In this week’s episode, Marissa chats with Jessica Brody, author of over twenty novels, along with her bestselling SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL, and the new SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL. Discussed in this episode: revisiting favorite writing resources, what makes this new version of SAVE THE CAT! unique and perfect for YA authors, how most (but not all!) stories follow the Save the Cat method, how a big part of writing a novel is trusting the process and carrying on, how to use the Save the Cat method, even if you’re not an outliner, and so much more.The Happy Writer at Bookshop.org
Find out more and follow The Happy Writer on social media: https://www.marissameyer.com/podcast/
[00:10] Marissa: Hello, and welcome to the Happy Writer. This is a podcast that aims to bring readers more books to enjoy and help authors find more joy in their writing. I am your host, Marissa Meyer. Thanks for being here today. One thing that is making me happy, I mentioned last week we are in the process of moving to a new house. And so the thing making me really happy these days is getting rid of stuff. I love getting rid of stuff. I am something of a Marie Condo follower. Like, if this is not bringing joy, get it out of my house. I am not particularly sentimental, and so I regularly go through our belongings and try to purge as much as possible. But my purging tendencies are not always appreciated by the rest of the family and the household. And so no matter what I do, it seems like stuff is always accumulating. And there's always the nooks and crannies in the house, the garage and the attics and those cabinets in the back corner of the laundry room that you haven't opened for, like, eight years, and who even knows what is in there at this point? But now that we're moving, there's, like, motivation to clean house and actually go through some of these nooks and crannies and get rid of stuff. And I love it. It makes me feel so productive, and I just find it super liberating, and it just speaks to my minimalist tendencies. So I'm really, really happy about that these days. Of course, I am also so happy to be talking to today's guest. She has written more than 20 novels for readers of all ages, including Amelia Gray Is Almost okay the Chaos of Standing Still 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, the System Divine trilogy, which she co wrote with Joanne Rendell, along with the best selling writing guide Save the Cat Writes a Novel. She is also the founder of Writing Mastery Academy, and she holds the incredibly high honor of being the first ever guest on The Happy Writer podcast. Her newest guide, Save the Cat writes a young adult novel will be in stores tomorrow. I am so excited to have her back. Please welcome my good friend Jessica Brody.
[02:43] Jessica: Hello, my fellow. Marie kondo fan.
[02:48] Marissa: You and I are kind of like the same person in so many ways. And as I was talking about that, I'm like, I bet Jessica's with me on this. I bet she is also a purger.
[02:57] Jessica: It's uncanny how many times we just discover these. Like, you do that, too? Yeah. I love purging. I love spring cleaning. I love moving for the very same reason as you. Just like, get it all out. I don't want to bring it with me.
[03:15] Marissa: I know. I have not moved to a new house in my adult life. I went from my parents house to the college dorms to living in my cousin's basement, to living with roommates and then I met Jesse and moved in with him. And that was almost 20 years ago, and so I've never had to pack up and move an entire household. And it is mind boggling to me the amount of stuff that accumulates when you're not being forced to get rid of stuff every now and then. And so for me, this is just like heaven. I love seeing all this stuff go away and shipments off to the Goodwill.
[03:56] Jessica: Yeah, it's amazing. And I find the best time I feel like we could talk about this, the whole podcast, but we'll try not to.
[04:01] Marissa: But we'll see.
[04:02] Jessica: I find the best time to purge is after I come back from a vacation where I've basically been living out of a suitcase for two weeks or whatever, and I'm like, I just survived two weeks without all this crap. Why do I have all this crap? And that's when I kind of start going through and like, nope, nope, don't need that. Don't need that.
[04:18] Marissa: Yeah, yeah. No, it's funny. My kids, of course, they're the worst with their toys. Like, it's so hard. You can say you haven't played with this for four years, and yet somehow in their brains, they still think that it's like the most precious thing. How could I possibly part with it? And so they boxed up I don't know how many boxes, and we took them over to the new house, and I was telling them, like, if you don't think you need something for the next couple of weeks, then let's take it over the new house while we're getting moved in and settled. But if you want it and you know you're going to want to play with it over the next couple of weeks, then we should keep it here. And they were like, well, we'll keep our Legos here, but everything else can go. All we really need to have is the Legos and we're fine. And I was like, Hold on, if all you really need is the Legos, then why do we have eight boxes of toys? Why can't all of this go away?
