Story Grid Podcast
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Helping you become a better writer.

Join Shawn Coyne, author of Story Grid and a top editor for 25+ years, and Tim Grahl, struggling writer, as they discuss the ins and outs of what makes a story great.

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    Putting Off the Inevitable

    Have you ever put off writing a particular scene or sequence in your story? Tim faces that this week and Shawn walks him through it. Download Tim's scenes at

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    The Race to the Finish

    Tim and Shawn talk through the Ending Payoff, steadily working to the end of the book. Download Tim's scenes at

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    Just Skip to the End

    Tim hits some major road blocks on his story. So what's the solution? Also, an important announcement. Download Tim's scenes at

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    Nailing the End of Your Book

    As Shawn and Tim continue discussing the beginning of the Ending Payoff, they venture into a discussion on how to make sure the end of your book pays off everything that came before.

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    Fear of Your Doing Your Best

    Tim and Shawn keep moving on the Ending Payoff, but also uncover some deeper issues. Download Tim's scenes at

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    Beginning the Ending Payoff

    The Middle Build is done. The Ending Payoff has begun. It took Tim four tries to get the first scenes of the Middle Build right. How long will it take him to get the Ending Payoff right? Download Tim's scenes at

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    Finishing the Middle Build

    After a long slog and a few weeks off, Shawn and Tim dive into the final scenes and sequences of the Middle Build. There's plenty of good, bad, and "just cut the whole scene." Download Tim's scenes at

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    Character Trumps Plotting

    As Shawn and Tim continue discussing the Middle Build and driving the story with characters or plotting. See Tim's scenes at

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    The Big Middle Build Moments

    There are big moments in every middle build that are extremely important to get right. Shawn and Tim talk through these in this episode. Download Tim's scenes at

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    Correctly Progressively Complicating Your Scenes

    How do you pace your story to keep readers interesting without moving too fast? Shawn and Tim discuss the correct way to progressively complicate your scenes and sequences to write a killer Middle Build. Download Tim's scenes at

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    Dialing in the Sequence

    Tim gets much closer with his rewrite of the sequence, but there's still plenty to dial in. How do you identify these moments and how do you make them work? Shawn answers in this episode. Download Tim's scenes at

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    Back to the 5 Commandments of Storytelling

    You have a scene that's not working, but you can't figure out why. What do you do? Shawn takes Tim back to the 5 Commandments of Storytelling. Download Tim's scenes at

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    Starting Your Middle Build

    Shawn gives feedback on Tim's first Middle Build sequence and shares principles on how to do it right. Download Tim's scenes at

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    How Genre Affects Your Story

    Shawn always talks about how important it is to know your genre, but it's sometimes a bit fuzzy figuring it out. Tim is in this spot now so Shawn walks him through it.

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    Scenes and Sequences for your Middle Build

    The Middle Build is the longest and most complex section of your novel. Figuring out how to plan it and pace it is really tough. Shawn and Tim dive in on how to do this.

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    How long will this take?

    How long does it take to write a great book? Some writers crank it out in a few weeks. Tim is taking much longer. What's the timeline on books? See the video we reference at

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    LIVE with Shawn and Tim

    Shawn and Tim recently spoke at Tribe Conference 2016. This is a recording of that talk. They discuss going pro, the hero's journey, and several other topics. It's a fun episode! You can see the video of the talk at

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    What is the Setting for your Novel?

    The 4 questions you have to answer to establish the setting of your novel. Download Tim's world document at

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    World Building in Your Novel

    Tim makes the mistake of diving into his middle build before he's really planned out the world. Shawn walks him through how to do this and what makes a great world for your novel. Download Tim's scenes at

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    Planning Your Middle Build

    Once you have a working Beginning Hook, it's time to move into the Middle Build. This makes up 50% of your book and can be overwhelming at the start. Shawn and Tim discuss how to dive in. Download Tim's scene at

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    Finishing the Beginning Hook

    Shawn and Tim discuss the last sequence in the Beginning Hook and getting started on the Middle Build. Download Tim's scenes at

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    Moving from Scenes to Sequences

    Shawn critiques Tim's latest scenes, and how you can move into planning and writing sequences. Download Tim's scenes at

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    How to Write a Great Love Story

    Part 2 on the love story genre. Shawn and Tim dive into the genre conventions, obligatory scenes, and how you can write a great love story.

