I’ve read a lot of writing-focused books over the years—you can even find recommendations for them here on my blog, if you like. None, however, have resonated with me quite as much as Lisa Cron’s Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere).
I read the book a few months ago, and lines from it still float through my mind while I’m writing today. While I’ve encountered writing books that made sense before, even motivated me, none have had quite that same impact. And while I know not every writer will feel the same way I do after reading Story Genius, I do recommend they at least give the book a try, even if just to check out Cron’s writing theory.
Let me tell you a little more about it.
Story Genius delves into a science-based method of helping writers build a scene-by-scene blueprint of their novels before they begin writing. It focuses on what appeals to readers cognitively, and how story structure is built into the brain. Cron works step-by-step to help writers make sense of what could and should happen within their stories, leading to better first drafts and stronger narratives.
While Cron’s isn’t a prescriptive formula, I did find it to be one that made sense. Throughout the novel, particularly near the beginning, I couldn’t help thinking that it was the sort of thing that we already know, but don’t realize we know. We need that prompt from someone like Cron to help us realize it and get us moving.
In particular, she said a lot of things about structure that I’d been trying to work on, but hadn’t quite been able to nail or put my finger on until I read her book. Making the connection as I read made me think hard about my own novels—both my current work in progress and those I’ve revised—and what it is I need to go back and fix to make them work better.
Finally, I loved the example she included throughout the book. Not only did it help make what she was describing clear, it also helped me connect the dots between what she was describing and my own novels. While I probably would have still understood Cron without it, I think it would have been a little more difficult.
Following on the heels of Lisa Cron’s breakout first book, Wired for Story, this writing guide reveals how to use cognitive storytelling strategies to build a scene-by-scene blueprint for a riveting story.
Story Genius is a foolproof program that saves writers from penning hundreds of pages only to realize that something’s not working and they have to start again. Informed by story consultant Lisa Cron’s science-based insights into how story structure is built into the architecture of the brain, this guide shows writers how to plumb the nitty-gritty details of their raw idea to organically generate a story scene by scene. Once writers reach the end of Cron’s program, they will have both a blueprint that works and plenty of compelling writing suitable for their finished novel–allowing them to write forward with confidence.