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.

More at

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    The Editor's 6 Core Questions - Part 1

    The Editor's 6 Core Questions is the first tool in the arsenal of how to evaluate a manuscript. Shawn walks Tim through the first 3 questions.

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    How Important is Genre?

    Going back to the basics of Story Grid, Shawn and Tim discuss the role genre plays in storytelling.

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    Creating a 2nd Edition

    This episode is two for the price of one. Tim and Shawn first discuss when and how to do a 2nd edition of a book and then they move into discussing Tim's changes to the Beginning Hook of his novel as he continues to race towards the finish line.

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    How to Refine a Manuscript

    After several weeks of analyzing the manuscript, Shawn walks Tim through the final steps of refinement he needs to go through to get it ready for production.

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    Hero Archetypes and Grounding Reality

    Shawn and Tim finish up talking about the Hero Archetypes and then delve into what it takes to ground your book in a realistic world.

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    Hero's Journey Archetypes - Part 2

    Shawn and Tim continue talking through the Hero's Journey Archetypes, who they are, and how they should be in your story.

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    Hero's Journey Archetypes - Part 1

    The sprint is on to finish The Threshing. This week Shawn and Tim begin working through the Archetypes of the Hero's Journey.

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    Why Story Grid Is Different

    This week Shawn sits down with Story Grid Editor, Valerie Francis, to discuss why (and how) the Story Grid method is different from other structural and developmental editing methods.

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    A New Tool to Fight Resistance

    Steven Pressfield and Black Irish Publishing have released a new project around writers and Resistance. Shawn and Tim discuss both what the project is and the bigger ramifications for the world of publishing.

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    Categorizing Scenes

    Your novel is done, now what? Shawn walks Tim through a new level of analysis for his work in progress.

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    How to Spreadsheet Your Novel

    The spreadsheet is a central tool of Story Grid. Shawn walks Tim through how to use it and answers some of his questions.

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    The Job of an Editor

    Story Grid grew out of the need for better editing. Shawn and Tim discuss the origins and the job of an editor.

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    Why all the suffering?

    We all can agree that writing is hard. Learning to level up your writing is even harder. So why all the suffering? Why not just publish a draft that's "good enough"? This is what Shawn and Tim dive into on this week's episode.

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    World Building 101

    What are the building blocks for a believable, fantastical world in your story? Shawn walks through this and hits upon a fundamental reason why Tim's characters have not been working.

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    Creating Believable Characters

    How do you create the right cast of characters for your story and make them believable? Shawn walks Tim through a framework to do this correctly.

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    Crafting a Great Ending

    Tim is working through the final big battle scene and Shawn helps him figure out how to do it right.

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    How to Finish Your Book

    Now that Tim has worked through his block, it's time to finish the book. But how? Shawn walks him through the mindset and tactics to finally finish this draft.

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    Is it time for Tim to quit?

    Every writer hits that moment. Is it time quit this novel and move on to a new project? Tim is facing this with Threshing and talks over the question with Shawn.

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    How to Write a Great Villain

    What is the nature of evil and how do you make that into an unforgettable villain in your stories? Shawn and Tim dive into this topic.

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    Shawn's Dark Night of the Soul

    Shawn is in the midst of a publishing project of his own and... it's hit some rough spots. He shares what is going on and how he's working through it.

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    When is the book done?

    Tim brings a common question to Shawn... when do you know your book is ready to publish? Shawn has important insight on this all important question.

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    Writing an Action Sequence

    Tim took at a crack at writing a fast paced action sequence that allows moves his story forward. Shawn walks him through the ins and outs and what to do next.

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    Game Theory in Story

    What do video games and story telling have in common? Shawn walks through another tool for analyzing your story.

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    Chaos vs Order

    What is the overarching engine running every story? Shawn uses Tim's latest scene to step into this question and share some of his latest research.

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    The Aftermath

    Running Down a Dream has been out for a week. What has happened and what next?

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    Special Guest: Steven Pressfield

    Steven Pressfield joins and Shawn and Tim to discuss his new book THE ARTIST'S JOURNEY along with Tim's new book RUNNING DOWN A DREAM.

