Secret Library Podcast


Secret Library Podcast Episodes

#78 Lisa Cron


Lisa Cron believes all writing is being taught wrong.

Lisa Cron is a woman on a mission: she wants to help you write your story so that your reader is glued to the page from the moment they pick up the book. She's going beyond plotting versus pantsing to a new level of story analysis.

We dive into the WHY of your story, and what you hope to achieve by telling it. Lisa talks a mile a minute and has so much to say in this episode- you may want to listen to this one more than once to get it all into your brain. We explore the depth of story and what makes a story meaningful and how to write the part of your story that matters from the beginning.

Lisa is not about the slow exploration and wandering through story options; she wants you to get to the meat right away. If you've felt frustrated and unsure of what the point is of the book you're writing, Lisa will help you plow forward. I can't wait to see what the fire she lights in this episode does for all you writers listening. Get ready for some jet fuel in this one!

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Discussed in Episode 78 with Lisa Cron

  • Why is is hard to make bad things happen to your characters

  • “There’s so much you have to create before you get to page one.”

  • “Writing is taught wrong everywhere.”

  • Two schools of thought, Pantsing and Plotting. Pantsing the the worst way of writing ever. Plotting is just as bad.

  • All the Hero’s Journey books focus not the external plot and the story’s not about the plot.

  • The story is about how the plot affects the protagonist.

  • “Writers are, in fact, the most powerful people on the planet.”

  • Because you read a book starting at page one, it’s easy to assume that’s how you also write a book.

  • “The only way we ever change is when we’re forced to.”Stories are about the internal change in response to external events. Those events are often painful. Otherwise they’d not affect meaningful change.

  • “By the time you get to page one you really love them.”

  • Writers will pull punches because they love their characters.

  • “Good change is as hard as bad change.”

  • It’s as hard to leave home to get married as it is to leave home to get divorced.

  • Stories are about change so your protagonist has to be constantly confronting obstacles.

  • The pants-ing, rompy shitty first draft is actually a problem. Even though you know there’s a re-write coming, you have a tacit allegiance to what’s already written - as opposed to the story you’re trying to tell.

  • You try to keep as much as you can - injecting story logic from the outside in. That just doesn’t work.

  • “The world has way too many interpretive dancers already.”

  • If you’ve started and find yourself stuck, take what you’ve got and put it in a drawer. Don’t try to reverse-engineer it.

  • “All stories begin in medias res.”

  • “A story is about how what happens affects someone in pursuit of a deceptively difficult goal and how that person changes internally as a result.”

  • “The story is not about the plot.”

  • Your protagonist is the readers’ avatar in the story. Brain science backs this up.

  • Protagonists walk into a story with two things already fully formed

    • something that they want, and have wanted.

    • a misbelief about human nature that has kept them from getting what they’ve wanted.

    • It’s this misbelief that needs to be overcome.

    • These two things, long-standing desire & long-standing misbelief, are your story’s third rail.

    • Forget the term “fatal flaw.”

    • Meaning comes from what our past experience tells us. And when we’re little, everything tells us something.

    • Most people are writing about the cost of human connection. What does it cost us to connect with another person?

    • On Being Wrong

    • Story vs plot is the difference between what we’re thinking and what we’re saying out loud. And which of those two is more interesting? Juicier?

    • “Stories are about the buckets we’re sweating.”

    • Questions to ask yourself as a writer:

      • What point is your story trying to make, what are you trying to say about human nature?

      • Why is making this point important to you?

      • Who is your protagonist before your story starts?

      • What will getting their goal mean to your protagonist?

      • You can’t write forward, pants it, to find out what achieving the goal will mean to the protagonist.

      • All the pre-writing isn’t what you do before you get to the ‘real thing.’ This is the real thing.

      • ‘Back story’ is your story.

      • On finding the ‘point’ of the story, in the beginning it can often sound simple and/or trite. “It’s better to have loved & lost than to never have loved at all.” It’s a bumper sticker. It deepens as you go forward.

      • What is it about this story that makes you want to write it?

      • If honing in the ‘point’ is difficult, you can back it out to the protagonist’s misbelief and try to reverse engineer it.

      • “We come to story not for the ‘what’. We come for the ‘why.'"

      • The why is not a generic thing. It’s very specific to your character.

      • This isn’t stuff you can do in a day. Do the backstory work.

      • Never write forward until you know the ‘whys’.

      • The only thing we can never leave home without is our past. It is how we make sense of everything.

      • Don’t do a generic birth-to-death bio. You can find them online. They’re generic and shallow.