We’re in a time of change. Between imprint and publisher closings, the loss of bestseller lists, KU, and the slow down of the the self-publishing “gold rush” (mentioned in Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Visions of the Future” article in the April 2017 issue of RWR), it’s hard to keep up with everything that’s happening in publishing! If you want a career as an author, you’ve got to adapt and view this as a “long game.” While we can’t control what the industry and market do, we can control the stories we write and how we write them.
One way to do this is to continually evolve your craft and only put forth your best work. Talent will only take you so far. Skill and dedication are what build a lasting career in this industry, and skill is something you can improve on. Last year my critique partner C.L. Polk (Witchmark) introduced me to a book by Lisa Cron. The full title is 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]. Cron offers is a shift in the way we perceive story, and why we’re so attuned to a good one. Here’s how she describes it:
“An effective story is, literally, an offer your brain can’t refuse.”
“The purpose of story...is to help us interpret, and anticipate, the actions of ourselves and others.”
“We don’t turn to story to escape reality. We turn to story to navigate reality.”
When I start a new writing project, I pick a skill to work on. For my last project, I focused on deep POV. For the sequel, I’m working on deeper characterization. Story Genius has been so helpful in that regard. The book takes you through the process of crafting a “story blueprint” that hinges on your protagonist’s “third rail”—the struggle between what they want and the misbelief that keeps them from having it. (Cron eschews the term “outline,” and also dismisses both pantsing and plotting, which was a shock.) The idea is to focus more on the story (internal) than the plot (external), and how it stems from your main character’s desire and misbelief, with secondary characters and subplots that support the main story instead of taking it off on tangents. Doing this, the book says, will help you craft a story that keeps your readers up all night even when they have a big meeting the next day.
I initially had trouble with the scene cards, and I side-eyed some of the “What to Do” exercises peppered through each chapter. But without fail, after completing each exercise, I could see the value in it, and I appreciated the slow, steady, step-by-step process. I’m excited to finish drafting this book, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far.
A few years ago I heard someone on a podcast say they’d chosen to pursue art because you could never finish learning it. There was no set endpoint, no final goal, no cap to what you could learn or how much you could improve. It wasn’t about any one project or masterpiece, but rather the sum total of your skill and knowledge. My background is in art, but this idea of constantly improving stayed with me, and I’ve carried it over into writing.
So, who’s with me? Let’s control the part we can control and continue evolving our craft. We owe it to our readers, and ourselves, to put out work we’re proud of, and to never stop learning.♥
Alexis Daria’s Golden Heart®-nominated debut contemporary romance will be released in 2017 from SMP Swerve. On Sunday evenings, Alexis co-hosts #RWchat, a weekly Twitter chat for romance writers. She also serves as PRO Liaison for the New York City chapter of RWA, and Municipal Liaison for the NYC region of National Novel Writing Month. She loves social media, and you can find her as @alexisdaria on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, @alexidaria1 on Facebook, and follow her blog, alexisdaria.com.