Books on Craft

With all the books on craft that I've read these are the two I return to most often. 

The first may surprise you because SAVING THE CAT is written for script writers not novel writers. But all stories, regardless of how they are told, require the same elements.

What resonated for me most was the unique way Blake Snyder looks at the beats a story must hit to create a tension filled satisfying tale. 

He created a formula he calls, "The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet," which lists fifteen beat points. If you're looking for a different way to outline you might want to check it out. I've tried the traditional outline formats, used index cards of varying colors, story boards, plot lines, excel sheets . . . None have worked as well for me as BSBS. It's a short-hand form of outlining that doesn't bog down or take a lot of space, and can easily be changed and glanced at as the first draft is written. It's a map with fifteen stops. As I write, my characters and I figure out the best route to take to get to the next beat or stop.

SAVE THE CAT is a quick and fun read and one I highly recommend.

READING LIKE A WRITER, by Francine Prose is a book most have probably heard of already. This one focuses on word choice, and how each word, sentence, paragraph work together like an orchestra to create one beautiful page, complete with white space. And that's in addition to her chapters on gesture, dialogue, balancing narrative, complete with excerpts from well know literature.

I found READING LIKE A WRITER best taken in slow, savoring bites to let the information percolate. A definite must read.


  1. I read and loved SAVE THE CAT, and I want to read READING LIKE A WRITER. I've been thinking a ton about gestures and finding the right words. I'm writing my first draft now, but when we polish it's so important to find those exact words, the ones that make a page sound effortless, beautiful, and like the truth. Thanks for the book recommendations!

  2. Good luck with your draft! You'll love READING LIKE A WRITER; it really makes you think/see things in a new way.

  3. Thanks for the tip Paula! I'm going to order SAVING THE CAT right now! Another one I like is SELF-EDITING FOR THE FICTION WRITER by Browne / King (I think!) Easy to read chapters with good examples.

  4. Yes, that was another good one, Kiki. Hope you enjoy SAVE THE CAT as much as I did.

  5. Hi Paula,

    I just ordered SAVE THE CAT and I saw the author has another book out SAVE THE CAT GOES TO THE MOVIES.

    A book I found very helpful was: HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL by James N. Frey.

  6. Thanks, Tina. I like the title, I'll have to check it out.

  7. Blake Synder, the author of Save the Cat, had a love for screenwriters (and writers in general) that was in a league all it's own. He wrote a sequel to Save the Cat that beats out his movies using his Beat Sheet. His final book came out this past fall. Save the Cat Strikes Back. They changed my screenplays and now my novels. Great resources! I will def check out Reading Like A Writer.

  8. Thanks for the heads up on the other books by BS. I hadn't heard of the last one. I love the personable way he gives advice, too. Makes me feel like I'm sitting in his classroom, second row, center.

  9. I feel exactly the same way, Paula! He could critique your work in the most brutal way but still make you feel completely encouraged and want you to succeed.


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