Skip to main content

Wired for Story: How to Become a Story Genius

Lesson 1 of 17

Class Introduction

Lisa Cron

Wired for Story: How to Become a Story Genius

Lisa Cron

most popular

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

1. Class Introduction

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

I'm Lisa Cron, and this is the course, Wired for Story. And I can't tell you how excited I am to be here because there is nothing that I love more than being in a room full of writers. Because writers, you guys, you are the most powerful people on the planet. And by the end of this course, you will have the tools to wield that power and I think by then you're gonna realize it's more power than you even think you have right now. But before we begin, there are three really scary statistics, really sobering statistics that I wanna start with so that you don't become one of them. The first one is that only three percent of writers who sit down to write a novel actually finish the first draft. And yeah, we're talking about just the very first draft. That means that out of 100 people who sit down to write a novel, 97 of them at some point are gonna go, you know what, I don't wanna do this, I'm gonna go and I'm gonna binge watch all of the episodes of Breaking Bad on my cellphone for the next...

six months. They're gonna give up. But let's say that you're in that three percent. You're one of those three out of 100 people who've actually finished a first draft. Once you've done that, what you're gonna do is you're gonna rewrite, you're gonna go through several drafts, you're gonna polish it, and then you're gonna put together a query letter. You'll do a bit of research because you want to get an agent, and go out and get published. And let's face it, by that time, those three people are probably down to two people. So now we're down to two out of 100. Now, of those people who go and query agents, agents are going to reject 96 percent of the submissions that they get. 96 percent, so that means that of those two percent, 96 percent of them are now binge watching Breaking Bad on their cellphone. But let's say you go, okay, you know what, that's a step that I don't have to take. Why would I put myself out there just to get slammed? I'm gonna forego the traditional publishing route, and I'm gonna self-publish, because there is a thriving indy publishing market out there right now. So you might decide that's what I'm gonna do. I bet you know where this is going. Most self-published books, and I mean almost all of them, sell actually considerably under 150 copies. And to think of how many books that is, in 2015 that was over 600 thousand self-published books. And of those 150 copies, let's be honest, most of them are probably sold to family and friends who really do promise you that they are gonna find the time to sit down and read it all the way to the end. But you know how that goes, and probably there are a lot of boxes of those books under your bed and in the closet and in the garage and in the attic and in the basement. So I think now it's time for a deep cleansing breath. Because you do not want to fall into that group. But the question is, okay, so what do you do to become one of those successful few who actually make it? And the answer is, by creating a story that delivers what our brain is hardwired to crave, to hunt for, and to respond to in every story that we encounter. And the surprising thing is, it's not what we think it is. And that is something that really surprised me. Now you may have heard, I'm sure you're writers, you've probably heard this, that if you wanna write, you should read a lot, and that is a good idea. But they'll also so say you should read a lot of really good books, because that's gonna teach you how to write, and we'll talk a little later why that actually might lead you astray. But everything I learned about story and writing came from reading that 96 percent of books that get rejected, because I have spent my career working with writers and with manuscripts in publishing as a literary agent I read books to film for the William Morris Agency and Warner Brothers, and in that time, I have read thousands of manuscripts. And it wasn't enough for me simply to go, this one is great, I think we should go with it, or this one is really bad, we definitely need to pass. I had to say why, why is this working, and why aren't these other 96 percent, why don't they work. And what I discovered was, was that the reason those manuscripts failed had absolutely nothing to do with what I had been taught mattered. It had nothing to do with the beautiful writing, and it had nothing to do with the plot, rip roaring plot. It had to do with the story itself. And that's what we're gonna dive into. By the end of this course, you will have the tools to create a riveting story, step-by-step, from the inside out. But it's one thing to have the tools, and it's another thing to actually be able to wield them. And so what is this gonna give you as a writer? What are you gonna walk away with? How will this change how you approach writing and the process? There are three things, three as they say in the business world, three deliverables that this will leave you with. And the first is, this will drastically cut down on the amount of time that you are going to spend rewriting. And I know what you might be thinking. You might be thinking we're writers, there's no such thing as writing, there's only rewriting. Didn't no less a literary light than Hemingway say the first draft of anything is shit? And yeah, that is absolutely true. The shitty first draft, but I think it's a concept that is often vastly misunderstood by the writing world. And by some literary lights themselves, like for instance, Anne Lamott. I love Anne Lamott, I love that book Bird by Bird. I love all the birds, but there is one thing that I think she gets very very wrong. She talks about the shitty first draft, absolutely true. But then she calls it the child's draft. And she said that is the child's draft. It's a draft where you can let it all out, and whatever comes out is fine, you can, and this is her word, you can romp all over the place because at the end of the day, it's not like anybody's gonna see it or anything, so it doesn't really matter. And that couldn't be less true. Because somebody is going to see it. And that person is the most important person in the process. Do you know who that is? Yeah, that is you. You are gonna go back and you are going to read that rompy first draft and you're gonna think, oh my gosh, what have I done? You're gonna take another deep cleansing breath. And then you're gonna go, okay, but I'm a writer. I can go back, and I'm gonna now rewrite. But here's the problem, and this is not something that we do on purpose. But our tacit allegiance tends to be to what we've already written. As opposed to the story that we're trying to tell. Especially when we're not 100 percent sure what that story actually is. So what happens is now we go back and our goal is to keep as much of what we've already written as possible. So what we're looking for is connective tissue. We want to stitch it all together as if you could take story logic and inject it from the top down. And it doesn't work that way, it is a bottom up process. Story logic comes from the bottom up. You cannot inject it from the top down. And so what happens tragically, because authors will often spend much more time rewriting than writing, is that what kind of was flat and dull in the beginning is now this big sprawling mess that you can't do anything with. And at that point writers will go oh my gosh, what was I thinking? What ever made me think I could be a writer? I'm gonna take my creativity and I'm gonna try else like interpretive dance or something. Don't do that, the world has more than enough interpretive dancers as it is. But the thing that really killed me about that is that what tanked those manuscripts had very little to do with the writer's ability to write, and everything to do with their ability to tell a story. Because there is a massive difference between a first draft that romps and a first draft of an actual story. In fact using this method we're gonna go through today, I've found that writers end up with a first draft that reads much more like a third, fourth, or even fifth draft. The second thing that you'll get is that it will make you a more confident writer. Because you are going to know where you're going right out of the starting gate. You're gonna know what your point is. You're gonna know what you're headed for. You're gonna know what the context is. So that you can write forward with confidence. Writers will often go no, no, no, I don't want to do that, I just want to unleash my creativity and see where it takes me. And where it usually takes you is right over a cliff. Because as the great philosopher Sinaceur said a couple of millennia ago, he said "If a sailor does not to know to what port she is steering, no wind is favorable to her." In other words, you have no idea where you're going, you get to that place where most writers have gotten where you go what happens next? I have no idea, because here is the thing. Creativity needs a leash, creativity needs context. Context is what gives meaning. Creativity without context is like a two pound jar of peanut butter without the jar. It just gets all over everywhere, and at the end of the day, you know, there's really nothing you can do except get out one of those big giant industrial hoses and hose it all down, and declare it a mistry and have a page one rewrite. So the second thing it's gonna give you is it will make you a more confident writer right out of the starting gate. The third thing that you'll get is it will make whatever you're writing now deeper, richer, more of a page turner, more able to do what all stories are meant to do. Which is change how your reader sees the world. Now we're not gonna do this though, by doing general random exercises so that you've got all of these techniques and now you can write a story. We are actually going to be working on your story throughout this class because each action step that we take is going to build on the one that came before it. But before we can start that, there are two things, I always get the numbers wrong, two things, two fingers, two things, that we're gonna have to talk about first. And the first thing is we wanna bust the writing myth that's probably been holding you back all this time. And once we've done that, we wanna dive into okay, well then what is a story? If it's story that pulls us in, if we're wired for story, what are we talking about? What really is grabbing us when we read that first sentence?

