“Story Genius” by Lisa Cron

Book cover for 'Story Genius'; consists of a red background with a white silhouette of a person's profile, with the title insideBook: “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)” by Lisa Cron
Published by Ten Speed Press
Genres: Nonfiction, Writing
Format: Paperback, 280 pages
Rating: 3/5⭐ 5/5? 2/5?
Source: Blogging for Books (received for free in exchange for an honest review)
Goodreads (my review)

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.

I did not finish (DNF) at 104 pages. Let’s explore why.

Verbosity

There are some people who write long, and that’s their style—and they do it with purpose; a select few don’t intend to write long, but it’s gold when it happens; many write long to stretch something out, and maybe they do it by accident, but it’s shit nevertheless; others write long just to write long, using verbosity and constantly repeating themselves. Cron’s Story Genius falls into the latter category. I’m not sure if this is typical for her, but considering it’s a published book—her second—I’m assuming this is typical.

This leads to 1) long-winded paragraphs that could easily be exchanged for a few sentences, 2) repetitive statements, and 3) quick disinterest. I started reading this before bed because it exhausted me; I felt like I needed to finish it, so I tried forcing myself.

I frequently had to reread paragraphs to figure out the point she was trying to make, because she rambles on and on and on and on and on.

There are bloggers who write like her, and this is why I don’t bother reading their blogs.

I disagreed with her on many points

Planning intricate details

Whilst I agree a character’s internal struggle drives the external plot, I don’t believe every inch of something needs to be mapped out before an author begins working on it. I like to create notes to keep in mind and an idea of the plot’s outline, but I don’t want to have to develop every bit of the story without writing the story already. I’ve tried that, and it’s way too limiting.

For example, Olive’s internal struggle is her desire to have her father see her as his daughter and not be ashamed. The external plot is the fact that he has a happy family she’s just learned of, and it includes neither her nor her mother. Her actions hereafter are representative of having grown up directly in show biz, what with shallow parents and wanting for nothing. I know what she looks like, sounds like, talks like and dresses like—but she knows next to nothing about herself.

With this, I can write a full-fledged story. I needn’t map every single detail.

The importance of writing well and properly

In the first few pages, Cron said one’s writing (grammar, punctuation and spelling) is not as important as the plot. I couldn’t help feeling like she was berating readers and people for feeling like it IS important—especially with her own poor grammar and punctuation. She throws high-end vocabulary words out in a way that feels like she’s trying to show off.

I tired of her cocky, better-than-thou attitude.

Where TF is the science?!

Humans are wired for story—we can’t get enough of it, and it’s in our everyday lives. Everything is a story.

The title of the book promised to teach me how to use brain science to go beyond outlining and write something people won’t be able to put down. After the intro, the chapters are all about outlining. If I had alcohol, I could have played a drinking game and gotten drunk by taking but a drop every time Cron dropped something about humans being wired for story.

We’re wired for story. It’s in our biology.

BUT WHERE IS THE SCIENCE?

I like reading how things work when it comes to my special interests.

The only brain science-related info is that humans are wired for story…?

…because it’s in our biology…?

…because our brains are wired for story. ?

It’s a prime example of why many legitimate indie authors oppose publishing companies

The advice offered in this book seems detrimental to a story, especially since the sample novel by the budding writer changed based on what Cron wanted rather than what the writer wanted—a common top point indie authors often point out: indie publishing means you’ve more of a chance to publish the story you need to tell than what some editor or publishing character will want.

About the ratings

I implemented new ratings using emojis because they allow me to be a little more creative. You can view more info on the category page. I only display relevant rating types.

I gave 3/5⭐ stars, because this book may help people who are not seasoned writers. Cron did note in the beginning Story Genius is not for people who can vomit stories onto blank pages and think as they go.

Story Genius received a 5/5? for annoyance/disappointment due to the better-than-thou personality and verbosity. Repetition works when used with reason, but not when it’s reiterated again and again as if the reader is uneducated.

Nerd points given because it’s slightly nerdy, but I’d not go higher than a 2/5?.


This is the nonfiction equivalent to The 100.

P.S. I wrote this whilst intoxicated half an by antihistamine tablet. ? I shall now go fall onto my mattress.

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[…] “Story Genius” wasn’t the best, most resourceful book, but it made some good points, one being: a plot driven by external conflict feels impersonal. When all conflict is external, you don’t get to know the characters involved. In this case, Nicole, the main character and protagonist, dealt with others’ internal conflict, but not much of her own. Issues arose, but not much of her background or why she personally handled something in a particular way was provided to me, the reader—these kinds of things are important! […]

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