The Story Grid: Friday, June 19th

3 Golden Nuggets of Wisdom that I picked up from Shawn Coyne (author of The Story Grid).

1) Stories are about change. Nobody likes change in their daily life. We like our habits and our routines. Stories are so attractive precisely because they’re so exotic and unfamiliar. 

2) Scenes are the building blocks of story. Every scene has a point. Every scene involves a shift from one end of a spectrum to another. For example, in the beginning of a scene maybe our protagonist is hopeful, but by the end of the scene she feels despair. Maybe the scene moves from joy to sorrow, from injustice to justice, from peace to chaos, from confusion to clarity. No matter what the prevailing theme of the scene happens to be, the essence of a scene remains the same. It has to move us right along. It has to cause change. Otherwise it’s not a scene – it’s just exposition, just filler, and it’s not serving the story.

3) Regarding writing and editing and 1st drafts…

1) When you’re writing your first draft, don’t edit. Be free. Don’t look back for a second. The most important, in fact, the ONLY goal for your first draft is to make it to the end.

Coyne recommends not to get too caught up with plotting before your first draft. He says it’s important to do a few small things before you begin:

Decide what kind of story you want to write. A revenge tale? An heartstopping thriller? A supernatural romance? Whatever it is, write it for yourself at the top of page one. Then underneath that, write these three things: 1) What is your beginning hook? 2) What is the Middle Build, and 3) What is the Ending Payoff. 

As long as you have this bullet list, this foundation, then you’re free to go to town on your 1st draft. Write furiously and unapologetically till the end.

2) Now that you’re finished with the 1st draft, now you can start to get serious about plotting, outlining, and shaping your story. All the tools of editing shape your jungle of story into a fresh, inviting lawn that readers want to walk through. If you’re a beginning writer, this editing process will be long and tedious. If you’re a pro, you might not need much structural editing.

***

I’ve been studying a lot about story this year. Shawn Coyne is one of my favorite authorities on the subject. I haven’t bought his book, The Story Grid yet. But soon I plan to not only get it but put it to good use.

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