May, Glorious May

I’ll be the first to say–and the Juniors Halls will be the second, third, and fourth to add–that I have a few teensy, weensy flaws. And maybe a couple bad habits.

But unlike most folks who may have developed some bad habits over the last, say, 14 months, I stuck with the same old bad habits. Eating way too many chips–oh my word, have you tried the BLT potato chip from Lay’s? SO good!–and staying up way too late. (Mostly reading. So I think that could really go either way on the good/bad scale.)

BUT I also stuck with my good habits, which included singing. Singing pretty loud while I clean up or just…um, yeah… singing loudly. (Though I’m well aware that the Junior Halls may put this habit in the bad category or list it as a flaw. And to that I say, pfffft.)

Anyway, the point is, I was ready, friends. When I got the call that choir was starting back–CHOIR! ON SUNDAY MORNING! LIVE AND IN PERSON!–my vocal cords were thoroughly stretched. I may not have remembered every note I was supposed to be singing in the song choices but I could hit the notes (once I figured ’em out). It was glorious!

Well, maybe not too glorious for the poor Choir Director but honestly, I think he was so happy to be back with us that he happily put up with the likes of me singing all the wrong notes (loudly).

So in this lovely month of May when vaccinated people or people with natural immunity are reaching higher and higher numbers, I’m celebrating by singing extra loudly. Though I promise to tone it down a bit come Sunday ’cause the Junior Halls are right. Singing loudly when everyone else is not is just obnoxious.

(Also on the subject of bad habits, you can check out more of mine over at The Muffin where I share a few tips in “The Bad Habits You Need to Break to Be a Good Writer.” And happy May, y’all!)

The Old Good News/Bad News Thing

Back in the day when the Junior Halls were in school, there was always that moment when they walked in the door and hope still existed. But invariably one of them would open his mouth (because let’s be real here, it was always one of the male Junior Halls) and say, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?” Also invariably, the good news would also turn out to be bad news, slightly dressed up.

Not to be sexist but I wonder if that’s more of a male thing? Because Big Brother will often send me texts of the good news/bad news variety when it comes to the house we co-own at the beach. And I always wonder if he understands how the good news/bad news thing works.

The latest bit of a situation involved a raccoon in the attic. There is no way to spin a raccoon in the attic in a positive light. And how did the raccoon get in the attic? He (or she) punched a hole through the soffit outside the screen porch, and just for good measure, said raccoon clawed its way through the screen on the porch, too, and had a little look see out there.

So torn up screen, a hole in the soffit, and a frisky raccoon on the loose. You may be wondering where the good news was in this scenario; I was, too. Apparently, the good news was that we had a pest control company that had a critter-getter guy and he’d come out and set a trap for the raccoon. You may also be wondering what sort of bait is used to catch a raccoon.

I don’t know about other places where raccoons are running wild but here, they use fancy cat food for bait. Which was sort of funny to me since there are a TON of feral cats around here (to catch the rats). Not surprisingly, every morning, there’d be a cat in the trap. Until finally, two weeks later, there was a raccoon in the trap! Good news for us, very bad news for the raccoon.

Then, and coincidentally, our AC was not working. That is very bad news when the temps get up to the 90s no matter what kind of ocean breeze you may have. And I suspected that it really wasn’t much of a coincidence that we had AC problems and a raccoon-in-the-attic problem since as you may have guessed, all the duct work is in the attic.

Sure enough, as bad news goes, one of the ducts had been shredded by the raccoon. But the good news is, we found out that a few of the ducts weren’t connected to the main duct. And the even better news is that as HVAC system repairs go, sealing a few ducts and replacing a bit of a raccoon-shredded duct is not a big deal. And we might have never realized that our air was going up into the attic if the raccoon hadn’t showed up.

So the raccoon in the attic turned out to be about the best news ever. And that, Big Brother, is how you spin a good news/bad news story.

P.S. Which brings me to my latest Muffin post, Good News/Bad News. So if you’d like a little writing inspiration for those times when you get bad news, take a look. Also, I have a picture of the raccoon proof but I can’t remember how to get an image in my post. And the bad news is, I’ve hit my quota for the day on the thinking and such. The good news is, I’ll just do something here that may not make any sense but you’ll see the raccoon tracks. You’re welcome.

Save the Cat! Saves the Writing Day

When I saw that WOW! Women on Writing was hosting a blog tour for Save the Cat! AND specifically for the Storycards, I was all in for this adventure. I’m a BIG fan of Save the Cat!

So I already had the book (Actually, I’ve got the original plus Save the Cat! Writes a Novel) and I had an idea that was clearly a sign ( see my post, Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign over at the Muffin). And now all I had to do was…well, write.

BUT here’s where I diverged from the usual Cathy C. Hall writing-of-a-book. I decided that I would write this story–I call it ALTHEA–totally by the book. The book being Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. After all, I only had a couple chapters and a small notebook of notes written out. And perusing my notes, I could already see some problems. Plus, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to write a book and not spend 3 years revising the mess I made of it?