[05:12] Jessica: Life Lessons from children.
[05:14] Marissa: I know. And I'm clearly in the minority here, but I'll keep fighting for simplicity. So Jessica, I'm so excited to have you. Your book, Save the Cat, comes up all the time in this podcast. It is such a wonderful resource. I love it. I read it every time I am working on a new novel. And now that we have the Ya version, I know that it is my new go to. And I just think that you are brilliant.
[05:47] Jessica: Well, thank you very much. I think you're brilliant, too, and it's one of the reasons that I mention your books in both the Cat books I wrote. But it's so nice to hear that and thank you. And I think it's important for writers to hear that even someone like you who has written so many successful novels still looks for resources and guides as I do as well, because for me, writing novels is just a constant learning process and every novel I write, I learn something new. And what's really fun is that allows me to put all of that knowledge that I'm gathering into my books, into my online courses to hopefully help other writers continue their learning journey as well.
[06:31] Marissa: Yeah, no, for sure. And also there's a lot of times when it's like, there's something that I know or I've learned it, I've applied it to books in the past. But you forget, like, you cannot hold everything you know about plot structure and characterization and dialogue and setting and world building. You can't hold it all in your brain at one time. And so for me, it's great to have these moments throughout my process where I go back to some of my favorite resources and once again have those same AHA moments like, oh, yeah, I forgot about this detail, or I forgot how I did this before. And it all just comes back and I think kind of gets stronger and stronger every time you are able to apply it again.
[07:18] Jessica: I absolutely agree. And it's one of the reasons why I tell people to go through their books over and over and over. As we both know, a first draft is not a final draft. It's usually, for me anyway, it's like a piece of crap. But every time I go through the manuscript, no matter what I'm working on, I find something new like, oh, I could do this and I could build in this. And at some point, yes, you have to stop that process, but the more times you look at something with a different perspective because you have lived life in a different way from the last time you read it, you will pick up something. And I think that happens with every draft and it happens with every book.
[07:59] Marissa: Yeah, no, definitely. So we are of course, going to talk a lot about the new book, save the Cat Writes a Ya Novel. But first I want to go back in time because when you were my guest in the very first number one episode of this podcast, I wasn't yet asking my favorite question to ask my guests, and that is I want to hear your origin story. How exactly did you come to be a published author?
[08:31] Jessica: Is this like the villain origin story?
[08:34] Marissa: Yes. Jessica Brody, villain extraordinaire.
[08:38] Jessica: Yeah, and I can't believe it's been that long since we did this for.
[08:43] Marissa: The I know, like three we're going on almost three and a half years.
[08:48] Jessica: That's mind boggling. And I'm super honored that I was able to launch this with you. That's very cool. My origin story, my gosh, I started writing novels, quote novels, when I was seven years old as a lot of writers have those kinds of stories, but I used to self publish mine with cardboard wrapped in wallpaper to create, like, the binding and then secured with electrical tape. And I would create these little projects, and I would publish these little novels, and I would put them on my shelf, and it was very exciting. And my debut novel was called The Puppy and the Kitty. And it was the riveting story of a puppy and a kitty who run away from home and twist. They get the chickenpox. Yeah. It was so shocking.
[09:42] Marissa: I did not see that coming.
[09:43] Jessica: No one does. So, anyway, fast forward many, many years later. I think at age seven, I thought, I want to be a writer. And then fast forward many years later, I sort of came to this realization that writing isn't a real job. I was like, well, you can't make a living. You have to do something else. And I started just writing as a hobby, and I got a degree in economics, and I went on to become a financial analyst. And it wasn't until I got laid off from my job that I thought maybe I could do this for real. And like I said, I was writing on the side, and I decided to take some time off and try to finish and sell my first novel. And I did. And I think there was sort of a time clock on me. If you don't sell this, you're not going to be able to pay rent, because I had, like, a severance package from my layoff, and it was going to expire. So there was a lot of that time pressure, I think, worked for me. I work really well under deadlines. I ended up selling my first novel. Haven't looked back since. I've basically been writing ever since then.
