The Story Grid Product Review | #Author Toolbox Bloghop

Posted by on Jan 17, 2018 in #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, Book Reviews, Creativity and the Writing Process | 16 comments

The Story Grid Product Review | #Author Toolbox Bloghop

Greetings and happy 2018! Welcome to the first post of this year’s Author Toolbox Bloghop. I hope the past few months have been restful and productive in whatever measure you aimed for.

I spent the end of last year chipping away at my current work in progress (WiP). I managed to finish it before Christmas, and I sent it to my agent and alpha readers. While I wait for their feedback, I am stepping away from the work just enough that I will be able to approach it with fresh eyes once the time comes. However, I don’t want to leave the world of the project all together, so I am researching ways to approach the revision process once the time comes. Along that line, I have discovered a resource called The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know, written by Shawn Coyne.

Shawn Coyne has been in publishing for twenty-five years and has worked with an extensive list of industry professionals, including Robert McKee. The Story Grid is a compilation of things he’s learned as a literary agent, an independent publisher, and an editor with major publishing houses, and is designed to inspire original stories, to fix broken projects, and to help writers edit their own manuscripts. It allows authors to break down a project into parts and analyze what works, what doesn’t work, and why.

As a resource that focuses on the craft of writing, The Story Grid contains a lot of familiar content. It spends about half of the time discussing story structure elements of scene, act, conflict, and plot. What the Grid does differently is detail a focused way of mapping a story element-by-element, providing a tool that helps authors evaluate the quality of a scene and assess whether or not the scene works based on the criteria detailed throughout the book.

One of the more unique aspects of this resource is the way Shawn Coyne looks at genre. As a high school English teacher, I refer to genre many times during any given week, but Mr. Coyne expands the concept to a depth of detail even I have never seen before. Understanding this concept is central to working the Story Grid because genres create expectations in readers (yes, that will be on a test), and if a work lacks any element of a genre, it leaves readers feeling unsatisfied. While Mr. Coyne goes into great detail about what the genres are, there is no information about the expectations associated with any genre except the Thriller. This makes since because Thriller is Mr. Coyne’s specialty and because the specific conventions of each genre could fill several books, but it does leave readers wanting. However, Cone does state that authors should be instinctively familiar with the conventions of the genre they want to write in before they actually begin writing in that genre.

One of the things I love about The Story Grid is all of the extra resources that are available. There is a Story Grid podcast that chronicles the experience of Tim Grahl as he applies the Grid to a work in progress and discusses that progress in weekly conference calls with Mr. Coyne (brilliant idea, that). There is also a website where “writers who are eating ramen noodles every night and staying every waking hour at the office” (2) can access all of the Story Grid content archives for free.

While I am days away from applying the Grid to my own work, I have already learned much from this book. For example, I now understand the concepts of beats and story values in a way I never have before. I recommend this resource to anyone who has a story that’s not working but that deserves a chance at publication and/or anyone who is in the process of editing a current project.

What about you? What resources or tips have you found that help with the revision process? Or, what else would you like to know? The #Author Toolbox Bloghop is intended to be a collection of resources and learning for authors no matter where they are in the process, so if there are any topics you would like to read about, please suggest them in the comments below.


To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, or to join in, click here.


  1. I love the Story Grid. Very in-depth and helpful.

  2. This sounds like a great book for people struggling with structure and scenes. For me, these things come pretty naturally. If I have to cut out a scene, I know it when I read the first draft. Plotting out chapter outlines helps, too, because every moment in that outline is essential to the storyline. I don’t tend to stress about the genre, though, so I suppose I should take a look at the expectations for the genres of my current works-in-progress. 🙂

  3. I have read the Story Grid. I, too, found it somewhat helpful, tho’ perhaps not as much as you did. Indeed, he did stress the importance of knowing your genre and the conventions of that genre. I suppose I’m too much of a pantser to go through and tear up my story bit by bit to examine it as closely as he suggests. It was a bit overwhelming for me. It would be like taking a masterpiece and turning it into a paint-by-numbers. What worries me about books that suggest this kind of analysis (and those that push writing in a genre-specific way) is that we lose creativity. Where do things that don’t fit go? We’d have never had a Harry Potter if JK Rowling had not branched out.

    So I say, take something from these kinds of books, but beware…

  4. This sounds like a great resource, especially since I am in the middle of revising a project. Will be checking it out. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  5. Interesting. I’ll definitely be taking a look.
    I don’t know that I have a specific resource, in regards to editing, that I would cite. More often I find that the answers are scattered across many articles, experts, and blogs.
    I am a big believer in note-taking though.
    Whenever I encounter new ideas in regards to writing, I write them down as if I’m sitting in a class, listening to a lecture.
    I find it helpful to compile my own quasi text, something I can refer back to and continue to add to as I encounter new ideas.

  6. This book is one of many currently languishing on my Kindle and waiting to be read. Based on your review and analysis, I need to prioritise it.

    • I hope it proves helpful for you!

  7. This book sounds great, Lauricia. I’ll have to look into it. Thanks for the clear explanations. All the luck with your new WIP. I’ll follow your blog and connect with you online.

    • Sweet, Victoria! I’m glad to meet you.

  8. I agree with Raimey. I will definitely be picking this book up. I am going to be going into my first true editing pass ever and can use all the advice I can get. Thanks for the great breakdown!

    • My pleasure! I hope it is just the tool you need.

  9. I have a whole library of books that I dip into when I need them. The internet has been very, very good to me too. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  10. P.S. I can’t seem to tag you on Facebook. Did your handle change? I have @lauriciamatuskaauthor. If it’s different, can you email it to me if you have time pretty please with cherries on top? 🙂

    • Ugh, Facebook. I recently got disconnected from FB because, apparently, someone hacked into my account and changed my password. I have everything worked out now, I think. Please try again.

  11. Sold. I’ll be buying this. Thanks for breaking this down for me. 🙂 I’ll add your post into my Facebook schedule too. 🙂

    • Awesome. Many thanks!

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