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    Running Down a Dream

    Tim's new book Running Down a Dream is coming out next week and he discusses with Shawn what is has been like to write the book.

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    Getting the Value Shifts Right

    A huge part that makes a scene work is the value shifts. They have to work in the scene, the global genre, the internal genre, etc. Shawn walks Tim through how to think about this with his Turning Point Scene of the Middle Build. See Tim's scene at

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    Fixing the Most Important Scene

    Shawn walks Tim through the problems with his turning point of the middle build scene (and how to fix them).

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    Deep Dive Into Tim's 15 Scenes (Part 2)

    Shawn and Tim continue work through the 15 most important scenes of The Threshing. Shawn also dives into what is really driving this, and all, stories. More at

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    Special Guest: Courtney Harrell

    Courtney is a Story Grid Certified Editor and is stuck on her book! She reached out to Shawn for help so they jumped on the phone to go over her book and how she can make progress.

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    15 Most Important Scenes

    Shawn walks Tim through the 15 most important scenes he has to figure out for his novel.

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    Restarting an Old Project

    Tim is struggling with stepping back into his fiction book now that he's taken a few months off to finish his non-fiction book. Shawn walks him through how to do it. Plus, a special announcement! See more at

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    What Does Shawn Think? - Part 2

    Now that Shawn has gone through the manuscript of Tim's book, what does he think? What's his feedback? What should he do next?

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    What does Shawn think?

    Now that Shawn has read Tim's manuscript, he's handing down the verdict. Is it ready for primetime?

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    Book is Done! Now What?

    Tim has finally finished the manuscript for Running Down a Dream. What's next?

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    Q&A: Miniplot, Editors, and Genre

    Shawn takes listener questions and covers miniplot, how to hire and work with an editor, and deep dives into the differences between genres.

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    Put the Darkness on Paper

    How do you write great non-fiction? Shawn continues to walk Tim through the telling of his story.

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    Interview: Ryan Holiday

    Ryan Holiday is the author of eight bestselling books and is quickly becoming one of the most prolific writers of our time. In this interview, Ryan shares his processes for writing and editing his books.

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    Tell Your Story

    Tim continues to work towards telling the Truth in his writing while Shawn gives guidance on what to do next. Download Tim's draft at

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    Truth vs truth

    What does it mean to tell your truth? Tim and Shawn discuss this along with the rewrite of his introduction.

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    Finding My Why

    Shawn continues to push Tim to find the true "why" behind his non-fiction book.

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    The Middle of the Middle

    Tim finally makes it to the middle of the middle build and gets Shawn feedback on what to do next.

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    Building Your Novel's World

    If you've struggled with building a believable, cohesive world for your novel, then this is the episode for you. Also, Tim's goes on a rant about the show Altered Carbon.

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    Slogging the Middle Build

    Tim finally makes a breakthrough on his middle build and Shawn discusses how you can too. Download Tim's scenes at

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    Die Hard and Tim's Middle Build

    Shawn and Tim continue the discussion around Die Hard and how it applies specifically to Tim's book. See more at

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    Editor Roundtable: Alien

    This week we introduce you to the newest Story Grid project... the Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast. Listen as a panel of editors walks you through the movie Alien.

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    Die Hard

    Tim spent some of the holiday break putting Die Hard through the Story Grid spreadsheet. He has some observations and questions to run by Shawn. See the spreadsheet at

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    The Story Grid Spreadsheet

    Shawn and Tim discuss one of the most important Story Grid tools and how to use it.

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    Editor's 6 Core Questions - Part 1

    There are six questions that can guide your writing from the beginning through drafting and editing your manuscript. Shawn walks you through each one.

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    Myths of Publishing

    There are a lot of commonly held myths about publishing that often derail writers. Shawn and Tim bring their unique perspective to what writers should know about the publishing world and how it really works.

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    I'm Freaking Out

    Tim reaches the point where he wants to throw his book away and start over. Shawn is there to talk him off the ledge.

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    Rework or Keep Writing?

    We all hit those times where we don't know whether to rework what we've written or keeping pushing forward. Shawn talks Tim through this decision.

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    What Shawn has learned

    After hearing the listener messages from the 100th episode, Shawn reflects on what the last two years have meant to him... and then we dive back into my story.