[10:52] Marissa: And when was that? Because I know you've got so many books published. When did your first book come out?
[10:57] Jessica: My first book came out in 2008.
[11:00] Marissa: Okay. So I'm trying to do math, not like, my strong suit. So 15 years, I guess.
[11:07] Jessica: Yeah, I always try to do that math, and I'm like, really? 15? Yeah, I guess. Really, 15 years? Yeah. I keep saying over a decade, and it's and it's and it's still valid for yeah.
[11:20] Marissa: No, and you are very prolific. And I know that long before you wrote the Save the Cat Novel Writing Guides, you were a strong believer in the Save The Cat Screenwriting Guide and how helpful that book was for plotting out a novel in addition to a screenplay. So then tell me kind of how you got involved in the Save the Cat world.
[11:48] Jessica: Yeah, so my first novel I could not sell. I kept getting the same rejection from agents over and over, which was that you have really good writing style or you have good voice, but there's no story here. And that feedback just never made sense to me. I realized much later that I just didn't know what a story was, what it consisted of. What it means to tell a story. And then I basically got handed a copy of Save the Cat by a screenwriting friend who said, oh, listening to my story woes. He was like, Here you go. This will help you. And I read it, and I remember just reading it in one sitting and just being so blown away. By the way, Blake Snyder, the author of the original book, broke down story into this easy to follow I call it a blueprint, like 15 beats. These 15 beats appear over and over and over in movies from the beginning of movies. And I realized, like, oh, my gosh, yeah, I don't know how to tell a story. I don't have half of these beats in my book. And I rewrote the novel I was trying to sell with the 15 beat template, with the Save the Cap beat sheet is what it's called. And I ended up getting an agent on that version, and the agent sold the novel, and I've just never not used it. Now, what I started to do is I started to blog about my experience using this method because I thought other novelists need to know that this screenwriting method works not just for screenplays, but for novels. And that got the attention of the people at Save the Cat. So the original author, Blake Snyder, has since passed away. He has a great team of people who kind of keep the legacy alive. And they contacted me and said, would you like to start blogging for us? Which was like a huge fangirl moment because this method changed my life and completely. I owe my success as a novelist to this method. So I was like, of course. So we started doing that. We started getting a lot of great feedback from novelists going, I'm so glad you said this. I'm so glad you did this, because I've been trying to figure out how to use this method to write my novel, or I've already used it. That led me to teaching workshops through Save the Cat. And then the workshops became very popular, and eventually we just kind of all I remember we were all at breakfast in Los Angeles, like a very La. Moment to have breakfast. Like, all the people meeting with their agent. We were chilling with my people, and me and the state of the cat peeps were having breakfast. And I think we all kind of came to the realization around the same time, like, there needs to be a book. I think I might have said it first. And they were like, that's what we wanted to say, too. So it ended up turning into Save the Cat writes a novel, and now Save the Cat writes a young adult novel. So I feel like there's just always more to explore about this method, about story structure, which was why it was so fun to write this new guide, because I got to kind of deepen my exploration. Like, go a little bit further into story structure using the young adult categorization as a focus.
[15:07] Marissa: Yeah. So tell me a little bit more about the new book because, of course, a lot of Ya writers, myself included, used the original Save the Cat. And then when Save The Cat Writes A Novel, then we started using Save The Cat Writes A Novel. And of course, both of those books can be applied to plot structure for a Ya novel. So what is different about this new book? Save. The Cat Writes a Ya novel.
[15:35] Jessica: Yeah, I just keep writing new books so that you'll just keep following me.
[15:39] Marissa: Along and I just keep following along.
