Tips from Lisa Cron's Book, Story Genius

Forty-three note cards for forty-three chapters completed the template from Cron's book
As SCBWI meetings, critique group sessions, and so much more offered by our local New Mexico chapter go, the subjects at two recent meetings couldn’t have been more helpful. This month’s post offers highlights from a meeting that presented and discussed Lisa Cron’s book, 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. Have you been there? This author must confess that I have, in spades. Next month, watch for highlights from a workshop on Author Visits, presented by Caroline Starr Rose, author of  May B., Blue Birds, Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine, Ride On, Will Cody! and more.

The Third Rail
Cron begins in the Introduction, by explaining what it takes for a ms to succeed and why so many fail.

“The reason that the majority of ms’s are rejected—either by publishers or readers—is because they do not have a third rail . . . And so they write and rewrite and polish an impressive stack of pages in which a bunch of things happen, but none of it really matters because that’s all it is—a bunch of external things that the reader has no particular reason to care about.

Story is about an internal struggle, not an external one. It’s about what the protagonist has to learn, to overcome, to deal with internally in order to solve the problem that the external plot poses.”

The Third Rail drives your story, and the presenters at the meeting stressed, can save you lots of drafts. Some major Third Rail points:
  • The point of your book comes from the protagonist’s struggle—why it matters to him/her.
  • The protagonist pursues a difficult goal—how does this pursuit change her internally? What’s the point? Your book must come from this.
  • Each scene has to hit the third rail.
  • Nail your point—what do you want the reader to walk away with?

Two Weeks Well Spent
My WIP, a MG mystery and my first book, has been held up due to editing and revisions I've continued to make for over a year after I thought it was “ready.” This is after the ms had been reviewed by three professional editors, in various stages (I had a lot to learn). In past posts, I’ve emphasized making sure your ms is “ready” before submitting, and one way to make sure is to have a professional editor review it. So, when I made the acceptable changes suggested by my editors, the ms should have been ready. I had to go with my gut, though. I knew it wasn’t.

Fast forward to a year later—to NOW. When I went to the SCBWI meeting, I had planned to submit my ms that week. But after hearing what the presenters had to say about Cron’s book and taking a peek at my ms, I knew I had more work to do. It took two weeks.

My two-week revision started by using a handout provided by the presenters taken from the Story Genius book, "Plotting: Scene Card Template: What is the Point?" I made a copy of the template and stapled it onto a card, as it appears here:



On 3x5 cards, I made a note in each section of the template from each chapter, using the template as a guide. Conclusion? The story didn’t change, but my mc’s inner struggle strengthened, which made the story richer, explained the plot better, and helped clarify vague parts.


Worth the Time and Effort
Story Genius offers much more than could be covered in this post. I plan to use the ideas offered to begin writing Book Two in my MG mystery series and believe it will save months of edits and revisions. I recommend this book as an important addition to your bookshelf.

My writing buddies, Sweet Pea & Peanut
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series.  Follow Linda at www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

2 comments:

  1. Linda, the SCBWI offers so much help to children's authors. I've been attending their local writing workshops and love them. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Hi Karen, thanks. I hope you find the book helpful.

    ReplyDelete

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