In Save the Cat! Writes a Young Adult Novel, prolific author and story coach Jessica Brody presents a comprehensive story structure guide for anyone who wants to write a young adult novel by applying the famed Save the Cat! screenwriting methodology to the world of YA fiction. In this book, you will learn:
• The fifteen “beats” (or plot points) that are necessary for crafting a successful story with a compelling character arc—including the Opening Image, Catalyst, Fun and Games, Bad Guys Close In, Dark Night of the Soul, and Finale
• The ten universal story genres that will help you drill into what makes your type of story work, including those most commonly found in young adult novels like Rites of Passage, Superhero, Buddy Love, Institutionalized, and Golden Fleece
• Quirky, original insights and writing tips like “Save the Cat,” the “Shard of Glass,” and the “Dark Night Epiphany,” that help you craft a story that will thrill and captivate teen readers
Filled with practical advice, easy-to-follow templates, and “beat sheets” analyzing the structure of popular young adult novels such as Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and Lois Lowry’s The Giver, this book is the ultimate reference for anyone who’s ever dreamed of writing their own young adult bestseller.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Where We Begin . . .
Once upon a time, many many years ago, there was a tiny little corner of the bookstore, with an even tinier little sign that read “Young Adult.” (You might have passed it on your way to the bathroom.) It consisted of a handful of shelves and maybe a hundred or so titles, and milling about its tiny little selection were a few teenagers searching for their next read.
Then came books like Twilight, and The Hunger Games, and Divergent, and The Fault in Our Stars, and The Hate U Give, and so many others. The genre exploded. “Young adult” became a household term. And that tiny little corner of the bookstore began to grow and spread—like Alice after consuming too many of Wonderland’s finest “Eat Me” cakes—until it was one of the most dominant sections of the bookstore, filled not just with teenagers anymore, but readers of all ages.
And the best part? Young adult wasn’t (and still isn’t) technically a genre. It’s an age categorization. Which meant anything was fair game. Paranormal, dystopia, romance, comedy, drama, thriller, horror, mystery—they all fit into those ever-expanding shelves.
In short, young adult fiction became a book industry gold rush. Publishers scrambled to acquire rights to the next runaway bestseller, movie studios filled their slates with films helmed by actors barely out of high school, book festivals catering to young adult fiction popped up around the globe, authors were sent on worldwide book tours.
And readers still couldn’t get enough. They were hungry for more.
Today, the mad rush to market might have died down a bit, but “young adult” is still as popular as ever. And it continues to diversify and grow year over year, attracting some of the most talented writers in the industry and tackling some of the most challenging and important topics of our generation, like racism, gender identity, inequality, injustice, abuse, disease, sex, addiction, and more.
While trends in the young adult category might come and go, three things remain clear: young adult fiction is here to stay, the world is still hungry for good young adult stories, and we need more writers to tell them.
Which brings us to this book.
The Biggest Problem Writers Have
Why did you pick up this book?
Have you always dreamed of writing a young adult novel and don’t know where to start? Have you tried to write a young adult novel in the past and quit halfway through? Or finished one but couldn’t publish it or sell it to readers?
Or perhaps you picked up this book because it has a cute cat on the cover and you like cats and are interested in saving them. (If this is the case, you might want to put the book back down now. It’s not really about saving cats, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) Or perhaps you’re like I was more than a decade ago, when I stared down at my first finished novel and my drawer full of rejection letters and it became painfully clear to me that despite all the time and effort and passion that had gone into that novel, I didn’t have the slightest clue how to craft a good story.
Humans are born with a passion for well-told stories. But writers, unfortunately, are not born knowing how to write them (an egregious universal oversight in my opinion). Sure, there are a handful of writers out there who sit down at a computer with a seed of an idea and three weeks later emerge with an elegantly structured novel with taut pacing, compelling character development, and a satisfying ending without even trying. (We don’t really like those writers.) But for the 99.9 percent of the rest of us, we have to work at it. Hard. We have to study the secrets of story structure. We have to dissect other novels and analyze their intricate inner workings. We have to learn how to develop an elegantly structured novel with taut pacing, compelling character development, and a satisfying ending.
And that’s exactly what I did, more than a decade ago, when I picked up a screenwriting guide called Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. I learned what a good story was and how to write one. I have since sold more than twenty novels to major publishers such as Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, and Macmillan. My books have been translated into more than twenty languages, and several have been optioned for film and television.
Wait a minute, did you just say Save the Cat! is a screenwriting guide?
That I did. The original Save the Cat! book was written for screenwriters, but here’s what I found: story is story, whether it appears on a big screen, a small screen, or an eBook screen, or in an old-fashioned book made out of real paper (which, yes, young adults do still read— voraciously!). And once I discovered that the Save the Cat! method worked well for novels, I wanted to share it. I wanted to do for other novelists what Blake Snyder did for me.
Which is why, in 2018, I published the first novel adaptation of the Save the Cat! method, called Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. And now I’ve updated the method even more specifically for young adult novelists.
Think of this guide as your crash course in storytelling. The ultimate guide to writing a young adult bestseller. By the time you finish reading this book, you will know what makes up a good story and why, and more important, you’ll know how to apply that to your own young adult fiction, so that you can start crafting memorable, unputdownable stories that resonate with teen readers.
Because here’s the harsh truth: no matter how good of a writer you are, no matter how masterfully you can string together sentences, no matter how witty your dialogue, how evocative your prose, how vivid your descriptions, how unique your literary voice, if you can’t craft a good story, readers won’t stick around until the end. I’d even venture to say they won’t stick around past page 50.
I told you it was harsh! But if you didn’t hear it from me, you’d hear it from someone else, like a book reviewer online. And trust me, I’ll be nicer about it.
Since publishing Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, I have been blown away and humbled by the response. I continue to get messages daily from authors who have used this method to write novels, finish novels, revise novels, fix novels, bring novels back from the dead, get novels represented by literary agents, and sell novels to readers, publishers, and even movie producers! These are not authors who were born knowing how to tell a story. These are authors like you and me who just needed a little help.
I’m certain that Save the Cat! can help you as well. We might not be saving any literal cats, but we’re saving writers. And that’s an important job too!