[15:44] Jessica: It's actually a funny story. The publisher reached out to me, the publisher of Save the Cow Rights novel, and said, we would like to publish a young adult version of this book. And I was like, no way. My first reaction was really like, just total resistance. I was like, the first book was a crap ton of work. It was so intense to write it and read all those books and analyze all those stories, and I just didn't want to do it again. And I also said, there's not a reason for a young adult novel, a young adult version, because the first version has young adult examples in it, and it applies to young adults. And they were like, well, just sit and think about it. And I did, and I started going back and rereading some of my favorite Ya novels, yours included, and I just started to think about it from, well, what if I, the novel guide, took a screenwriting method and applied it to novels. And it didn't change the method, it just changed the lens through which we study the method. And I thought, what if I did that with young adult? What if we just the method stays the same, but we put different books under the microscope to see how this method plays out in different types of stories? And I thought maybe it would be fun to look at solely young adult examples. What are the customizations that the big names are doing with the beat sheet? What are the young adult has just a plethora of multiple POV novels, multiple points of view, like your books, and what does that look like? Can we really drill into what that looks like? And then, of course, young adult series, which is a huge component of the young adult market. And I've been asked a lot from readers of the first book, like, how do I apply this to a series? And so all of that kind of coalesced into this guide where I said, okay, I will write this guide, but it needs to be something a little more than the first book. It can't just be the same book written over again with different examples. I need to be able to go deeper into the beat sheet I need to go deeper into what it means to modify and customize the beat sheet for your own work. And then, of course, I need to go into series. And so I took all of the things that people were asking me about from the first book that clearly hadn't been explored deep enough. I put that into this book. I put series into this book. And then I took just the basic framework, and I put young adult novels as the focus, just so we can see, like, what does a catalyst look like for a teen character? What does this character arc look like for a teen character? What do wants and needs look like for teen characters? So that anyone who's writing a young adult novel, or really any novel, can just get that extra amount of resources and things to study. Because in my experience, the more examples of structure and character transformations that we study, the easier it's going to be to apply it to our own. So all of that rationale eventually went into a three year process of writing this book, which was, again, a crap ton of work. But hopefully I think it's worth it. I hope others do, too.
[19:04] Marissa: No, and I can only imagine because these books are so example heavy, you never just say, here's the rule, or here's the beat. You then have to give like 50 examples of how it works across literature and here across Ya novels. What was your process for even deciding what books you were going to delve into? I can't even wrap my brain around how many books you must have read and analyzed for this.
[19:40] Jessica: Oh, I can't eat. Yeah, it's always the biggest puzzle is which books to include, which books to break down, where to include them, because there's lots of places to put examples throughout the book. And I have this giant spreadsheet which just has every book I've read. What it's a good example of? What genre? Of Save the Cat, because Save the Cat has its own kinds of genres. We call them story genres. Where does it fit in within that? What type of midpoint is it? Because we have upward path sorry, false victory midpoints and false defeat midpoints. And we want to include different examples of both. So what type of midpoint does it have? So lots of different pieces of data went into the spreadsheet, which, of course, then I have to read all those books to fill in all of this data. And then what was really important to me is to include a diverse array of books, a diverse array of authors, to make sure that we're not just zeroing in on one type of novel or one type of character. So I really wanted to make sure that that was a piece of the puzzle. And, yeah, it was hard. I will say that from the first draft to whatever final draft, so many examples were cut because I loaded them in, I was just like, and then this, and then this, and then this. Here it is again, so many, to the point where my editor was like, it's actually getting a little too example heavy, to the point where losing the thread of the lesson. And that's when I had to kind of get out the carving knife and go, okay, which is the absolute best example, and making sure that the examples were different enough and were exemplifying different parts of story or different types of different variations of the beat, so that each example really stood out and had purpose. And that was also quite a lot of work to make sure. And it was always so stressful to me. That was probably the most stressful part, is like, I'm going to cut the wrong example, one example that someone's going to be like, oh, now I get it. But hopefully the examples that are left in there, they're good ones. I think they're good ones and they help.
[22:07] Marissa: Yeah. No, for me, every time I read this. So I've read the Ya novel one once, and of course, I've read Save the Cat writes a novel a bunch of times, and then before that, Save the Cat a bunch of times. And they are truly these wonderful writing guides that every single time I read it, my brain just starts to fill with ideas for what I can do on my current working project or whatever my focus is at the time. I mean, it's impossible to read it and not be inspired, which is, of course, the best thing about reading writing guides. Yes, we're reading them to learn and to get better at our craft. But for me, so much of it just comes from wanting something to spark new ideas and new inspiration and giving you that excitement to get back to the draft. And these books do it in spades.