Honestly, I had nothing to lose (except three years) and everything to gain (“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done,” to quote Mr. Dickens). So I spent February thinking and plotting and reading my STC book. I made copious notes, about whether my hero was heroic enough to carry an entire novel (yep, she is!) and pages and pages of plotting (basically, a synopsis) and then, I tackled what genre this story followed.

At this point, I chose the story genre: it had to be Dude (or Dudette, technically) With a Problem. But a few days later, with lots of notes in my head, I thought, maybe this isn’t so simple. So I took a look at Buddy Love. Yes, I thought, twirling in my office chair, this is the one!

Except–and I’m not just saying this because I didn’t want to completely rewrite my story to fit the genre of Buddy Love–it didn’t feel quite right, either. So I tried another genre. Which just happened to be the genre directly following Buddy Love in the book: Out of the Bottle. And as the saying goes, third time’s the charm!

I still have a little bit of tweaking with the plot to add the magic element at the right beat but it was time to hit the Story Cards. Which is what we’re here for today.

Here’s what the Save the Cat! Beat Cards are all about:

Crack your story from the “Opening Image” to the “Final Image.” Save the Cat!® Beat Cards provide writers with the 15 key plot points to map out your script or novel. Every set contains 15 individual index cards with helpful explanations of each beat to form the foundation of your story. 

Now, I think it goes without saying that the story cards alone will be much more illuminating if you have Save the Cat! Writes a Novel (or take the course). So if you’re working in tandem, as I’ve done this past month, you’ll find that the beats practically write themselves, and it’s just a hop, skip, and a typity-type to your novel.

I’ve filled out my beat cards in pencil because a. I like writing in pencil and b. sometimes, I make mistakes. Also, at this point, I’ve just written a line, maybe two, on the beat cards. Once I finish filling out all my beats (I’m tweaking since I changed the genre; I’ve got a specific beat I want to work out before I move on to the rest), AND I’m sure I have the beats in the right order, I’ll color code them (Act I, Act II, Act III). I’ve left room for more notes, as needed.

I also have Save the Cat! Scene Cards, and here’s how they work:

Every scene of your story needs to communicate “place,” “basic action,” “emotional transformation,” and “outcome.” The Save the Cat!® Scene Cards help writers nail the purpose of every scene. Each set of cards contains 40 color-coded cards broken down by act, with 10 extra cards because we know you’ll need them. 

You’ll note that the Scene cards are already color coded; I haven’t filled these out yet but I know I’ll approach them in the same way, pencilling in my notes.

Obviously, if you have Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, you can get all this helpful info and DIY it. But the set produced by Save the Cat! is of excellent quality and will withstand LOTS of handling because let’s face it, you’re going to be messing with these cards the entire time you’re writing your novel.

Bottom line, I give a two thumbs up to the Save the Cat! Writes a Novel program, including the card sets. Whether my finished novel will get a two thumbs up remains to be seen, because…well…first, I have to write it.

And now, more info about the blog tour:

First, what is Save the Cat!®? 

Save the Cat! provides writers the resources they need to develop their screenplays and novels based on a series of best-selling books, primarily written by Blake Snyder (1957- 2009). Blake’s method is based on 10 distinctive genres and his 15 story beats (the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet). Our books, workshops, story structure software, apps, and story coaching teach you everything you need to unlock the fundamentals and mechanics of plot and character transformation. 

Find out more about Save the Cat! by visiting their webpage at https://savethecat.com/

About the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course

This course is designed for writers to turn their idea into a movie or novel. This learn-at-your-own-pace online class helps you develop the 15 key “beats” or “plot points” of your story. Strung together, in the right order, these 15 beats make up the blueprint to a successful screenplay or novel. 

You’ll Turn an Idea into a Story by Learning to… 

• Create a solid beat sheet that will serve as the road map, and “backbone” of your story 

• Identify and know the key components of your story genre • Learn the clichés of your genre so that you can break them like an artist 

• Plot your hero’s journey and “transformation” • Troubleshoot your story idea for viability 

• Write a compelling logline or elevator pitch 

This Course Is for Those Who… 

• Want to troubleshoot an existing story 

• Have so many great ideas and struggle to choose “the one” 

• Are ready to write but not sure how to start 

• Are determined to finish a half-written story 

• Want to learn 

This Course Includes… 

• Over 3 hours and 17 minutes of original video production 

• 9 downloadable worksheets • 3 reading assignments (book not included) 

• 4 homework assignments 

Course Value: $59 

Find out more information about the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course by visiting https://www.savethecatcourses.com/courses/cracking-the-beat-sheet.

Find out more information about Story Cards at https://savethecat.com/story-cards

And finally, the tour is STILL going on, so please check out any of these posts to find more information from lots of writers about the cards, the course, or Save the Cat!