If I was making a Writer Advice Bingo grid, I'd save a square for Save The Cat by Blake Snyder. On all the writing forums and all the fantasy forums I've been on, its probably the single most recommended book.
And its not even a book about writing books.
Snyder was a screenplay writer, and Save The Cat was about writing scripts and not just any scripts, but scripts that would sell in Hollywood. His book contains a lot of advice about genre, plot, pacing, audience expectations and all that, but its all geared towards Hollywood.
I'm currently reading Terry Rossio's Wordplay columns and they're in a pretty similar vein. He wants to share his wisdom with people who want to do what he's done. He says it in his first column: "But if you write screenplays and want to sell one to Hollywood, I'm your man".
That isn't me though. Or at least, not today. Maybe tomorrow. Today I want to finish my damn book and write the next one. Yet I'm still lapping up his words like they were finest single malt. It started with his reader rules column - one of the best bits of story advice I've ever seen - and its going to finish with every last word on the site.
I know I'm going to do this. But at the same time, I'm questioning why. Rossio's advice is aimed at a different end to mine. Snyder's advice is aimed at a different end to mine.
There's nothing necessarily wrong with that of course. Plenty of people every day are successful because they talk to people in different walks of life, learn what they know and then turn it to their own ends. Its standard procedure for excellence these days - it probably even helps some times. The trick is to know what helps you and what doesn't.
Which is easy when you're a doctor learning about safety from an airline pilot. But maybe not so easy when you're a writer learning from a writer.
I know that when they're talking about using visual elements rather than dialogue, that's only of so much use to me. But how much different is pacing when I use the written medium instead? Is the Hollywood audience different to the standard fantasy book audience?
This isn't a column that ends with me telling you the answers to those questions. Or with me no longer reading reams of advice from Hollywood people. That's not about to stop anytime soon. But I will be trying to figure out where the difference lies, and maybe being a little more skeptical until I do so. Which is probably for the best anyway.