Book Review: Story Genius by Lisa Cron

The dos and don'ts of novel endings

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Carol Rose

Sep 13, 2014
Indiana, USA
This book takes information we've all heard before (at least those of us who devour craft books), and makes sense of it. I haven't read her earlier books on crafting a story, but I will after I finish this one. Yes, I'm writing a review of sorts before I've finished reading it, because I can already see how this will improve my writing big time.

As I said, I've heard this before, but never had it presented in a way that made sense, or in a way that made it easy to incorporate it into the way I craft a story. This is invaluable information, and I'm glad one of my RWA Chapter buddies recommended it to us at a recent meeting. Well worth the money if you want to craft stories that keep your readers turning the pages.

I agree with you, Carol - Lisa Cron is a genius. I would love to take part in her workshops and have been a follower of hers for a long time. She used to run creative writing courses at UCLA. She's teamed up with Jennie Nash to offer book coaching - if I had oodles of dosh, I'd sign up in a heartbeat! Lisa has also done a great piece on if anyone is interested. Patricia Dusenbury - this may be one for you!
Hmmm...Colour me skeptical, but this whiffs a little of snake oil, to me.
A formulaic approach to plot construction sounds like it would produce...formulaic plots.
That being said, I'd have bought it in a heartbeat on the off chance it offered some insight, but man, that is an expensive book for its size!
OK, read the sample and then read the reviews. My snake-oil comment may have been a little harsh, but I still say she has taken a very simple and frankly obvious premise and spun it up to to 300 pages.
One of the reviews even states what I suspected right out the gate:
"I'll sum the entire book up for you right now. Your character must have a source of motivation and act on it. That's it. Extremely repetitive and glaringly obvious advice."

And yeah, that is good advice if you needed to hear it. Random stuff happening or back to back action scenes won't get you very far in a lot of genres. But, its all a bit simple, innit?

I may be being too harsh, and obviously, your mileage will vary with any advice like this.
It's not a formulaic approach to plot. The whole point of the book is that formulaic approaches to plot don't produce the characterization or emotions agents, publishers, and readers want.

As I said before, there is nothing earth-shattering in the book, but I love the way she presents it. Makes it easy to understand, and gives a concise way of incorporating the principles into the work before the story is written. I've always done character analysis before writing, but my approach had no rhyme or reason. This will help me focus it.

I don't read reviews because they're only opinions, and I honestly don't give a crap what anyone else thinks of a book - fiction or non-fiction - because it's all subjective :) One of my RWA chapter members had the book with her at the last meeting. She's a very good writer and sells well. She sang this book's praises, so I skimmed through it, liked what I read, and bought my own copy.

I rarely enjoy craft books because too many of them are formulaic or make no sense to me. But once in a while I come across something that I need. Because I write so much, so quickly, I tend to fall into lazy writing habits if I'm not careful. Books like this remind me what I should be doing with every single story. And yes, even after writing over 100 of them, there is still much to learn. :)

Obviously not every book will appeal to every single writer. And of course, my original post is only a review, after all. So yeah. Take it or leave it. I didn't find the book to be either repetitive or formulaic, and since shit like that makes me teeth hurt, I would never have posted this if I had found this book to be just another "do this and write a best seller" craft book. ;)

The beauty of this profession is that you never really learn it all, and you can always improve your craft. I'm always on the lookout for ways to do that. :)
The beauty of this profession is that you never really learn it all, and you can always improve your craft. I'm always on the lookout for ways to do that. :)

Too true. I am always interested in learning things about this professions too, but I am finding myself more and more wary of those selling quick answers. I didn't mean to jump all over this; sorry if I sounded like I did.
Why buy a book? I get expert advice here on Litopia every day - and it's interactive (sure, my time to enquire and read here is very expensive, but what the heck!). ;-)

While I am far from short of plot and know full well to have characters that actually function, I would not mind some guidance or direction on how to more carefully pace things and build suspense. Also, if someone could just upload into my brain the ability to plan far more meticulously, that would be swell!
Books like this help authors - not all authors, but some. Not everyone can grasp concepts immediately. The value of a book like Story Genius is that it helps to explain things in a way that may just ring true for a writer, providing a 'lightbulb' moment. I have read a number of 'how-to' books and taken something of value from each of them. Don't knock advice from valued industry professionals.
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The dos and don'ts of novel endings

Fanfare! Why you need an editor: Launch of Final Polish Editorial Services