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    The 100th

    In this 100th episode of the Story Grid Podcast, we here from you the listeners about what this show has meant to you over the last two years.

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    NaNoWriMo and Story Grid

    Are you doing NaNoWriMo next month? If so, you should be getting ready NOW. Shawn walks you through how to use the Story Grid to prepare for writing an entire novel in one month.

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    Go Back to the Genre

    When you get stuck or lost in your story, how do you find your way? Shawn and Tim discuss this as a follow up to last week's episode.

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    What Does the Villain Want?

    As Tim finished up the Beginning Hook and enters the Middle Build, a very important question comes to light. Download Tim's scenes at

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    Our Past, Present, and Future

    This is episode 96. We're almost to the two year anniversary of the show. Tim spends a bit of time reflecting on the past, present, and future of the Story Grid Podcast. To share your story, visit

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    Q&A - Part 3

    Shawn continues answering questions from listeners about genre, the hero's journey, and more. See the questions at

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    Q&A - Part 2

    Tim continues throwing your story questions at Shawn. Submit your questions for future episodes at See the questions from this episode at

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    Q&A - Part 1

    A Q&A with Shawn Coyne. Tim took questions from Twitter and Facebook and spends an hour going through them with Shawn. See the questions at

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    Helping Others Become Better Writers

    In this wide ranging episode, Shawn and Tim discuss the best ways to help your fellow writers become better at their craft.

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    Specificity for Non-Fiction Storytelling

    What does it mean to apply specificity to a non-fiction story? It's a tough thing, especially if you're of the literal persuasion. See Shawn's notes on Tim's introduction at

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    The Craft of Non-fiction

    Shawn uses the second draft of Tim's introduction to focus in on the craft of writing great non-fiction. You can read Tim's new introduction and notes at

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    Non-fiction Conventions and Obligatory Scenes

    Non-fiction has specific genres, conventions, and obligatory scenes just like fiction, but they are, of course, a little different. Shawn and Tim delve into what it takes to write a great non-fiction book. See more at

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    Editing Non-Fiction

    Now that Tim has finished the first draft of his non-fiction book, Shawn starts working with him through editing.

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    Planning the 2nd Draft

    After a couple months working through the Story Grid tools on Tim's first draft, he's ready to start writing the 2nd draft. Show notes at

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    Creating a Story Grid - Part 2

    Tim and Shawn continuing building out the Story Grid Graph to evaluate the first draft. See Tim's Story Grid Spreadsheet at

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    Creating a Story Grid - Part 1

    The next step in editing Tim's first draft is to create a Story Grid Graph. See Tim's Story Grid Spreadsheet at

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    The Hero's Journey - Moments

    Shawn and Tim continue discussing the Hero's Journey as a tool to evaluate the first draft. Links and info at

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    The Hero's Journey - Archetypes

    Shawn and Tim dive into the Hero's Journey as a tool to evaluate the first draft. Links and info at

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    Part 2 - The Foolscap Story Grid

    Move from the micro to the macro with your first draft. The Foolscap Story Grid will help you put your entire novel onto a single page.

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    The Foolscap Story Grid

    After you've gone scene-by-scene through your first draft, it's good to step back and take the macro view of your novel.

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    Micro to Macro: Editing Your First Draft

    Once you have filled out the Story Grid spreadsheet for your first draft, what do you next? Keep track of all the work at

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    Spreadsheeting the First Draft

    After the first draft is done, it's easy to get stuck on what to do next. Shawn continues walking Tim through the process of using the Story Grid spreadsheet. You can see the spreadsheet in the show notes for this episode at

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    First Draft is Done. Now what?

    Tim has officially finished his first draft... now what? This is where Story Grid really shines... taking your first draft and making it the best it can be. To see Tim's Story Grid Spreadsheet visit

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    The End?

    Is this really the end? Tim submits the final 8 scenes of his first draft to Shawn for his feedback. Download Tim's scenes at

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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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    How to finish your 1st draft

    How to work with a developmental editor and get to a finished, working first draft.

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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: Finding an Agent and Selling Your Book

    In this three part series, Shawn and Tim discuss the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Learn how to find an agent and sell your book to a major publisher.

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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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