagonistic forces close in on the protagonist.
  11. All Is Lost: Our hero hits rock bottom, creating a moment of despair.
  12. Dark Night of the Soul: Reflecting on their journey, the protagonist finds renewed purpose.
  13. Break into Three: A breakthrough propels the hero towards the final confrontation.
  14. Finale: The climactic showdown resolves the central conflict.
  15. Final Image: We mirrored the opening scene, but with a resolution that reflects the protagonist’s growth.

The Course

In our course, we help many aspiring novelists navigate their writing journeys. Our course is designed to provide structure and support, utilizing the “Save the Cat!” approach to ensure that writers can craft their stories with confidence.

Support Through Community and Private Sessions

One of the key components of our course is the private Facebook group. This community offers a space for writers to share their experiences, ask questions, and receive feedback. Writing can be a solitary endeavor, but with our group, no one has to go through it alone. The camaraderie and support found in this group are invaluable, providing motivation and inspiration when you need it most.

For those who need more personalized guidance, private sessions with Dan Perez are available. These sessions are tailored to help you define your characters, develop your plot, and overcome any difficulties you might encounter along the way. Dan’s expertise and experience can provide the insights and encouragement needed to push through writer’s block and keep your story on track.

Balancing Structure and Creativity

While outlining is crucial, we also encourage writers to have fun with their storytelling. A balanced approach ensures that your novel remains structured yet flexible enough to allow your creativity to shine. Writing should be an enjoyable process, not just a task to complete. The outline serves as a safety net, giving you the freedom to explore your characters and plot without fear of losing direction.

Join Us on Your Writing Journey

We believe that every writer has a unique story to tell, and with the right tools and support, you can bring that story to life. Whether you’re just starting or looking to refine your manuscript, the course, our supportive Facebook community, and personalized sessions with Dan Perez are here to help.

Embark on your writing journey with a balance of structure and creativity. With our guidance and the “Save the Cat!” framework, you’ll be well-equipped to write a novel that captivates and resonates with readers. We’re here to support you every step of the way. Happy writing!