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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)
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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)

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  2,342 ratings  ·  498 reviews
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.

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
ebook, 288 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by Ten Speed Press
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Pamela Hearon Wired for Story is more "why" while Story Genius is more "how." They can be read independently of each other.
Annemarie O'brien I would like to read this book, if so. I just checked Jennie Nash's website on which she stated that she's given up writing books to coach others on w…moreI would like to read this book, if so. I just checked Jennie Nash's website on which she stated that she's given up writing books to coach others on writing them. I have enjoyed Story Genius but am disappointed that the big story example that she uses to highlight her approach is an unpublished book. I hope when she revises this book she uses an example of a published book so we can read the full story. It doesn't make sense to use an example of an unpublished book. (less)

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Rebecca Renner
I feel very mixed about this book. I teach creative writing, and I've tried to make a study of "what works" in popular stories. Liza Cron both hits and misses in this book.

The strongest section by far is Part II "Creating the Inside Story." One of the things I've noticed many of my students do is create short stories that encompass a series of exciting events that don't really matter. Cron says essentially that it's the character's internal struggle that makes the external struggle important. I
Sep 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
The full title of Lisa Cron's book is Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel*, with the tinier sub-sub-title [*Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere]. The reason that I list the full title is because it gets at why I was so excited to read it, and my main problem with the work. This book, both with its prominent subtitle and its back cover description, promised to combine two of my favorite things: neuroscience and the wr ...more
Dannii Elle
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I received this on a read to review basis from NetGalley. Thank you to the author, Lisa Cron, and the publisher, Ten Speed Press, for this opportunity.

This non-fiction was of unparalleled help whilst writing my own first novel. I assumed this to be a rehashing of well-known and repeated knowledge but it addressed the complexities of fiction writing with a new ingeniousness!

The premise of this helpful guide is that novel writing should be character-, and not plot-, driven. This means that the mos
Chelsea Denard
Jun 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
EDITED TO ADD: Do yourself a big favor and read Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody instead. It's a major game changer for fiction novelists and 100x better than Story Genius.


Reading this book was like asking a writing professor for advice, and instead of answering the question directly, they end up going on an hour-long tangent, repeating the same things over and over, until they finally stop and say, "Wait. What was the question again?"

I probably could have edited o
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 4-star, nonfiction
4.5 STARS. As always, LOADED WITH INSIGHT AND INSPIRATION. I love Lisa Cron's writing advice because it's not like traditional writing advice — it resonates deep within your soul so you KNOW without having to fly blind into what "experts" think is true — you KNOW it makes sense because something inside of you just CLICKS.

Unlike Wired For Story (which is also amazing) this book feels more like a guide — a step-by-step playbook to building a story from the ground up. Lisa's "blueprinting" process
Kelly D.
Sep 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Completion: While I read the whole thing, I did have to skim in places because Cron kept hammering the same simple point for pages at a time which becomes quickly repetitive.

Writing/Style: The style is both unsurprising and yet disappointing. The book reads like any basic writing guide which wouldn’t be as bad if it didn’t advertise itself with a subtitle that reads “How to Outline Your Novel Using the Secrets of Brain Science”. I was expecting more depth and substance involving interesting fact
Theresa Alan
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When you buy this book, also buy a new package of mini-sticky notes to flag things as well as a brand-new highlighter—you’ll need it.

I’ve been writing and editing fiction professionally for fourteen years, and I wish I had this book fourteen years ago. It would have saved a lot of time.

It’s inspirational as well as helpful. It’s slightly less helpful if you write in the traditional romance format of having the hero and heroine’s stories be essentially equal or write multiple POVs—Cron glosses o
Stacey Bookerworm
Jul 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Aspiring wirters
In my opinion this is a must have read for any aspiring author. This book sets out a program based on the idea that in developing a novel you need to be examining the protagonist and their motives rather than looking at the plot.

Lisa Cron set out the program in a refreshing and humorous way that made it very readable. She clearly sets out not just what works, but how it works and why. She outlines why are a whopping 96% of submissions to publishers are rejected and what authors can do to try an
Susan Haught
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: craft
Making sense of nonsense

This is the first craft book to tap into what I thought was chiseled in stone in my brain. I'm a pantser. Or should I say, was.

I'll be using Lisa Cron's formula for my next book, and thanking a writer friend for guilting me into reading it, though it had been on my TBR shelf for a very long time.

Now, to reread and take each chapter one step at a time...
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-faves
Wonderful and concise. A must-read for any writer.
Amalie Berlin
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was ok

There's no science in this book, at least not the first 40% of it. I was reading it for actual data that would back up storytelling advice, but all there is in here is anecdotes. Anything that relates to the 'brain science' is a line her or there(unsupported, all opinion), which backs up whatever advice the writer has just given.

Bait and switch at it's finest. It's just another book on storytelling, there are literally hundreds(or maybe even millions, my brain just told me my guess is scienc
Nicole Dust
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Okay HOLY COW this actually lived up to the hype, and I am kind of shocked. XD
#DNF @ 104 pages. I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Cron writes with verbosity, thus leading 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 book before bed because it exhausts me. I frequently have to reread paragraphs to figure out the point she is trying to make, because she rambles on and on and on and on.

