How the hell has no-one written this book before?
My attitude to books is that if you get one tip that improves your skill level or your knowledge, you’re doing alright.
The Story Grid has given me at least fifteen.
Now, I write books reasonably quickly. In 2016 – my first year – I wrote six.
Those six books have earned me a nice income in addition to my other freelance work, and they’ve had a number of very nice reviews from very nice people.
Without the Story Grid, that wouldn’t have happened.
A bit of background:
Shawn Coyne has acted as editors for a fair wodge of the world’s best-selling authors.
- Lee Child
- Ian Rankin
- Michael Connelly
- James Lee Burke
- Harlen Coben
- Mo Hayder
And a shedload of others.
In other words, the dude knows his onions when it comes to writing a killer story.
I prefer to learn from those who’ve walked the walk, and Shawn certainly has.
Now, the Story Grid is a beefy book that covers a LOT of mini-topics but, to me, it’s main benefit has been this:
It teaches you how to frickin’ PLOT.
See, all the great writing and all the funny characters don’t mean a thing if you can’t get people to turn the page, and – to me – at least, that’s where this book excels.
Plotting’s a scary thing. It’s intimidating, sitting there with a vague idea and not knowing how the hell to turn it into an actual story.
The Story Grid – along with Story by Robert McKee – is a one-stop lesson in how to plot things.
Key things I’ve learned from the Story Grid:
- If a scene doesn’t turn the story, it gets cut.
- Sticking to your genre is a GOOD thing, and if you don’t meet the conventions, it’ll annoy people
- How each story, act and scene have a ‘value’ scale that slides back and forth – and how finding it lets you know which scenes to cut.
- How all books have a ‘theme’ and how finding yours can make the plotting easier.
- Finally – and most importantly – once you truly understand your book, you’ll be able to sum up the plot on a single piece of A4 paper!
- The value of plotting in advance
Now, interestingly, Shawn himself DOES NOT recommend using the Story Grid technique to plot out a book in advance.
Instead, he recommends writing a first draft and then applying the Story Grid to it.
I respectfully disagree and have – a number of times – used the techniques in this book to assist my plotting in advance.
In the end, The Story Grid is a tool that’ll help you understand WHY your story isn’t working.
Whenever I’ve got frustrated with a plot, knowing that something isn’t quite right about the story I’ve got mapped out, half an hour with the Story Grid has always fixed it.
It’s like having Shawn himself as a consultant, ready to help you at all hours of the day, and to me that’s pretty priceless.
Is it going to work for absolutely everyone?
Not necessarily. It depends on your attitude to writing.
There are some people – and more power to them – that think writing is ONLY a creative process, and that applying any kind of ‘formula’ is something evil only dirty sellouts do.
If that’s you, I don’t think the Story Grid will work for you. In fact, you’ll probably throw it across the room in a rage.
But for anyone who wants to write better books, improve their plotting and give their readers something they’ll actually enjoy and turn the pages to, The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne is a GREAT addiction to your book shelf.
And just for some perspective: I ran up over £15,000 in Student Loans doing a degree in Creative Writing from one of the UK’s oldest universities.
Two hours of reading The Story Grid taught me more about stories than the whole time I spent at University.