Last time, we discussed Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat craft book and how we can use his writing tools to revise our work. His beat sheet points out when story events (beats) should occur in a screenplay, and most of his advice applies to all forms of fiction writing.
Whether we dig into the structure of our stories during advance plotting or before post-draft revisions, understanding the big picture of how stories are supposed to flow improves our writing. So even though my pantsed (i.e., written by the seat of my pants) novel passed the Save the Cat beat sheet test, I wanted to analyze my story from a different perspective. After all, it’s better to know if a scene should be deleted before I spend time editing it.
Why yes, I’m a perfectionist, how’d you guess? *smile*
But the truth is that I discovered I loved using the Save the Cat beat sheet to get an overview of my story before starting revisions. So I found another method for doing this high level analysis. I even made myself do math. *shudder*
How to Use the Story Engineering Structure for Revisions
He explains in clear language what turning points are, when they’re supposed to occur in a story, and what they’re supposed to accomplish. He also brilliantly points out how to use “pinch points” to prevent a sagging middle. I was thrilled to learn the tips from his blog are now available in book form with Story Engineering. (And a thank you shout-out to Kerry Meacham and Sonia Medeiros for my copy.)
In the comments of my last post, Julie Glover mentioned using Story Engineering. Reminded of Larry’s story structure tips, I spent this weekend reviewing the information and… *dun dun dun*
The Story Engineering Beat Sheet
I made a spreadsheet:
That’s right. I dealt with my dislike of math and copied off of Elizabeth Davis to come up with a spreadsheet based on the story structure Larry Brooks describes in Story Engineering. Download a copy of my spreadsheet for yourself here:
The “Frankenstein” Master Beat Sheet
And then… *sigh* Because I just can’t help myself, I decided to see what it would look like to combine Elizabeth’s Save the Cat spreadsheet and this Story Engineering spreadsheet. (Note: Elizabeth’s website has had major issues lately, so if the link above doesn’t work, you can find the .xls version of her STC beat sheet mirrored here and the .xlsx version of her STC beat sheet mirrored here.)
Behold, the Frankenstein of story-structure-overview-planning-plotting-revising-analysis spreadsheets:
Maybe I’m the only one crazy enough to want to dig into my story at this level. But maybe I’m not. So for those who want to get the complete Save the Cat/Story Engineering overview of their work, I give you:
Disclaimers to Using the Master Beat Sheet
You’ll notice the screenplay structure of Save the Cat has a shorter introduction and conclusion than the geared-toward-novels structure of Story Engineering (that is, STC‘s Act One is shorter than SE‘s Part One). However, it’s more important to make sure events are happening in the correct order and increasing tension and stakes than to make the page numbers work out perfectly.
In my pantsed novel, the specified page for the Story Engineering plot points and pinch points fell during the correct scene, and I’m calling that close enough. (See? I’m not a hopeless perfectionist. *snicker*)
Refer to my previous post for more tips and suggestions on how these spreadsheets can help us identify pacing issues, theme ideas, and whether scenes are in the correct order.
Now before anyone makes snarky comments about how I was *cough* procrastinating with all that spreadsheet nonsense, let me confirm that once I filled in the numbers for my pantsed novel and made sure I didn’t have any structural errors, I moved on to actual revising. I’m up to chapter three. So there. *smile*
Have you studied Larry Brooks’s approach to story structure? Does this spreadsheet sound helpful? Do you prefer Larry’s Story Engineering explanations or Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat approach, or do you like both of them? Is the Master Spreadsheet awesome or overkill? *whispers* Do you ever have trouble moving from the “planning” stage to the “doing” stage?
P.P.S. Do you use the Master Beat Sheet and draft with Scrivener? Don’t miss my Master Beat Sheet Scrivener template!Pin It