[23:02] Jessica: Oh, thank you. I'm so happy to hear that because as you know, we write in caves, we write in vacuums, and we don't know how they're impacting people. And so to hear that touches my heart. Thank you.
[23:19] Marissa: So I'm wondering because, of course, a lot of the premise of the Save the Cat beat sheets is that they are universal. These 15 beats can be found in every story since the beginning of time, essentially. Have you ever in your research, come across a book that just, like, stumped you and you were like, wait, this book is really popular and successful, but the beats aren't there, or they're not obvious, or have you ever had that moment and then been like, well, what do I do with this one?
[23:54] Jessica: It's funny. Yeah, because I try not to say every novel from the beginning of time.
[23:58] Marissa: I know almost every novel just generalization. Yeah.
[24:02] Jessica: There's always going to be exceptions to everything. And I think we look at the 15 beats as a roadmap. And that's one of the reasons I really wanted to put this new chapter into this new book called Customizing Your Beat Sheet, because it takes some of those big what if questions like, well, what if I have a catalyst or inciting incident that comes much earlier or much later? What if I want to tell a reverse arc of like a villain story and things like that? And I really wanted to explore that. And I think that the beat sheets I chose to break down in full in this one do a really good job of showing you how the Beats really can be adapted. To answer your question, there's always those books that I wouldn't say, like, none of the beats are there, but it would be like, oh, this really doesn't have a great example of a theme stated. It has a theme, and I can track the theme, and I know exactly what the character arc is. But in the save the cat universe, we call the theme stated, we say it comes in the first 10% of the story. And it's the moment where typically, like, a secondary character or someone not the main character will date something to the main character very subtly that hints at what the character transformation will be. And again, very subtly, very cleverly. And those are always my favorite ones to look for because I'm trying to find the little Easter egg that the author has left. And every once in a while, yeah, I'll read a book and I'll be like, no, it's just not stated anywhere. It's implied through other ways, but it's not stated. And so there's things like that. There's beats that come too late or too early, in my opinion. But like you said, the book did really well. So go figure. Although I did recently watch a movie lately? Recently, that I was just sitting there, and it was such an engaging movie, and I realized about three quarters of the way through that there was no beats, there was no story. But it was so good. And it was called Patterson. Starring Adam Driver or Diver driver. Anyway, it was like such a good movie. And I went, there's no beats, there's no catalyst, there's no break into two. There's no midpoint. And I went, well, there you go. Can be done. I wouldn't recommend trying it for your first book, but it can be done.
[26:33] Marissa: Oh, how interesting. What an interesting just study of story.
[26:37] Jessica: Yeah, I kept asking myself, what is compelling me to keep watching this movie? That was the exercise for me. It's like, okay, if you think about all the Beats, what keeps people reading?
[26:48] Marissa: Was it character?
[26:50] Jessica: It was a lot of character, and it was a lot which, interestingly enough for me, it was the expectation that the beat was coming. I was like, oh, there's going to be a catalyst right here. And the director was a writer director. He did this great job of sort of building. Like, you would think something big was about to happen and then it wouldn't happen. And so I would be like, here comes the catalyst. Oh, no, here comes midpoint twist. No, a lot of it was that, but it was also just a really good character and really good visual storytelling.
[27:26] Marissa: Well, you've piqued my interest. I'm very curious about this. So you are, of course, neck deep in the beach sheets and the Save the Cat universe and teaching writing. You have your wonderful online seminars in the Writing Mastery Academy. What are some of the just like, the recurring questions that come up regarding whether it's writing in general or the Save the Cat methodology in specifics? What are the things that people seem to get hung up on?