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    The Most Important Genre

    If you had to pick one genre to master, what should it be? Shawn answers the question in this week's episode.

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    Getting the Rewrites Right

    Tim finally nails his scene. What changed? And what is the right process for going from draft to a working scene?

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    Listener Questions and More Rewrites

    Shawn and Tim answer a few questions from listeners and then dive into more rewrites of Tim's scenes. Check for a download of Tim's scene.

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    How to Rewrite Scenes

    How do you take scenes that don't work and rewrite them? Shawn and Tim walk through best practices and common pitfalls.

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    Critiquing Tim's Beginning Hook

    Tim has finished the first 11 scenes of his book -- the Beginning Hook -- and Shawn wades into his critique on where he did well and where he... didn't.

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    The Great Hedonometer

    This week we talk with PhD candidate Andy Reagan who is one of the researchers behind the Hendonometer Shawn and Tim discussed a couple weeks ago. Andy shares where they are at with the research and they discuss the implications for writers in the future.

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    Turning Pro as a Writer

    What does it take to move from amateur to professional as a writer? Tim and Shawn discuss this in depth and share their experience.

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    There are only 6 stories

    New research shows there are only 6 stories that every book is based on. Shawn and Tim discuss the implications of this and how it applies to Tim's story.

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    What Good Editors Know

    A good developmental editor is mentoring an author through their book. That comes with some basic frustrations, especially when the editor is coaching a newbie like Tim. Shawn shares his views on this along with his new math equation... M + TEⁿ = IF.

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    Calibrating Your Scenes

    How do you get the stakes and tone of your scene right? As Tim begins to understand how to write a better scene, he struggles with going to far. Shawn works with him on how to write a great opening scene that doesn't go too far.

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    Villains and Inciting Incidents

    Who drives the story? This is a harder question to answer than you think. Shawn and Tim dive deep in this question.

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    Pub 101: How to Work With Your Publisher

    In this three part series, Shawn and Tim discuss the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Learn how to work with your publisher and market your book.

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    Pub 101: Trade vs Indie Publishing and Backstory

    In this three part series, Shawn and Tim discuss the ins and outs of the publishing industry. They share their backstory and answer the question, "Should I indie or traditionally publish my book?"

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    Special Guest: Steven Pressfield - Part 2

    Learn how to fight Resistance and launch your writing career with the amazing Steven Pressfield. Check out his new book NO ONE WANTS TO READ YOUR SHIT.

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    Special Guest: Steven Pressfield - Part 1

    Learn how to fight Resistance and launch your writing career with the amazing Steven Pressfield. Check out his new book NO ONE WANTS TO READ YOUR SHIT.

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    Writing Your 2nd Draft

    Tim and Shawn work to nail down the specifics for the second draft. Narrative device is a big topic along with nailing down the big events in your story.

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    Getting Your Big Scenes Right

    Is Shawn killing Tim's creativity? This episode starts with that question then moves into deep genre questions and how to use Internal and External genres to tell great stories.

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    What do your characters want? (plus, Tim gets frustrated)

    This is the first episode that Tim gets noticeably frustrated. Shawn is trying to teach him how to avoid cliches, hit the right conventions for his genre, and make sure his character's motivations are clear. Unfortunately, Tim is having a hard time catching on.

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    Finding a Marketable Genre

    This is an epic episode. Shawn and Tim talk through finding a marketable genre and how to build a book that fits. Then, once the episode was over, they keep talking with the mics on for another half hour. This is a great behind-the-scenes episode.

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    Getting Unstuck

    After a week of Tim floundering with his first draft, Shawn starts to rescue him from the pit of despair. Of course, they go back to genre to find the way home. This is a wide ranging episode on how you can start picking up the pieces of your first draft.

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    The 2 big questions to ask your first draft

    This was a haps episode for Tim. Shawn has now read the manuscript and gives his feedback and next steps. They also discuss the two questions you should ask your first draft.

