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!

What Happened to February?

If a month, say February, for example, has only 28 days, one can’t be blamed if one is sipping on a cuppa and glances over at the calendar to see March staring in one’s face and realizes one has completely skipped the monthly post on one’s personal blog.

So let’s just move on as if nothing’s amiss here. But February did seem to dash by. Or maybe that’s just me? I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning and/or organizing around the old Hall House AND listening to a lot of music whilst doing so and time has just flown! Also, I think perhaps I owe the dearly departed Mister Man an apology.

See, that man would sit in his office working, blasting his rock ‘n roll favorites way beyond the air waves of that room. Now, I like rock ‘n roll as much as the next person. Maybe more since I worked in radio back in the day. BUT.

There is a time and place for listening to Iron Butterfly and it’s not when one’s writer wife is trying to think up the next brilliant Great American Novel. Or even the next blog post for the Muffin.

It’s not that Mister Man set out to purposefully sabotage my great thoughts. It’s just that music was a necessary soundtrack for his work and so when I would (nicely) ask him to shut off the &*^& music, he would argue (nicely) that I should go elsewhere to work. Things would not so nicely escalate and eventually, he’d turn down the music a smidge because he was after all, working and actually making money, and apparently that carried more weight.

Whatever. The point is, since the first of the year and my Major Cleaning and Organizing Frenzy, I’ve found that listening to music has been very conducive to getting the work done and keeping me in a very fine mood. And certain work (such as emptying kitchen cabinets) requires ABBA, whilst other work, say writing this here post, requires Kris Kristofferson. And for optimum efficiency, the music must…well, blast throughout the house.

So, sorry, Mister Man, I get it now. And you can get all caught up with my February brilliant thoughts over at the Muffin. There’s Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign (and I’m working away on that manuscript! You’ll get it when you read the post.) and Letting Go of the SPECTACULAR.

(And thanks, Mister Man and Kris Kristofferson, for inspiring this February post. You heard me. February. You want to argue, take it up with the Calendar Powers That Be.)