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.
It’s every novelist’s greatest fear: pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into writing hundreds of pages only to realize that their story has no sense of urgency, no internal logic, and so is a page one rewrite.
The prevailing wisdom in the writing community is that there are just two ways around this problem: pantsing (winging it) and plotting (focusing on the external plot). Story coach Lisa Cron has spent her career discovering why these these methods don’t work and coming up with a powerful alternative, based on the science behind what our brains are wired to crave in every story we read (and it’s not what you think).
In Story Genius Cron takes you, step-by-step, through the creation of a novel from the first glimmer of an idea, to a complete multilayered blueprint—including fully realized scenes—that evolves into a first draft with the authority, richness, and command of a riveting sixth or seventh draft.
So the full title for this book is long: 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)
Phew, right? Some of the writing advice books I've read could have their whole content summarized in a shorter sentence than that. Which is symptomatic of the genre, really - there's a lot of writing craft books out there that are more like discussions over one particular facet of how to craft a novel. They tend to have pagecounts that are a widdle bit larger than they really needed to be to communicate the One True Thing the book wants to teach you. This is also true of Story genius.
I haven't read Lisa Cron's older book, Wired for story, so I don't know how the two compare. Also, I am the kind of person who reads books about writing craft, even though any actual writing tends to just... not happen. Yeah. Sometimes that's exactly why I read craft books, though; Their advice and exercises are inspiring all by themselves. Again, this is true of Story Genius. It's packed with exercises following longer texts about how and why a thing works.
Rather than focus on plot, this book wants you to think about the plot as a consequence of your character(s), and how your characters need to have their papers in order, so to speak. There's only so much story that can come welling out of a character who was essentially born on the first page. Unless we're talking about a baby, but very new babies are also pretty bad at being hip-and-happening story protagonists, so that's... that.
If you're looking for ideas, techniques, patterns or clues regarding how to build a useful and functional character, this is a good choice. It does offer something different from the myriad "Get to know your character"-questionnaires out there. Cron's writing is clear and instructional, and the examples are solidly detailed.
If you're looking for something more focused on plot structures or themes or world-building or anything other than characters and character-driven action, you'll be better off with something else.