Welcome to the Bite Size Edition of the Editor Roundtable Podcast. Here on the Roundtable we’re dedicated to helping you become a better writer, following the Story Grid method developed by Shawn Coyne.
In these episodes, we bring you some shorter solo articles and interviews on topics that interest us as writers.
Hi. This is Kim Kessler, and today I’m bringing you an interview with newly certified Story Grid Editor, Danielle Kiowski.
She recently shared her journey at the Story Grid Live event: finding Story Grid, making the decision to get more involved, and how she is seeking to contribute to the greater storytelling community.
She is whip-smart and the sweetest soul you’ll ever meet. I can’t wait for you to meet her.
So join me for a quick bite of writing insight, starting right now.
Kim: Danielle, thank you so much for being here and sharing your unique insights with us.
Life Before SG
I was always passionate about stories and an avid reader. As a kid, I bounced around a lot with my answers to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” but it was always about writing at heart. I’d read a great Michael Crichton book and want to be a doctor so I could write books like that. Writing was always at the center.
During my education and career, though, I pursued another interest — puzzles and problem solving. I became a data scientist. I think that love of puzzles is a common trait that a lot of Story Grid enthusiasts share.
When I was in school, I was told I was good at writing — that my essays were written well — but I had trouble translating that into story. I didn’t understand that writing was more than words on a page.
I learned to code as part of my career growth, and started to really understand skill development. I started looking at how I could apply the growth mindset to writing and discovered the variety of skills that make up what we call “writing,” including wordsmithing and storytelling. As part of my search to understand storytelling, I came across the Story Grid book. As a data scientist, as soon as I saw the graph on the cover I knew this was where I belonged.
When did you know you wanted to be more involved in the SGU?
As soon as I read the book, I started searching for everything I could find on the methodology. I listened to all the podcasts and read all the blog posts. Story Grid resonated with me. Then, I enrolled in the first session of Level Up Your Craft. That was where I saw that being an editor was about teaching and helping others to understand Story Grid. I’ve always had a passion for teaching, but I didn’t connect being an editor with being an educator until taking that class and seeing the editors working with students in the Q&A sessions.
Why did you choose to certify as an Editor?
Primarily, I wanted to contribute to others’ understanding of Story Grid by acting in that educational role, by acting as a teaching assistant in the Story Grid courses and by writing Fundamental Fridays posts and masterwork guides — and by building my business and working with clients. I also wanted to deepen my own understanding of Story Grid to apply it to my own work. I knew that building a business was a lot of work and risk, but to me, the other opportunities were worth the investment, even if I never found a client.
Transitioning into SG / Certifying process
After applying (the application for the September 2020 session is available on the Story Grid website now!), the Editor Training is a week-long course in Nashville. We plunged into scene analysis right on the morning of day one. The key to getting the most out of the editor training is to speak up — get your opinion out there. Raise your hand and engage in the scene discussions. If you don’t put yourself out there, you can’t recognize any gaps in your understanding that you could work on filling during the training.
We also had sessions with Shawn on how to produce the deliverables that clients expect from a Story Grid diagnostic. These lessons also deepened our understanding of applying the Story Grid methodology, so they were valuable both for client work and our own stories.
In the afternoons, Tim led sessions on business building. We learned about how to find the right kind of clients for our businesses, and how to grow our editing businesses.
The hardest parts were the ones that I brought on myself! For example, to get certified, you have to pick three masterworks in genres that you don’t ordinarily read, do the six core questions analysis on them, and submit them to Shawn for approval. I treated it like I was picking the last three books I’d ever get to read. Be easier on yourself and don’t try to find the “perfect” books — you can always analyze more later! That’s a great habit to get into. I would recommend, whether you go through the certification process or not, to build the muscle of doing the six core questions analysis on stories that you consume.
What life is like on the other side / what have you found?
I love being involved with Story Grid. One thing that I wasn’t sure of was how I’d fit in — it was a bit like being the new kid in school. The original 19 had been working together for a year and a half. What I found was that everyone was so welcoming and enthusiastic about having new voices. It’s so rewarding being part of the editor community.
What are your plans? What contributions do you want to make?
I’m dedicated to empowering ambitious professionals to fulfill their dreams of becoming fantasy authors. Often, authors and creatives talk about careers or day jobs as burdens, but I want to create a community that not only accepts that aspect of life but embraces it, and that celebrates the unique skill sets that varied life experiences create. I want to help authors stop living a double life and integrate both sides of themselves into a cohesive identity in which skills from their careers make their creative lives better and vice versa. I’m building the Writers by Night community to provide resources and support for authors to achieve that goal.
What do you want others to know about Story Grid?
You get out what you put in. Story Grid is all about the process. Get involved wherever you can. That might be getting certified as an editor, or taking the courses, or even commenting on the blog posts — anything where you can contribute your voice to the community and engage with others. It might be outside of the Story Grid Universe, too. You can get your writing groups involved with Story Grid and spread the tools that Story Grid has for telling better stories.
How can listeners connect with you directly?
You can find my resources for ambitious professionals pursuing their dreams of becoming fantasy authors at Writers by Night.
You can find my writing at daniellekiowski.com. Follow the “For Writers” link at the top to find out more about my editing services.