While I agree a character's internal struggle drives the exte
Kimberly Sabatini
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: craft-of-writing
This book is genius!!!! It may be the book that's had the biggest positive influence on my writing--the most organically influential book on craft I've ever read. Now that I've digested it, I will never create a story the same way again. And I'm so grateful I won't ever have to. This book has changed everything for me and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you write--read this book.
Finn Longman
I had extremely mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand: I think it helped me a lot. On the other hand: at times it was really, *really* annoying.

Things it helped me with:
* Character motivations
* Representing abstract goals through concrete, specific needs
* Using backstory to give characters more depth, not just in the obvious ways but more subtly
* Working out an underlying character arc that would help underlie the plot as a whole.

As a result of these things, I think I can now go on an
Aug 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
"Story Genius" is a guide on how to create powerful, character-driven stories using the Story Genius writing system. If you expect a lot of brain science, you'll be disappointed. The author only referred to a couple of studies. Instead, she resorted to speculative stuff, saying, "Evolutionarily speaking, our brain is wired..." followed by a story about what advantage we might have gotten from telling stories.

She believes that all powerful stories are ultimately character-driven, so she has you s
DNF'd around 55% through. It doesn't hold my attention, and it seems like examples and explanations go on forever.
Christopher Lawson
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Humans are Wired for Story

Humans are "wired for story,” but writers often miss the boat: "Writers often don't even know what a story is: So, even though they have a great idea, their prose is gorgeous, and there’s a lot of action, there’s no real story, and so no driving sense of urgency.”

Here's the essence of what a story: “A story is about how the things that happen affect someone in pursuit of a difficult goal, and how that person changes internally as a result.” EVERY part of the book has to
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
There is no "correct" way to write a novel -- only what works for you -- so reading craft books (other than those that are objectively fantastic*) can be a frustrating experience. That said, I still think you can get one or two nuggets out of any craft book.

From this one, by far the most useful nugget imo is Lisa Cron's idea that every character should have a guiding "misbelief", or faulty worldview, which is challenged by the events of the novel. Cron's suggestion for building a compelling char
May 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
DNF. I don't like it when someone thinks their way is the only way to do something.
Jennifer Louden
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Best book on story I've ever read.
Gabe Novoa
Jun 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
There were things I liked about this book and found helpful, and things I definitely didn't like.

Of the good, Story Genius pushed me to dig deeper into my characters in pre-writing than I usually do, and I found the exercise to be pretty helpful for brainstorming before I dive back into my partially-written WIP. It helped me generate some new ideas and make some connections where things were previously fuzzy.

That said, this book was very prescriptivist in a way I didn't appreciate. I'm always
This has been an awesome book! There are so many great writing tips and advice.

I highly recommend this book. It identifies every time that I can't LOVE another book because I can't emotionally connect to characters and how important that is for me.

My only complaint is the Lisa Cron sometimes uses absolutist points that grate on me, which is why I can only give it 4 stars.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Story Genius by Lisa Cron
It took me two goes to read Story Genius and, if writers I respect hadn't recommended it so highly, I would probably have given up one it about a third of the way through. I did try again, put aside the things I disliked and took from it things that I could learn.

What I didn't like about it - the sweeping statements, the straw men arguments and all the hype. Firstly, I do happen to think we are wired (maybe even created) for story and that stories are a way of learning
May 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Most of these types of books are one-trick ponies, and that is fine: This one has a single trick to it aswell, and it's a reasonable one, with a bunch of exercises and examples. Helpful when brain is frozen.
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Theoretically, the only good way to evaluate writing book is to compare the quality of its adherents' output, or perhaps some ratio of quality to time and effort in construction. But barring that kind of objectivity, I feel very confident that Story Genius has given me a framework for conceptualizing fiction, both as a writer and a critic, that is a game changer. I read a fair amount of writing advice, and spent a decent amount of time muddling around for my own fiction, over the last two years, ...more
Wendy Bunnell
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Best craft book on writing I've read so far.
I've been going through it, working on the exercises, trying to get a solid foundation for the book I'm planning to write for NaNoWriMo this year. I am even trying to use Scrivener because I'd found a template which incorporates the Scene Cards the author introduces in this book.

We'll see if this book helps me push my writing over the edge to publishable. :)
Jeff Bailey
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Five stars, hands down. Story Genius, by Lisa Cron, is now on the indispensable writing references shelf of my working bookshelf. I’ve always been able to tell a good story, but, seemingly, didn’t fully understand what makes a story good. Story Genius got me closer to that answer. I didn’t understand why I liked movies such as Pretty Woman and American President while I found other, equally compelling stories lacking. I didn’t see the need to include scenes of personal revelation that did not di ...more
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most helpful writing craft books I ever read, and great for marrying pantsing to plotting. It's also great for people who think plot and characters are two separate things, because they're not at all. This starts with a character, and uses their internal struggle to reverse engineer what kind of plot you need, which is the best way I've found for designing a book so that every piece supports every other piece and nothing seems extraneous or even parallel: it's all perfectly in ...more
Laurie Buchanan
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you're a writer who thinks that "plot" and "story" are the same thing, this book is for you.
If you're a writer who focuses on the "externals" instead of the "internals," then this book is for you.
If you're a writer who depicts "what is" instead of "what if," then this book is for you.
STORY GENIUS by Lisa Cron is my new best writing friend!
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