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Do you feel like you have a book inside of you but don’t know how to bring it to life?

Lisa Cron has helped thousands of aspiring writers master the unparalleled power of story so they can write a novel or memoir capable of riveting readers!

In this class, you’ll learn:

  • What your readers’ brain is hardwired to crave in every story they read – and it’s not what you think.
  • Why writing a successful novel is not about having the innate “talent” that only a lucky few are born with, but something you can learn!
  • How to write a first draft that reads like a fifth draft, and cut down rewriting in the process.
  • How to become a more confident writer, and make whatever you’re writing now deeper, richer, more compelling, and able to do what all stories are meant to do: change how the reader sees the world, themselves, and what they do in the world.

This class is not filled with random, general writing exercises – rather each exercise builds on the one before it, giving you the tools to create a riveting story from the inside out.

Your goal: to build a novel (or memoir or screenplay) by first creating the material from which the story, and the plot, will organically begin to appear.

Writing a novel doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With this class, Lisa busts the writing myths that have held you back, and gives you a clear, concise, concrete step-by-step method to find your story and share it with the world! 


a Creativelive Student

A woman with a wealth of information to share and who is totally engaging. Lisa was like a really good book that you didn't want to put down. I watched this course over two days, eager to press the play button on the next lesson. Passionate but to the point, everything Lisa had to say was interesting and meaningful. I am just starting on my first novel and her knowledge and insights are invaluable. Highly recommend.

Lacey Heward

This was hugely influential to my writing. I don't actually think I knew how to write until this class. Lisa Cron is a great speaker and teacher. She is well prepared and does an excellent job getting through all the important material. Everything I learned in this class could be applied to a book, essay, and even possibly one's own self-reflection. Who doesn't want to understand the point of life's story? Cron does an excellent job of getting to THE POINT. I have already recommended this class and will reference it again and again as I write. Thank you!

Tracy Holczer

I'm going to go back and watch this course every time I begin a new novel. It took me six years to figure out how to write my first novel, discovering many of these concepts as I went. I can't imagine the time I would have saved had I been able to consider them more carefully before I began. I recommend this to anyone who is just starting out, but also, to established writers. Every book is a different house to build and this course really helps set down a good foundation.