The Worlds of R. A. Hortz
The Story Grid
Reviewed by Simone Bonim - January 11, 2016
The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, is a book that serves as a virtual editor and as an instruction manual that teaches you the intricacies of book editing. Throughout this book Coyne provides tips and techniques that will teach you how analyze your novel in order to determine what works, what doesn't, and how to fix those parts that are faulty. Along the way you will acquire many of the same skills used by successful editors - like those that work at 'big' publishing houses. The Story Grid also provides insights that will help you to plot and outline your next novel, revise your current project, and to polish your completed work until it shines. While geared toward fiction writers, many of the techniques in this book can also be used by nonfiction writers!
All too often nowadays, a writer is not only the person who writes a book, but also the book's final editor and copy editor. The book you submit is the book that is published - typos and all. On the other hand, even if it is a great book, one that is only in need of a little editing, it might be rejected because publishers, both large and small do very little, if any editing. You are indeed fortunate if you happen to be working with a publisher that still uses editors. But what if you are still polishing your book, or working with a publisher who does not provide any editorial services? Well, you could always hire your own editor, but before you do, take a look at Shawn Coyne's new book, The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know. This is one of those books that should be on every fiction writer's bookshelf - but don't leave it there. Read it, study it, and incorporate the information in the book into your own work. No matter where you are in your writing career, this book will have something to offer you.
Ok, so what's so great about The Story Grid? Firstly, Coyne is an honest-to-goodness old-fashion editor. He's worked for some big name publishing houses in the 'good old days' when editors mattered, and he earned his stripes over the years so, as the saying goes, "he knows whereof he speaks." Secondly, this book is basically a guide that will help you break down your first draft - or final draft and help you to figure out what is, and isn't, working in your story. Once you internalize this information, you will find (or at least I did), that it also greatly aids you in outlining and plotting your next story. Along the way the techniques explained in The Story Grid also cover such essential elements as, the cadence a story needs to hold a reader's attention, how to differentiate between internal and external content, how to pick a viewpoint for your story, and most important, how to create and use the story grid process to improve your current work-in-progress.
I'm not going to try to explain in detail what the story grid technique is, other than to say that it is a technique that you can use to analyze your novel to learn what works in the story, and to identify places that you need to do some more work on. This technique is a lot more complicated than this one sentence overview, but don't worry. Coyne does an excellent job of explaining what the story grid is and how it works. By the time you are finished reading and using this book you will have received a sound grounding in editing and the entire editorial process. But, you don't even have to read to the book to learn how to use the story grid technique to revise your novel. Instead, or at least before buying this book, head over to http://www.storygrid.com/. This is Coyne's website and it contains much of the same information that you'll find in the book. You just have to hunt around a bit to find everything you need. From what I've seen, most of what is in the book appears to be on the website. In addition, there is also a 'story grid' podcast series that you can access by clicking on the podcast button on the above-mentioned page. Also, be sure to check out the The Story Grid Mini Course. This is a five-part video series that walks you through the key elements of the story grid technique. Once you discover what the story grid technique is all about, you are likely to want your own copy so you'll have all the information conveniently at hand. If so, a print or eBook version of The Story Grid can be purchased directly from the book's publisher at Black Irish Books, or from most online booksellers.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield.
Are you a writer, painter, or other type of creative person, who seems to have difficulty getting down to actually writing, painting, or pursuing the creative endeavor that you were born to do? If so, The Art of War might just be that little push that you need to get you started on the path of actually start working on your craft and, over time, to make the most of your talents...
The Editor's Companion, by Steve Dunham.
This is a guide that looks more at the art of editing, rather than at the nuts and bolts of the craft. Along the way, the author has crafted an eminently readable and helpful guide for both editors and writers.
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