A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

The book that changed my writing life

Save The Cat

Like many of my fellow Allsorts (and writers everywhere, I’m sure), I am a master of procrastination. There’s nothing like a looming deadline, or a scene that’s proving tricky, for me to feel a sudden urge to clean the inside of the oven, or pair up my socks.

There is a particular type of procrastination that writers are particularly drawn to: reading books about writing, instead of actually writing. I have a whole shelf of such books.  Not that there’s anything wrong with these books per se. But what they all did was allow me to put off the actual process of writing, while still kidding myself that I was writing. It was like buying an expensive gym membership without ever once setting foot in a gym and kidding myself that I was going to get fit.

Eventually I realised that I could learn a heck of a lot more about writing by simply reading widely and critically, and I put those ‘how-to’ books to one side.

After avoiding books on the craft of writing for years, I came across one (actually, more than one) that proved genuinely helpful: the Save The Cat books by Blake Snyder. Save The Cat is written for screenwriters and looks at genre and the structure of a typical two-hour film. The second book in the series – Save The Cat Goes to The Movies – is particularly illuminating. Exploring at a range of different movies from the typical Hollywood blockbuster such as Titanic, to smaller indie films like Open Water, Snyder examines how most movies follow the same structure. Not only did it change the way I watch movies (Aha! Here we go with the Fun and Games section!), but it has helped me with my own writing.

I’m not someone who likes to plot out my stories in great detail before I write, particularly on a first draft. But now, when I get to a dead end or a scene that won’t work, I ask myself what ‘beat’ this would be if it were a film script. Almost every time, it’s helped me find a way through that tricky scene.

About helendouglas

Author of books for young adults. After Eden (Bloomsbury 2013) and Chasing Stars (Bloomsbury UK 2014 / Bloomsbury US July 2016)


This entry was posted on March 13, 2018 by and tagged , , , , , , .

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