The Benefits of Story Genius: An Interview with Alexis Daria

by Robin Lovett
published in Writing

Romance author Alexis Daria’s first book, TAKE THE LEAD, named one of Washington Post’s Five Best Romances of 2017, released with St. Martin’s Press Swerve in October. She was under a tight deadline for her second book in that same contract, DANCE WITH ME, and she’s here to tell us about how she used an outlining technique called STORY GENIUS created by Lisa Cron.

Alexis, you’ve written a lot of books over the years. What motivated you to choose Story Genius this time around?

Thanks, Robin! I had four full-length manuscripts under my belt before I sat down to write Dance with Me. I’m always on the lookout for ways to streamline my outlining and writing process, and I had picked up Story Genius by Lisa Cron in the middle of writing Take the Lead. While the early chapters were helpful during edits, I knew I wanted to apply the Story Genius method to a project from start to finish. Dance with Me was my first opportunity I had to do that.

Can you give us a run down of what the Story Genius method is about?

The basic idea behind Lisa Cron’s Story Genius is to develop the story from the inside out, rather than outside in, as we do when we outline. By understanding who the character is and why before the story begins, we can create a story blueprint that develops from the character’s misbelief, which drives the the entire story.

What aspects of the Story Genius method did you like best?

At the time, I complained bitterly about having to write out full backstory scenes for my main characters, but those scenes ended up being invaluable while writing Dance with Me. Especially since the two characters have known each other for three years before the story begins and have a shared history, it was definitely helpful to write out the key moments that had happened between them. I wrote these scenes in first person present tense, even though the book is third person past, to nail the character voice. So, not only were these backstory scenes helpful while I was planning and writing, I now have all this extra content for newsletter and website extras! Win win.

What were the most challenging things about using Story Genius?

The most challenging step was making scene cards. It took me a while to understand how the sections related to the flow of a scene, but I was determined to stick with the process and follow it exactly. Once I wrapped my head around how to fill them out, they made it possible for me to write 62,000 words in a month, so they definitely worked.

What type of writer would you recommend the Story Genius method for?

I’m a reformed pantser who is always on the lookout for new outlining methods, and Story Genius came highly recommended to me. I’d recommend Story Genius to writers who are looking to deepen their characterization, or who are open to new methods of story planning. Even if you’re a die-hard pantser, I think there are things to be learned from the book, although you might shy away from doing the writing exercises. Writers who like outlines will probably take away a lot from this method.

You got an agent and signed your first contract less than a year ago. What advice do you have for unpublished writers seeking traditional publishing?

Cultivate resiliency, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Between the waiting and form rejections, querying can be rough, but there are lots of ways to get your work in front of agents and editors, such as Twitter pitch events or writing conferences. Build up your resiliency by putting your work out there, whether it’s sending queries or entering writing contests, but make sure to do your research first. And most importantly, surround yourself with a community of writers who will understand what you’re going through, and who can offer support, a sounding board, and advice when you need it. You don’t have to go it alone.

Tell us about your book releasing soon. What should we know about your exciting new contemporary romances?

Dance with Me is the second book in my contemporary romance series The Dance Off, which revolves around a dance competition show. It features a romance between one of the dance judges and a pro dancer, who are caught in a friends with benefits loop. When she’s in need of a place to stay, he offers to let her move in. She accepts, with one stipulation: no sleeping together while they’re living together. The first book in the series, Take the Lead, features a wilderness survivalist and his dance partner, and is available now.

Alexis Daria is a contemporary romance author, artist, and native New Yorker. Her debut, Take the Lead, was a 2017 Golden Heart® finalist and was named one of The Washington Post’s 5 Best Romances of 2017. Dance with Me (Dance Off #2) will be out 12/12/17. She loves social media, and you can find her live-tweeting her favorite TV shows at @alexisdaria, or talking about writing and books on her blog at

Robin Lovett is a romance writer whose first series of dark romances released through St. Martin’s Press Swerve summer 2017. Her next series is a sci-fi erotic romance through Entangled Publishing. She loves to chat on Twitter @LovettRomance and every Sunday evening you can find her with other romance writers at #RWChat. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of BookEnds Literary Agency.

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