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    First draft is done. Now what?

    Tim has finished his first draft and Shawn gives advice on what happens next and what questions Tim should be asking himself.

    If you'd like to read Tim's first draft, you can do that at

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    Can you learn to write better (without trying)?

    Shawn and Tim discuss unconventional ways to become a better writer. Topics include chicken sexing, Deliberate Practice, and many other things. Also, Tim's now trying to track down a cadaver he can use.

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    How to Write Faster

    How can you get more writing done? Is the "wall" even real or just in your head?

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    Do you have to be depressed to be a good writer?

    Another wide ranging episode that eventually lands on an important question. Kurt Vonnegut said "You cannot be a good writer of serious fiction if you are not depressed." Is this really true?

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    When to get feedback from other writers

    A wide ranging episode where Shawn and Tim discuss a new way to think about beginning hooks, the high concept "What if?" pitch, when to open the door and get other writer's feedback, and how the "Power of 10" will help your editing process.

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    What if my writing sucks?

    It was at 8000 words in that Tim realized his writing was terrible. So how does he keep going? Shawn offers his advice on overcoming this and other types of resistance.

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    What is the Theme of your Story?

    What is your theme or controlling idea, and how does it help you tell a better story? Tim and Shawn also discuss how to avoid getting caught in analysis-paralysis and how to build your world the right way.

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    How to plot and outline your story

    As Tim begins to plot and outline his story, he gets Shawn's input on exactly how to do it. This process is filled with potential time wasters and distractions, and Shawn helps Tim avoid them. See Tim's initial outline and other downloads at

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    Creating great writing habits

    How do great writers actually get their writing done? Shawn and Tim delve into this along with combating fear and reaching your goals.

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    How to Story Grid a Book

    Talking about Story Grid is one thing, putting it into practice is quite another. Tim struggles with applying Story Grid to Harry Potter. In addition, specificity, ins and outs of publishing, and more.

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    Can I just rip off Harry Potter?

    The Hero's Journey and how it works with Story Grid. The characters and scenarios. Also, how to learn from one book to write your own.

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    Where do great story ideas come from?

    The question every author gets... "Where do you come up with story ideas?" Also, how to write characters that are truthful, even when you can't relate with them.

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    Better Non-fiction with Story Grid

    Shawn explains how Story Grid can help you be a better non-fiction writer. Also, the editing process and how to know when your book is "done".

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    How to write a great beginning hook

    How do you write an opener for your book that grabs people's attention and doesn't let go? Shawn shares great insights on this along with how to develop believable characters.

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    The 8 stages of grief/writing

    How does the Kübler-Ross model from psychiatry apply to your writing? Also, how to develop your characters and applying the Story Grid to non-fiction.

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    What is narrative device?

    How can narrative device make your storytelling easier? We also discuss the two types of inciting incidents and how the Story Grid applies to he movie Dead Calm.

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    The Mathematics of Storytelling

    Story Grid Math. How many scenes, words, turns does your book need? Also discussed is the 5 commandments of storytelling and Tim's attempt at a rewrite.

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    6 questions (good) editors ask

    The 6 questions (good) editors ask and the 5 parts of every story. See the full show notes to download Shawn's critiques of Tim's first scene.

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    Shawn rips apart Tim's scene

    Shawns critiques (rips apart) Tim's first scene. Along the way, they discuss Agatha Christie, Wes Craven, Hemingway, and Freddy Krueger. See full show notes at to download and read Tim's first scene.

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    How not to waste 100k words

    How does The Martian work with The Story Grid? Plus, we discuss how to make sure your story is good before writing 100k words and the difference between Internal and External genre.

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    How does Stephen King write?

    How does Stephen King do it? Plus, Shawn and Tim talk about flailing as a writer and how good character development is really done.

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    Diving deep into genre

    Shawn and Tim dive deeper into genre and how to find the best internal and external conflicts. Along the way they discuss the hero's journey, love stories, and a woman from the sea.

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    And that's what life is all about

    How can you become a better writer? Join Shawn Coyne, a bestselling editor with 25+ years experience, and Tim Grahl as they dive into the craft of story telling.

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