Focus, dammit

Wired for Story wasn’t as practical for me as Story Genius was (also by Lisa Cron), which wasn’t to say that it wasn’t helpful. Lisa Cron’s emphasis on focus and making sure everything that happens in whatever you’re writing is there to drive action, which in turn drives character development is incredibly helpful. If it doesn’t cause your character to develop as a person, it shouldn’t be in the story.

But really, I love how Lisa Cron’s books have finally helped me define readability. It’s not how well-written something is, it’s about how tightly crafted the story is, how the characters develop, and whether what is happening is necessary or a reaction against what happened in the previous scenes. It’s about how not-shaggy a book is.

I would recommend Story Genius over Wired for Story, but, honestly, both are useful.

Reading about writing

I have started writing a number of books. Usually, I run out of steam while writing them, finding I don’t care as much about the idea as I thought I did. This last time, though, I care about this story and it’s not working. It’s not a matter of getting through the shitty first draft. Something in the story isn’t working, and I have faith in the idea. I wasn’t sure what it was, though. What was worse was that I didn’t know what to do other than start over. And then start over again.

So when Jasmine Guillory’s newsletter from a few weeks ago, titled “Secrets from the Deadline Cave,” came out, I put every single book about writing that she recommended on hold at the library. Story Genius was the one that came in first.

There’s a lot in the Story Genius about cognitive psychology and why we like reading, which is like catnip to me. But the real effective part of the book is the: now to satisfy this trait of the human mind, go do this thing about your story. The assignments range from “write three specific scenes from your characters childhood that affect who he/she is at the beginning of the story” to “look at your basic story structure and figure out where every single place of conflict could exist and put it in there.”

My story idea has new life, and I’m probably going to end up buying this book so I can keep it around to help keep me going. Is it this specific method? I don’t know. What I do know is that the method in Story Genius has given me a new angle to work on my particular idea. So yes, I’m recommending it.