I don’t often review writing craft books, but Lisa Cron has helped me dig my way out of a cycle of dead-end edits. She is a story structure wizard and her book, Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, has been priceless for getting me back on track with my story.
A bit of backstory; I graduated from the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program several years ago, and had a solid first draft of a novel. As part of my UCLA experience, I was able to pick one professor to give me a written critique and meeting regarding my manuscript. I picked the incredible, New York Times Bestselling author, Caroline Leavitt for my review. Leavitt had been my instructor for a story structure course and had been very supportive of my writing. She also happens to have given a blurb on the cover of Story Genius. I came across Story Genius separately from working with Leavitt, but I was not surprised to see the connection. Leavitt gave me great advice on how to proceed with my edits, but as I moved forward, I still felt stuck. Last spring, I joined a writer’s critique group, and I have been testing fundamental changes to both my protagonist and the first part of my story, but nothing was working.
Story Genius had been sitting on my bookshelf, so I decided to give it a read. It’s an eye-opener! Cron gives a clear explanation of what attracts humans to stories, including how it triggers us in ways we don’t realize. She details the fundamental elements that stories must have, and how to make sure these key ideas are woven into your story.
Her book has exercises to create story structure prior to outlining or writing your novel. The exercises will develop your characters, which in turn, will inform your plot. I read through Story Genius without doing the exercises, and now, I’m going through the book a second time, following the exercises. Immediately, I feel like I’m on the right path towards correcting the problems with my novel. I had been in a huge slump, but now I feel confident that I know how to solve my character and story structure issues. More than confident, I’m excited about my story. I’m excited to write. The initial thrill is back!
Story Genius is an indispensable craft book, and I only wish that I had known about it prior to starting my novel. I highly recommend it for writers of all levels. I’m sure that it will be read many times, especially as I embark on new projects.