Story Genius by Lisa Cron

As an aspiring writer with a lot of writer friends (some who’ve published their long awaited first books and even more, like me, who haven’t), the topic of crafting a riveting story comes up all the time. We’re constantly chatting about what makes a good story, what makes characters not only believable, but memorable and what kind of voodoo magic we employ to get ourselves to sit down and finish our writing projects once and for all. We talk about it all the time, and we read about it with a constant, voracious appetite.

So when I snuggled up on the couch with my cat on one side and a freshly printed book on the other, I was ready to hear what Lisa Cron had to say on the matter in Story Genius, a newly published book that answers all of the questions above, and then some. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Story Genius is a thorough, yet easy to read guide to writing. It also delivered on a promise to explain “how to use brain science to go beyond outlining and write a riveting novel.”

sotry-geniusWithin the first few chapters, the author easily convinced me to rethink how I’ve been structuring my fiction stories. To start, Lisa Cron focuses not on pantsing (writing by the seat of your pants and seeing where the story takes you) or outlining (mapping out your entire story right from the start), but on the internal transformation of your main character and the action and plot points that will stem from her internal struggles. Cron’s method is definitely character driven, and it focuses on building extensive back story for each your novel’s characters.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Story Genius. The author does a great job walking readers through building scenes and characters based off the protagonist’s internal struggle, or “third rail” as Cron refers to it. And I especially liked that the author recruited a fellow writer to work through Cron’s prescribed method throughout the entire book. Readers can read through the “third-rail approach” and then watch it played out in an ever-developing fiction piece by a writer named Jenny.


Because of its focus on internal logic, cause-and-effect driven scenes and its character-focused method, I’ve already placed Story Genius on my desk as a quick-grab reference for writing fiction. I highly recommend this book to anyone who writes fiction, if only to help you in fleshing out characters and ensuring their actions are logical and believable.

As for me and my perpetually-in-progress first book, I’ll keep plugging away, but now I have a better sense of what should drive my stories forward. I’m sure a lot of my fellow writers are way ahead of me on this one, but I’m still glad to have learned the lesson.

Happy reading, everyone.

page dividerFor more about Story Genius, click here, or learn more about the author, Lisa Cron.

Just sayin’: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

book review: big magic

I’ve already decided, folks, that I refuse to be a languishing, suffering writer. And I refuse to be an author who lives in poverty in order to”stay true to the arts.” I won’t link my craft to my worst attributes or habits, either (sorry Plath and Poe, I just don’t have the energy …) For some reason, though, a lot of aspiring writers do things just like this all the time. They strap all sorts of pressure and bad juju onto their creative backs and walk around like sad hunchbacks. But thank goodness for us, in her book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” Elizabeth Gilbert convinces writers to let all that nonsense go and allow yourself to fall back in love with the process, not the outcome, of following your creativity.

Gilbert’s “Big Magic” is an easy-to-read, non-fiction book that falls into the categories of inspirational and self-help reads.  Interestingly, the book is separated into chapters which focus on emotional principles that readers should pay attention to while engaged in the creative process. A few examples are trust, courage, and persistence, each of which has a chapter devoted to understanding how to use these traits to allowing yourself to develop a healthy relationship with creativity and inspiration.

Now I must admit here, that when I started reading this book, I was a little afraid that it would be too similar in content and style to other books that I’d recently read in the same category (like The Desire Map). I could not have been more wrong about that, though, and here’s why: “Big Magic” is a vastly unique book. In the text, Gilbert focuses on a few key points: you must learn to recognize when creativity and inspiration are knocking on your door, and then you must cultivate your relationship with them by working diligently, every day, towards your chosen passion.

In the pages of “Big Magic,” Gilbert explains to writers, painters, or artists of any kind, really, that the beauty of creativity lies in your process and daily practice, not in your outcome. Gilbert writes that you should let yourself fall in love with creativity and inspiration, have an affair with them if you want, and at the very least, cherish them, rather than putting unnecessary pressure on yourself to “produce” or be “successful.” Instead, just enjoy your creative journey and appreciate the things you’re learning along the way. If you do this, Gilbert says, you’ll find a personal dedication towards, and trust in, your good ol’ buddy, creativity.

Overall, I was surprised and delighted by the message that Elizabeth Gilbert delivers in “Big Magic.” This book is incredibly readable and is written in a friendly, conversational tone that will, without a doubt, pull you into its pages and convince you to change the way you think about inspiration and creating. If you enjoy books that focus on positivity and living with a sense of purpose and dedication to creativity (like I am, all the way, baby), then this is definitely the book for you. It’s an amazing and quick read, and I highly, highly recommend it.

For more on Elizabeth Gilbert, visit her website

Happy reading!