BJ and Blake -- laughing as usual
BJ and Blake — laughing as usual

BJ Markel worked with Blake beginning in 1986 and misses him every day. He edited Blake’s three books, his blogs, and together they started Blake Snyder Enterprises soon after the publication of Save the Cat! in May, 2005. BJ continues editing today, and realized that the advice he just gave an author who was writing a non-fiction book — and feared a chapter “wasn’t congealing” — can also be applied to film and fiction.

Blake and I literally “threw out” more than a third of his original manuscript for Save the Cat! What we did NOT include in the final draft was all valuable advice, but we didn’t think twice about removing it because it wasn’t pertinent to what we were trying to accomplish in each and every chapter. We wanted the book to move like a bullet. And we both thought those deletions which made the book a “fast read” paid off.

The same goes for writing a lean and mean screenplay that sticks to its “spine.” So here’s what you need to do after you’ve written every chapter/scene:

Write down:
1) the primary objective of the chapter/scene
2)  the secondary objective
3) two lesser objectives

(For filmmakers, 1 and 2 are probably enough per scene.)

Then you need to evaluate how you satisfied these objectives — and if you didn’t, what you must do to satisfy them.

This also means that if you have stuff in the chapter/scene that doesn’t meet any of the objectives, that material does not belong; the chapter/scene is trying to do too much. If the chapter/scene is trying to do too much, you’re asking the reader/audience to do too much. And if they’re doing too much, you’ve got a story that won’t resonate and a book or script that won’t be successful.

So understand your objectives and methodically evaluate every chapter or scene. Determine if it is “congealing” and what work, if any, is needed to make it successful.

With Save the Cat! consistently in the top 1,000 of all book titles on Amazon more than seven years since it was first published, Blake and I accomplished our goal. “It’s easy,” he would say (or maybe even shout). Well, of course it isn’t… but you can do it if you try.