Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “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)” as Want to Read:
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)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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)

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,293 ratings  ·  304 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
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Story Genius, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Pamela Hearon Wired for Story is more "why" while Story Genius is more "how." They can be read independently of each other.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,293 ratings  ·  304 reviews

Sort order
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
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
Jun 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
Reading this book is like asking a writing professor for advice, and instead of answering the question directly, they go on an hour-long tangent, repeating the same things over and over, and then they suddenly stop and say, "Wait. What was the question again?"

I probably could have edited out 2/3 of this author's blathering and still gotten the same amount of insight (which, admittedly, isn't groundbreaking). The promise of ~ooh brain science~ is broken a few chapters in, when you realize that "
Kelly Danahy
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
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
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...
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 4-star
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
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.
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
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 @ 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
Jennifer Louden
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Best book on story I've ever read.
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.
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
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. :)
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
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
1 1/2 stars.

I dislike giving negative reviews of free books, but sometimes, unfortunately, it's necessary for an honest review. This book was one of those times. I thought Story Genius would be a good read to learn some tips about how to write a great novel. I was rather disappointed. The book was sprinkled with bad words, and the example storyline woven into the book was really strange, and also included some swear words. There were also many mentions of evolution in the parts where it talked a
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
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!
Dec 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm a fan of Lisa Cron and found the book to be very helpful despite the sample story she used to demonstrate her instructions, but then again, I haven't found a book yet that has used a story sample that I like. However, Story Genius is worth reading.
Vanessa K. Eccles
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-writing
I enjoyed the "What To Do" sections in this book. I can't say that I'll try everything the author suggests, but I hope to implement a few things I've learned from STORY GENIUS.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Confession: Although I list only a few writing books in my Goodreads library, I have probably read thousands of them. Maybe I can finally get this monkey off my back.

Lisa Cron (author of this book) says that even though our brain is hardwired to love stories, most writers who have read thousands of books and watched thousands of movies, don't really understand how to tell a story--for many reasons. One is that they concentrate too much attention on writing beautifully and at least in the genre
Lily Meade
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’ve read a lot of writing craft books, so I feel confident is saying this is a worthy read! It’s not too challenging in the way John Truby’s Anatomy of Story is (also a good read, but built to scare off all but the most determined writers) but it does critique preconceived norms and storytelling tradition. I really like the structure of her Scene Cards template and I can’t wait to try this method with my newest WIP.
Brian Palmer
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I am so glad I finally read this book after a couple writer friends raved about it for months. One of them even bought me the copy so I could finally read it because she was convinced I would get a lot out of it.

She was right.

It's amazing how much of this book crystallizes concepts and ideas I was vaguely aware of before, and how obvious some of these points are and should be. And yet these were not notions I thought to look into previously.

The exercises Lisa Cron sprinkles in throughout t
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
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such an amazing book! I'm still digesting all Cron packed into Story Genius. Highly recommended for all writers!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Rock Your Plot: A Simple System for Plotting Your Novel (Rock Your Writing, #1)
  • The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stakes
  • Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults
  • Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between
  • Writing Irresistible KidLit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers
  • Bullies, Bastards and Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction
  • Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme
  • Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing
  • Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction
  • Book Architecture
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
  • Take Joy: A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft
  • How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis: A Step-by-Step System for Enticing New Readers, Selling More Fiction, and Making Your Books Sound Good
  • Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel
  • Million Dollar Outlines
  • Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story
  • 2,000 to 10,000: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love
“We don't turn to story to escape reality. We turn to story to navigate reality.” 2 likes
More quotes…