I’m a story genius — sorta, kinda

Hello, mystery lovers! It’s Sunday evening. My kids are in bed (asleep is another story) and I’ve been nursing a headache all damn day. My plan was to watch the second presidential debate but I prefer to watch Shameless — much easier on the old psyche when fictional characters do abhorrent things instead.

Anyhoo, I wanted to blog today about a book — not a mystery, but a tome with expert advice for writers. It’s called Story Genius by Lisa Cron. My friend, a successful women’s suspense author, recommended the book to me, claiming it changed her writing process for the better. And since my writing process isn’t so much a process as me banging my head against my computer keyboard, I figured I could pony up the $12 for the paperback and give it a go.

And holy hell, am I glad I did. I’ve been struggling with my passion project, a YA mystery set in 1995, for months. I’d been so enthusiastic for the story, but slowly I was losing steam. And succumbing to depression as I did. What started off as a book about two boys reconnecting after years apart quickly became a convoluted, overly-plotted, runaway mystery with story threads I couldn’t weave together if I tried. I lost the story. Plain and simple.

Now without getting into heavy detail, Story Genius helps authors unlock the story they want to tell. Cron uses brain science to explain what makes readers fall in love with a book. And it has nothing to do with plot. Your characters lead your story. As a mystery author, my immediate jump-to is plot. I start off with a premise — a story about two boys in love. But quickly, my brain jumps to questions about the victim, the murderer, the subplots, the motive — and sure, a mystery needs all that, but not at the expense of the story.

So long story (ha!) short, I re-outlined my novel. I have 63 new scenes driven by my characters’ internal struggles, and believe it not, that has also given me a mystery and a murder. Sure, I’m essentially throwing away 75K words of an earlier draft, but this new story is stronger than ever. Perhaps, I’ve found a new process. All I know is I’m finally excited about my book again.


Author: Kimberly G. Giarratano

I'm a YA author. And mom of 3. I'm also tired. Very, very tired.

11 thoughts on “I’m a story genius — sorta, kinda”

  1. Thanks for recommendation! I have ham-handedly (is that word?) struggled with concepts like this from what I’ve pieced together in trial advocacy classes; and I’ve been yearning for a concise structure to organize these thoughts. When the student is ready, the teacher appears! I ordered in between reading your post and commenting. As for your outtakes, put them in a file. You may want to borrow from them for another book at a later date. Or, like David Corbett, you might develop them into a series of short stories!


  2. Keenan – you will love the book. I was talking to two published women’s fic authors on Friday who also read the book and use the strategies.


  3. Sounds very intriguing! I just did that, too–dumping half my book and letting what was left of it go in another direction, and this unlocked renewed passion for the project. Good luck with your new process!


  4. Intriguing… I’m definitely going to check out Story Genius. So exciting you’re back in the groove with your story! Can’t wait to hear how it progresses 🙂


  5. I recently heard about Story Genius, as well as her first book, Wired for Story. I bought ’em both (along with Save the Cat) and was reading Wired prior to getting eye surgery. From what I can tell, those books would also be interesting to readers.

    So glad your excitement is back! Woohoo!


  6. I love when I find just the right book I need at just the right time, so YAY for you! It’s hard to toss away words, but I suspect the good stuff is still with you. Congrats for being a story genius!


  7. Well, since I am a reader not a writer, I am glad you shared this book. I find the support that the writing community gives to each other very interesting. You writers have a “support society” to which you all belong. At every “author” event that I attend, the just-about-to-be rich-and-famous authors AND the rolling-in-money-and-best-selling authors, every single one, comments on the help, support, and encouragement that they get from fellow authors. There are very few occupations where there is this much global support. (Most occupations cut-throat, ladder-climbing, one-up jobs) You ALL are to be commended for your support, comradery, and genuine caring spirit. Hats off to you all. Now get back to writing, so I can read!!!! 🙂


  8. I think you’ve been hiding in the closet of my study, watching me struggle. Thanks for the book recommendation, and for describing so much I’ve what I’ve been experiencing with the WIP. I will definitely be checking out this book. Great post, too!


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