I am a novice writer with one novella published on Amazon. Recently I undertook a MOCC on Udemy called Write a Bestselling Novel in 15 Steps. Then I also googled and researched the the 15 step structure. It felt like this structure is recommended by many on blogs and on youtube.

Basically, what it is; screenwriter Blake Snyder's book Save the cat rewritten for novelists. So the steps are created for writing novels using the steps for screenwriting.

I am about to start writing my second novel which is an action thriller. I tried to run my idea past the steps given but was not able to fit everything as taught.

I have two questions here,

1. Does the novel writing community adhere to these 15 steps? In other words, does everybody(movies and novels) in the present times follow these 15 steps and are they widely known?


2. Should I rigorously follow these steps if I have to write an epic novel or should these steps be taken as mere guidelines?

  • I think this blog post has some great thoughts about how to best understand Save the Cat's 15 steps, especially since you want to write novels instead of screenplays: terribleminds.com/ramble/2018/07/11/the-save-the-cat-conundrum
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 15:31
  • 4
    IMHO this question is akin to "Should I use the cookie cutter when making cookies?"
    – Alexander
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 17:08
  • @Alexander Perhaps English isn't your first language (apologies if it is) but unless your creative outlet literally is baking cookies, the insinuation a metaphorical cookie cutter was involved in the creation of one's work is a piece of feedback no artist ever hopes to receive. urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cookie-cutter Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 6:44
  • @Anna A. Fitzgerald sorry if I offended you with my insinuation, but I am indeed feeling skeptical of the "15 Steps" method. Imagine if someone writes a dozen books following this method - don't you think these books might have more than a little bit in common?
    – Alexander
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 8:33
  • @Alexander No worries, I'm not at all offended. I just wanted to point out 'cookie cutter' is an analogy used in literary criticism (and other forms of art) and invariably has negative connotations. Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 8:55

1 Answer 1


No and no.

The 'rules of writing' are more like suggestions, but if there's one rule you should take for gospel it's 'mistrust anyone who will sell the secret to writing a best-seller for just $14.99 plus shipping and handling.'

Save The Cat can help you structure a novel, yes. So can the Snowflake method, the Hero's Journey, the Heroine's Journey, the seven-act structure, the ring structure... You get it, the list goes on. Some writers even choose to face the blank page with nothing but a pen and only the vaguest idea of what will happen in the next two pages. They probably think a framework will only drag them down.

Read books on the craft. Follow a writing course. Read a wide field of genres to understand how other writers tell their stories. Ask friends and strangers on the internet alike to read your work and provide feedback. Value all input you can get, but under no circumstance let anyone or anything take over the wheel. You drive the car, and you don't pull a hard right into the nearest lake because the SatNav told you so.

As you write more, structuring stories will eventually become second nature and you'll be able to see any novel or movie's scaffolding by squinting. If you read a craft book you'll learn vocabulary useful in discussing the scaffolding with others.

  • Thank you for your answer. It's great advice to go forward. Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 15:39
  • Spot on - this is pretty much exactly what I was going to answer. Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 15:42
  • Rules:1: Write. 2: Finish it. 3: Put it on the market. 4: Keep it on the market. 5: Only rewrite to editorial request. Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 21:08
  • That rule about mistrusting people who are selling the "secrets" to whatever applies to most potential "secrets". It's a good habit to live by in general outside of writing too. Higher price doesn't mean more trustworthy either.
    – Davy M
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 23:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.