[28:00] Jessica: Yeah, that's such a great question. I would say 85% of the questions I get in my academy or in any webinars, I do tend to be the same questions, like maybe a handful of questions. And again, I tried to put those into the new book too, because I was like, well, obviously this was not answered well enough in the first book, so I'm going to try to answer them here and I will say those are Save the Cat related. But then the questions that come up a lot, which are the hardest ones to answer, are really the questions that the answer boils down to. It's very hard to write a novel. There's no sugar coating that. A lot of the questions are like, well, I'm at this point of the process, or I'm revising, or I can't quite get through to the the Next Beat. I don't know what's going to happen. Like, things like that, where there's not anything I can specifically say like, well, you should do this with your plot, or you should fix it this way, at least not without reading the whole thing. And the only thing I can say is you just have to keep going and you have to trust in the process that eventually the answer will come to you. Eventually things will be clearer. Eventually you will figure this out, but not if you give up. So it's baffling to me. Yeah, not baffling. It totally makes sense because I've written enough novels to know. But it's amazing how many of those questions are really just, yes, writing a novel is very hard, and I'm sorry you're going through that. I know what that feels like. You just have to keep going. So I think the thing that people get hung up on is the process is those parts where the plot isn't gelling and you don't know what's happening next and you know something's broken, but you don't know what it is. And it doesn't feel like what you're writing doesn't match up to the thing you had in your head or even in your outline. Those kinds of stumbling blocks that you and I have both hit a million. Times, and you kind of just have to keep going and trust that by the end or two weeks from now or two months from now, you will get the right idea.
[30:19] Marissa: Yeah.
[30:20] Jessica: No.
[30:20] Marissa: And we all know that feeling of the AHA moment or the Eureka moment when something hasn't been working and we're driving ourselves bonkers trying to figure it out, and we're brainstorming and we're researching and we're moving scenes and chapters around and nothing is working. And then from out of the blue, the idea comes and the solution comes, and it solves everything, and it's that magical moment. But you have to have some amount of faith that you're going to get there, that if you keep working on it, that moment will come. And I think that comes with time and practice and doing this enough, you've written enough novels that you're like, okay, I've been here before. The AHA moment is going to come, but I can't give up on it yet.
[31:18] Jessica: And you can't force it. Absolutely. And that's very hard to convey, particularly to a first time novelist who is hitting these stumbling blocks for the first time, and that is very hard. And sadly, a lot of people give up. And that's one of the reasons I started my Writing Mastery Academy, is to be able to bring people in and give them the resources they need to keep going. I have an entire course called Conquering Writer's Block, and all it is, is these little tips. It's a toolbox of tips to do when you get stuck, like, try this, try this, try this, try this, but don't give up.
[31:57] Marissa: I love that.
[31:59] Jessica: And it's something that comes with time and practice, and it's hard to have that faith when you've never done it. And that's what I just the thing I could probably answer the most is like, just keep going. You'll figure it out, I promise.
[32:12] Marissa: Yeah. So at one point you mentioned outlining, and I think talking to other writers and aspiring writers, of course, outlines come up all the time. Everybody who listens to this knows that I am an outline writer. I know that you are an outline writer, but not everybody is. And I think a lot of people hear about the Save the Cat methodology and they hear about the beat sheets and they think, but I'm not an outline writer. This isn't for me. And I know that that's not necessarily the case. I believe firmly that this is a writing guide that everyone can benefit from. So what do you say when someone says, okay, that's great, but I'm just not an outline writer?
[32:57] Jessica: Yeah, that's an interesting question and it's something I tried really hard to answer even more thoroughly in this book because, again, it was one of those things misconceptions I will say, that people come across. And it's probably just going to always be that way when you have sort of a template type of book. So Save the Cat is a great method for outliners. I use it to outline. Many writers use it to outline. But if you are not an outliner, if you're a discovery writer or they call them panthers, sometimes I recommend using a method like Save the Cat for revisions. So put these books away. Don't even look at them. Do your process, do your thing. Discover your book. Write, be inspired. Do whatever you need to do to get whatever you can on the page. And maybe you'll hit a roadblock and you'll stop, or maybe you'll get all the way to the end, but eventually you're going to have a bunch of writing that needs to make sense. It needs to fit into a story structure. It needs to be compelling. It needs to be paced well so that readers don't get bored. There needs to be a compelling character arc and threads throughout. All of those things need to happen at some point. US outliners, we like to try to figure those things out in advance. But if you're not one of those people, eventually you're going to have to figure that out with the pieces you already have. And that's when I really recommend using a structure method like Save the Cat or something else that might work for you, and you're going to kind of approach it in a different way. And the way I recommend people approach it is to break down what you have into, as best as you can into scenes. So what type of pieces of information and what type of individual actions do you have in your story? Break those out into index cards or digital cards. Save the Cat even has its own software you can use. But try to break those out and then just look at what you have. Compare those scenes to what the beat sheet recommends happen at different points, like 10%. There needs to be an inciting incident that kicks the story off. Do I have that scene among this scramble of cards? Yes, I do. I have it right here. Okay, put that in its place. Now start looking at some of these other beats. What do I already have and what am I missing? And then you can start to kind of piece together the semblance of a structure using what you have and labeling things. That the placeholders where you need to fill in those gaps.
