Extensive Reading Doesn’t Generate Great Writing

Wired for Story

What a blow, but get over it. Lisa Cron has some answers that will help. Warning: writing a great book is still hard work.

Twelve chapters took me ages to read because I had to change the first chapter of the book I am writing twelve times. Not surprisingly, changing the first chapter changed everything else that follows. However, the book improved each time. It’s still not ready, sorry to say. Writing fiction is harder than any writing I’ve ever done. I don’t take it personally, though. It seems that as a teacher I’ve been teaching it all wrong, and maybe you are too. (Sorry!)

Twelve Chapters

  1. How to Hook the Reader (from the first sentence)
  2. How to Zero In on Your Point (otherwise you lose them)
  3. I’ll Feel What He’s Feeling (“Emotion determines the meaning of everything.”)
  4. What Does Your Protagonist Really Want (This is key.)
  5. Digging Up Your Protagonist’s Inner Issue (When did her world fall out of alignment?)
  6. The Story Is in the Specifics (And it must pertain to the protagonist.)
  7. Courting Conflict the Agent of Change (We all hate change, and yet change is essential hence conflict, the stuff that makes stories great.)
  8. Cause and Effect (If something happens in the story, there better be an effect in the story somewhere.)
  9. What Can Go Wrong, Must Go Wrong and Then Some (Don’t you hate to hurt your protagonist? If you don’t you’ll bore your reader.)
  10. The Road from Setup to Payoff (There’s always a pattern to what happens, Readers want to try to predict the ending.)
  11. Meanwhile Back at the Ranch (Every story has a backstory that makes the character’s actions make sense.)
  12. The Writer’ Brain on Story (“There’s no writing, only rewriting.)

Why Stories are Essential to Survival So Keep Writing

Lisa asserts that stories are more important to our survival than opposable thumbs. because they teach us what to hang on to. “Story is what makes us human.” Nature seduces us to pay attention to important information that is presented as a story told well. We crave¬†stories in the same way we crave food. We will put aside all the busy tasks in our lives to read a good story. (All night, if it’s really good, and still get up the next morning and get back to work.)

Why It’s Easy to Read and Hard to Write

The catch is “for a story to captivate a reader, it must continually meet his or her hardwired expectations. That is the essence of the book. “The ease with which we surrender to the stories we read tend to cloud our understanding of stories we write… We won’t put up with a bad story for three seconds.: So here’s what happens when we read. “The first job of any good story is to completely anesthetize the part of our brain that questions how it is creating such a compelling illusion of reality.”

So if you want to learn the mechanics of making a good story great, I recommend that you read this book.

Wired for Story