Creative Writing

Review of Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Class

Instructor Jennifer Zhang

When WOW! Women on Writing asked me if I’d like to review the Save the Cat! “Cracking the Beat Sheet” online course I jumped at the chance. I have several novels in need of revision and thought a more structured program might give me the help I’ve been needing, plus I have a copy of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody and it’s one of my most treasured writing tools. See below for more information on the course and my review.

First, what is Save the Cat!®? 

Save the Cat! provides writers the resources they need to develop their screenplays and novels based on a series of best-selling books, primarily written by Blake Snyder (1957- 2009). Blake’s method is based on 10 distinctive genres and his 15 story beats (the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet). Our books, workshops, story structure software, apps, and story coaching teach you everything you need to unlock the fundamentals and mechanics of plot and character transformation. 

Find out more about Save the Cat! by visiting their webpage at https://savethecat.com/

About the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course

This course is designed for writers to turn their idea into a movie or novel. This learn-at-your-own-pace online class helps you develop the 15 key “beats” or “plot points” of your story. Strung together, in the right order, these 15 beats make up the blueprint to a successful screenplay or novel. 

You’ll Turn an Idea into a Story by Learning to… 

• Create a solid beat sheet that will serve as the road map, and “backbone” of your story 

• Identify and know the key components of your story genre • Learn the clichés of your genre so that you can break them like an artist 

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• Plot your hero’s journey and “transformation”

• Troubleshoot your story idea for viability 

• Write a compelling logline or elevator pitch 

This Course Is for Those Who… 

• Want to troubleshoot an existing story 

• Have so many great ideas and struggle to choose “the one” 

• Are ready to write but not sure how to start 

• Are determined to finish a half-written story 

• Want to learn 

This Course Includes… 

• Over 3 hours and 17 minutes of original video production 

• 9 downloadable worksheets • 3 reading assignments (book not included) 

• 4 homework assignments 

Course Value: $59 

Find out more information about the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course by visiting https://www.savethecatcourses.com/courses/cracking-the-beat-sheet.

About Save the Cat! Story Cards

Introducing Save the Cat!®Story Cards, consisting of Save the Cat! Beat Cards and Save the Cat! Scene Cards, all designed to outline and develop your story. 

Save the Cat! Beat Cards 

Crack your story from the “Opening Image” to the “Final Image.” Save the Cat!® Beat Cards provide writers with the 15 key plot points to map out your script or novel. Every set contains 15 individual index cards with helpful explanations of each beat to form the foundation of your story. 

Save the Cat! Scene Cards 

Every scene of your story needs to communicate “place,” “basic action,” “emotional transformation,” and “outcome.” The Save the Cat!® Scene Cards help writers nail the purpose of every scene. Each set of cards contains 40 color-coded cards broken down by act, with 10 extra cards because we know you’ll need them. 

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Cards Value: $10.95 

Find out more information about Story Cards at https://savethecat.com/story-cards

More information about Save the Cat!:

Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course

https://www.savethecatcourses.com/courses/cracking-the-beat-sheet

Save the Cat! Website

https://savethecat.com/

Save the Cat! Best-Selling Books

https://savethecat.com/books

Save the Cat! Story Cards

https://savethecat.com/books

My review of the course:

I was familiar with the Save the Cat! brand of courses and books before I began this course, but as an avid movie buff, I was interested to see how looking at screenwriting formulas could help me with fiction writing. When I began the course, I envisioned “Cracking the Beat” sheet could help me re-work a suspense/thriller YA manuscript I cranked out during NaNoWriMo several years ago. That wasn’t what ended up happening, but I was pleasantly surprised by the result.

The course is mix of reading assignments (the companion book is Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder,so you’ll want to have a copy on hand before starting the course), homework to assist you in moving your idea forward and video lectures by award-winning writer Jennifer Zhang.

You begin by crafting a simple but solid pitch for a novel or screenplay idea and moving forward. I had never realized that all novels and screenplays have a standard 15 “beats” they contain within their formula, and once you have those sketched out, you can begin the work of fleshing out your story idea. I liked that the course was entirely self-directed and I could work through each module at my own pace. In one of the first homework assignments, I had to write out three different pitches for ideas. I used one from a middle-grade novel I wrote years ago, one based off a short story I wrote, and the other idea was brand new. Nowhere in those three ideas was the book project I originally brought into the course in the hopes of re-working. I shrugged it off and proceeded to expand upon one of the new ideas as I moved through the course.

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This course is an incredible value for what I took away from it. As I watched the lectures and worked through the assignments, a brand-new idea for a “Whydunit” suspense/thriller emerged, and I’ve always thought writing a mystery was something I simply couldn’t do. This course proved me wrong. By the end of Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet, I had a 3,000-word outline complete with a solid idea, fifteen beats, a beginning and ending image and other notes on character development and backstories that simply flowed out of me once I began writing and brainstorming. Full disclosure: I’ve always considered myself a “pantser” who hated the idea of outlining my novels, and the result is that I have three novels sitting unpublished on my hard drive. But with this new idea and having gone through the course, I have the confidence and knowledge to not only get this new novel written, but to re-shape my other work with the necessary story beats and find those books a home as well.

Follow along on the rest of this tour of you’d like to know what other writers thought about it, as well as the Story Cards which are helpful for those who prefer a more visual brainstorming method for their ideas!

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