[35:39] Marissa: What is your favorite part of the writing process? Do you love the outline? Do you love revisions? Like, for you, what's fun?
[35:49] Jessica: So is the next part of the process that I'm not you're not doing right now? When I'm outlining, I'm like, I just want to start writing this thing. When I'm fast drafting the first draft, I'm like, just want to revise this thing. When I revise, I just want to be done. Yeah, that makes me sound like I don't enjoy the process. I really do. But for me, I think it's really about the outline and then writing the first 60 pages. I would say, like, for the first act, I could write Act One over and over again, like a million times and never get bored in my life. I love writing Act One, and then I get into Act Two and I'm like, oh crap, what do I do now?
[36:29] Marissa: Yeah.
[36:30] Jessica: And that's where it starts to get it feels hard for me, but I love outlining. I love the feeling of a brand new idea and the just endless vast landscape of possibility of what it could be. I love that feeling.
[36:46] Marissa: Yeah, no, same. That's very relatable. The first act is so fun.
[36:51] Jessica: It really is. You get to set up all these great things. That future you will eventually pay off. You don't actually have to do it.
[37:02] Marissa: So you talked about how you've been using the Save the Cat method from Book One. How did your writing change or your writing process change once you went from being a follower of Save the Cat to being an expert on Save the Cat and actually writing these books for other writers, how did that change your fiction writing?
[37:28] Jessica: That is such a good question. I am terrified now to write because I have to get over it every day. I have to sit down and I have to let myself write a bad first draft, which is my whole method. I call it the fast drafting method. I have a whole course on it. But it's all about writing badly so that you can get through the first draft and have something to revise. Everyone who writes a first draft. Or I don't want to speak too generally, but most writers who write a first draft go through terrible impostor syndrome and just this sucks. And there's lots of inner critic going on. I have this extra voice now of like, oh, that's not what you wrote in the book. Someone's going to call you out on that. That's liar. Yeah, that's not coming at the right percentage. I have this sort of extra voice that I feel sometimes like I have to be this stellar example of flawless plot structure, and I can't break any of the quote rules that I've set up. So I have to really work hard to put that aside, particularly for the first draft, so that I can get that story out of my head and figure, okay, you'll figure it out later. And it's funny because I will go through this process of I wrote this book, I can do whatever I want. I wrote the book on structure. I don't need to follow it. And then I'll talk myself into that. And then when I'll go back and revise, I'll be like, yeah, that really doesn't work. I'm going to have to go back to what I said works. Yeah. So it's a very interesting process to listen to my own thoughts as I'm.
[39:09] Marissa: Now writing books yeah, no, I can totally imagine that. And it's like, well, it works because it works, but creativity doesn't always want to listen to that.
[39:21] Jessica: My muse is very rebellious against the book I wrote.
[39:24] Marissa: That is hilarious.
[39:25] Jessica: And it always has to be reined back in, in the end because what I tried to do doesn't work.
[39:31] Marissa: Yeah, no, that's so funny. And I'm kind of thinking how you and I both have these brands that kind of go beyond our fiction books. You're the Save the Cat person and I am the happy writer. And it's like, there are days when I'm not so happy to be writing.
[39:52] Jessica: This book right now.
[39:54] Marissa: This book is a pain in the butt, and I'd rather be doing something else. And there's, similar to you, there's this voice in my head that's like, no, Marissa, you love writing, and you could never say anything otherwise.
