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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?

And

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

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  • 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 Aug 25 '20 at 15:31
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    IMHO this question is akin to "Should I use the cookie cutter when making cookies?" – Alexander Aug 25 '20 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 – Anna A. Fitzgerald Aug 26 '20 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 Aug 26 '20 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. – Anna A. Fitzgerald Aug 26 '20 at 8:55
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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.

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  • Thank you for your answer. It's great advice to go forward. – The White Cloud Aug 25 '20 at 15:39
  • Spot on - this is pretty much exactly what I was going to answer. – motosubatsu Aug 25 '20 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. – Prime Mover Aug 26 '20 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 Aug 26 '20 at 23:53

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