I’ve Hit Some Walls With the Writing

I’ve hit some walls with the writing. I’m not short on ideas, but very much lacking in the discipline of writing, as well as feeling out of sorts with the writing process — being able to go from idea to pages in a way that feels like it’s working. Also, I had a tarot reading in which I was told that my same old, go-to methods and strategies are not working anymore, that I need to blow things up and start anew. This unnerved me.

I don’t have any answers yet, and this isn’t a comprehensive explainer on how I solved this personal writing challenge. But I’ve found some very helpful resources, and already I feel some of that flow coming back to me.

Let me share one right now:

Save the Cat — a popular method originated by Blake Snyder in the screenwriting world — structures the narrative through 15 beats. It essentially distills the necessary plot components and story arc that will drive your characters and concept from the opening scene to the credits. It was developed for scriptwriting, but it can be applied to novels as well — any story, really. To wrap your head around the method, it’s fun to analyze films you know very, very well, and see how the 15 beat structure adheres to those films. For example, try it with The Karate Kid, or Star Wars. It’s also fun to put it through the paces on a film like Mulholland Drive, which is more of a plot puzzle and very esoteric in the way the story unfolds. And yet… You can find the beats in there.

Here’s a beat sheet for Point Break featured at the Save the Cat website to bring it home for you. I mean, you’ve seen Point Break at least ten times or more, right? And doing this exercise is a fantastic excuse to fire up the movie and give it yet another watch. There is no breaking point with a film like that. It’s a forever thrill ride — “Utah! Get me two!

I’ve read some great summaries on the Save the Cat method, and played around with the Save the Cat beat sheet guide/template on past and current writing projects. I’ve also watched a couple of very informative videos — one that workshops the framework, and another that explains the beats, making sure to note that each beat does not equal one scene in a movie — some beats are just a scene, while others are sections that include multiple scenes. Very helpful to know.

Here’s a great overview and workshopping video from Reedsy on the Save the Cat method:

And here’s a Film Courage video drilling deeper into each of the 15 beats that features Naomi Beaty, a screenwriting teacher and screenplay consultant, as well as a Save the Cat instructor.

I’m taking all this in to help create better story arc and plot structure. Just running through the beat sheet on some of my past projects, as well as trying to make it work for my current project, is inspiring new ideas and interesting approaches. I’m also in the process of reading and marking up my copy of the Save the Cat book.

Are my blocks unblocked? Not really. But I consider all this progress.

Now let me get back to those beats!

Jeffrey Yamaguchi