[40:06] Jessica: I've seen the picture on your Happy Writer podcast. It's a very inspired looking writer in that picture. But, yeah, I can see that. I created this image for myself. I always have to be the happy writer, which, of course, you can't do that, but you said the process is the process, and you have to embrace every minute of it. But it is challenging to have that extra voice.
[40:33] Marissa: Yeah, no, I can totally understand that. My last question before our bonus round. Do you think there might be more Save the Cat books in your future?
[40:45] Jessica: Don't ask me that right now, because the answer is no way in hell. It's so funny. When I finished the first book, I said to my husband, I am never writing another Save the Cat book again. I mean, like we talked about, it is a lot of work and it is so exhausting and it is nerve wracking because you're representing or you're breaking down beloved books. Not only is there this fear of, oh, some huge fan of this novel is going to just completely hate what I did or how I represented their favorite book, but then also, the author is not going to like the way I did it. And I'm very clear about this is my interpretation of this work. This is not particularly what the author intended or anything. So that's always so nerve wracking. So, yeah, they're a lot of work. And so after I wrote the first book, I said that, and now I just finished this one, which is about to come out, and I said the same thing. I'm like, no, I mean it this I'm not doing this ever again. So ask maybe ask me in in a year or so. Okay.
[41:56] Marissa: All right. For what it's worth, I think they are so great, and I think, yes, you could Save the Cat, could write a thriller. Save the Cat could write a murder mystery, but they really can be applied to story on so many different levels already. So you've done good work, Jessica.
[42:20] Jessica: Thank you. I can be done and feel good about it.
[42:26] Marissa: All right. What book makes you happy?
[42:31] Jessica: Anything by Sophie Kinsella. Love her.
[42:37] Marissa: What are you working on next?
[42:39] Jessica: I'm working on a surprise secret project that I'm not talking about yet.
[42:45] Marissa: Nothing? No hint?
[42:46] Jessica: No.
[42:47] Marissa: Is it ya? Is it adult? Can we know anything?
[42:50] Jessica: It's something I haven't written before. I'll just say.
[42:53] Marissa: That interesting. Okay. Lastly, where can people find you?
[43:02] Jessica: I'm at Jessica Brody on Instagram and Twitter. I'm on YouTube. I do a lot of writing. How to writing videos on YouTube at Jessica Brodyone. And Jessicabrody.com is where you can find out about all my books, including the Save the Cat books. And then Writingmastery.com is where you can take any of my online writing courses in my Writing Mastery Academy, where we also have monthly live webinars and office hours with instructors, including myself, as well as an online community and other resources for writers.
[43:35] Marissa: So all those places, awesome. So, thank you so much, Jessica. It's always a pleasure to talk to you and I just cannot gush enough. I'm sure people are sick of me talking about how great, but truly, these books, they inspire me. They have made me a better writer, and I just highly encourage all of our aspiring writers to check them out.
[44:01] Jessica: Thank you so much. You've been such a great supporter of the books, and I really couldn't be more grateful for your support.
[44:07] Marissa: And I shouldn't say I'm not just saying this because you do reference my books in them, although that is a fantastic honor.
[44:13] Jessica: Good caveat, readers.
[44:17] Marissa: I hope that you will check out Save the Cat Writes a Novel and out tomorrow. Save the cat writes a young adult novel. Of course, we encourage you to support your local indie bookstore. If you don't have a local indie, you can check out our affiliate email@example.com shop, marissamyer. And be sure to check out our merchandise on Etsy, Instagram and tpublic. You can find all the links in our Instagram profile. We are going to be taking the next two weeks off so that I can get moved and settled into our new house. And I don't actually know who I'm going to be talking to when we get back, but I'm sure that they will be awesome and their book will be awesome, and you don't want to miss it. So we'll be back in a couple of weeks. If you're enjoying these conversations, please subscribe and follow us on Instagram at Marissa Meyer, author and at Happy Writer Podcast. Until next time, stay healthy, stay cozy, and whatever life throws at you today, I hope that now you're feeling a little bit happier.