Invaluable writing tips (From Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat”)


I just finished this book on screenwriting and have highlighted some amazing advice for novelists as well:

1. Save the Cat

  • This refers to a scene at the beginning of yoru manuscript in which the main character does something that makes the reader root for them them i.e. saving a cat.
  • This doesn’t have to be something altruistic – it can include smarts or humour or naivety – just something that will make the reader want to follow this character through the story.
  • Without this scene, you’ll probably end up with a boring character. And no matter how amazing your plot, you need a “followable” character to carry it.

2. The Pope in the Pool

  • This refers to a scene in which necessary exposition is given whilst the audience is distracted by something more entertaining i.e. having the Pope explain important backstory aspects whilst doing laps in the Vatican Pool.
  • This is the best way to give readers the information they need whilst still keeping them engaged. Something funny/interesting/moving should happen whilst this necessary exposition is provided.

3. Double Mumbo Jumbo

  • This refers to the mistake many writers make in asking readers to believe in more than one type of magic/miracle. This suspends reality too much and causes the reader to lose faith in the realism/probability of your story.
  • So, if you already have magical fairies, don’t throw aliens into the mix as well.
  • ONE magical element is enough.

4. Laying Pipe

  • Another error often made is writing a story that needs too much set-up. This means that so much backstory must be explored in the first part of the novel that your catalyst only occurs at page 100 or so.
  • This will cause readers to lose interest long before they’ve reached the inciting incident. If you don’t get the beginning right and move on the exciting stuff as soon as possible, it doesn’t matter how great your ending is, since few readers will get there.

5. Watch out for that Glacier

  • This is when the danger in your novel takes too long/perhaps the whole book to get to your characters/to threaten them. Therefore, the reader is aware that there is some eventual threat, but the characters aren’t affected by it throughout the story.
  • It’s a glacier coming for them rather than a missile. And it dampens the tension.

6. The Covenant of the Arc

  • Every somewhat important character in the novel should change, except for the bad guy. This is what will ultimately distinguish your good guys from your villain: moral change.
  • So, take a look at the journey of every primary and secondary character in your manuscript and ensure that they grow/experience some for m of change that is brought about by the events in the story.

7. Keep the Press Out

  • This is the tip I think should be used with the most circumspection. It’s for you to decide whether you want to follow this piece of advice or not.
  • This tip calls for leaving media coverage/the press out of your story. If some supernatural/extraterrestrial event occurs in a secluded neighbourhood and remains a family secret, it’s much easier for your reader to believe that it could really have happened than if the whole world is supposedly in on it.
  • Like I said, use with discretion.

These are all Blake Snyder’s tips (not mine) and are explored in greater detail in the book. So, if you would like more information and more great advice, I suggest grabbing a copy.

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