Back to Writing: Working STORY GENIUS into the Middle of a Revision

Yesterday, I finished reading Lisa Cron’s Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel. Somethings in the book worked better for me than others, but–overall–I am very impressed with Cron’s perspective and the exercises she uses to help us strengthen our stories.

For a while I was doing the exercises as I read through them, but this weekend turned out to be a good time to just curl up with a book, so I finished the last few chapters. And now I’m thinking about how I want to do the last exercises.

If you are just starting a novel or are even just thinking about it, I think I would recommend doing all the exercises, straight through, as Cron advises. She gives you a good base and then helps you build on that, and I find her logic and processes make sense. But that’s not where I’m at. I’m on the third draft of my WIP (although, honestly, it feels like a second draft), and I was struggling to get across the middle with anything that felt like effective scenes, when I heard people talking about the book. I started it, and then I was caught, but…honestly, I don’t want to back up and start this draft all over. And I don’t want to jump ahead and skip to the next draft, because I’m still going to have to deal with that middle that sent me looking for help. So, for Chapters 11 through 15, I’m going to pick and choose a bit.

  1. I’m going to create an Idea List out of all my existing scenes, in the order they currently happen.
  2. I may or may not do one of Cron’s scene cards for each of my existing scenes. On the one hand, I think it would be good to get something set up for each one, so I’m thinking about the her scene card questions–which I think are excellent. On the other hand, I already feel a bit as if I procrastinated myself away from my WIP to work through Cron’s book, and I don’t want to add too much more time onto that procrastination pile. So I may just do a quick card for each scene and give myself persmission to answer all the questions on it later, before the next revision.
  3. I’ll start adding to the Idea List, as I take my first strong look back at that middle where I got lost–looking for new scenes to bridge that chasm.
  4. I’ll test the new ideas against some of Cron’s questions: 1) Why does my plot need this to happen?, 2) Logistically, why can this happen (is it actually possible)?, 3) Why would this happen, given my protagonist’s inner struggle? and 4) Why would this matter to my protagonist’s inner struggle? I actually think 3 and 4 may be the same question, and Cron just phrased it differently in a couple of places, but it doesn’t hurt me to look at this all a little bit more closely?
  5. I’ll do a scene card for each of the new scenes I want to work on to cross that middle. On these, I’ll push myself a little further than on the cards I may do for my existing scenes. I really like how Cron  uses these cards to connect what has happened before to what will happen later, and I think that making those connections will (hopefully) make the middle of the story less of a big, dark hole that I can fill in.
  6. I’ll continue to do a scene card for the scenes past the middle, ones I already have some idea about and have, at some level, worked into my overall plot. I don’t want to back up and do any scenes over, but I want whatever I write new for this draft to be as strong as it can be. And I think Cron’s system can help me get there.

Obviously, I’m not positive this is going to work. There’s a little voice calling to me to back up and start all over, using Cron’s full system, but there’s a louder voice basically shouting at me to keep moving forward. So I’m going to give it a try–I’m going to flex and adapt Cron’s tools to my need, right now, and see what happens.

Fingers crossed!

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