This is the Best Book I’ve Read about Creative Writing

An ode to the book that saved my second novel

Jenna Goldsmith
Mar 17, 2020 · 3 min read

The first book I ever read about writing was The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing for Young Adults. I was a young teen and just starting to get into serious writing. It actually turned out to be a great introduction to writing a novel for the age group that I was most likely going to be writing for.

Since then, I’ve read plenty of books on creative writing, including classics like On Writing by Stephen King. They’ve all contributed something to my writing journey in one way or another, even if it was just some advice I knew I DIDN’T want to follow. But, the book I’m reading right now has changed the game for me, especially since I’m in the process of drafting my second novel.

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Story Genius by Lisa Cron is a book I bought on a whim, though I’d seen it being touted by fellow writers on Instagram and Twitter. I figured I’d read it eventually – once I’d made a bigger dent in my To Be Read list – but after some harsh rejections in February, I decided to use the book as an inspirational tool to keep me writing in the face of all the bad feelings.

Now I’m going to say this loud, so the people in the back can hear me: do yourself a favour and read this book!!

I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about before, but now I do. This book has not only given me solid advice on what to do with my first draft of my second novel, but it also pointed out where I went wrong with my first one.

Recently, after much consideration and soul searching, I decided to shelve my first novel because all of the rejections made me realize something was missing. I wasn’t able to put into words exactly what was wrong until I saw the reasons written out plainly in this book. To sum up, my novel was too plot-heavy, with more things happening to the protagonist than things happening because of the protagonist.

While I always knew that the story should be firmly based on my protagonist's desires and what they do when they can’t achieve them, Lisa Cron finally drilled it into my brain with practical solutions.

Her whole premise is based on this “cause-and-effect blueprint” that you create before you even start writing the manuscript/play/whatever. It’s different than an outline because it’s based on your protagonist's inner journey, instead of their external one. Each scene you write should revolve around what your protagonist wants, what gets in their way, and the consequences of such. But, I’m way oversimplifying it.

Just read it. She will take you step-by-step from the first spark of inspiration to the writing of the blueprint. You’ll dig into your character’s backstory, find the nugget of gold that brings a sense of urgency to the story — this is what will leave your readers wanting more with each page they read.

The best part is that Lisa Cron provides practical “follow-along” activities for readers of the book to complete as part of their journey towards their first draft.

While I’m still just starting on my blueprint, so I can’t speak for the sense of urgency readers may or may not have, reading this book has caused things to click while I’ve been drafting this new novel much faster than I did the first time.

I don’t think I will ever NOT recommend this book to anyone who writes anything. So I will repeat myself. Please, read this book.

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