Editor Roundtable: Bite Size Edition – Shawn on Reading

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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.

Today’s Bite Size Episode brings you an interview with Shawn Coyne recorded live in Nashville during the second Story Grid Editor Certification Training in February, 2019. Shawn expresses surprise at people who say they want to write books but then admit that they don’t read books. He discusses importance reading every day, going deep into the genres you love, and stretching beyond your comfort zone with books in other genres, periods and styles.

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About the Author

Leslie Watts is a certified Story Grid editor, writer, and podcaster. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember: from her sixth-grade magazine about cats to writing practice while drafting opinions for an appellate court judge. When the dust settled after her children were born, she launched www.Writership.com to help writers unearth the treasure in their manuscripts. She believes writers become better storytellers through practice, and that editors owe a duty of care to help writers with specific and supportive guidance to meet reader expectations and express their unique gifts in the world.
Story Grid 101: The Five First Principles of the Story Grid Methodology
by Shawn Coyne
What are the first principles in writing a story that works? At Story Grid, it’s easy to get distracted by the tools, spreadsheets, commandments, macro lense, micro lense, and on and on. However, all of this eventually comes back to five first principles. In Story Grid 101, Story Grid founder Shawn Coyne distills 30 years... Read more »
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Author Leslie Watts

9 Comments

Tricia Gilbey says:

This is great. I believe reading is essential too. Does this mean that you might base more episodes on books now, rather than always using movies? I love your podcast, it’s so helpful and I’d love to hear more talk about books.

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ANNE HAWLEY says:

Oh, and also, for Season Five, I’m considering pitching movies based on novels. Only I would have to read the novel (a once every five week proposition), while the other four Roundtablers could just watch the movie. I’m so interested in what happens to written stories when they’re made into novels.

My experience so far suggests that short stories (Brokeback Mountain), novellas (The Body, which became Stand By Me) and very short novels (True Grit) make the smoothest transitions into film. Long and complex novels, by definition, have to be massively altered to make a movie, and often the result is unsatisfactory, or else a wholly different story. Jane Eyre, Cloud Atlas, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman come to mind.

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ANNE HAWLEY says:

Hi Tricia. As much as we’d LOVE to review a book every week, it’s more work than we can take on. We make every effort to relate what we learn about story in movies to novel-writing, and I think we’re getting better and better at bringing that element in. We try to separate movie-only elements like acting and music from what was written in the script.

I was inspired (not to say shamed) by Shawn’s words to return to my reading roots, and I have to say, plowing through a couple of novels a weeks again like in the old days has really sharpened my story analysis skills.

But to turn out a detailed story analysis every week, we have to use movies, with their 2-hour format. As Shawn says, movies are great for studying global story structure, and that’s what we try to do.

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Tricia Gilbey says:

Do you think it’s necessary, now you’ve done so many and in such brilliant and enlightening detail, to do a detailed whole story analysis each week? Or might it be possible to focus on one book for a month, say, and to look at different aspects of the writer’s craft as Shawn and Tim have done on his book? I’m glad you are possibly going to look at adaptations, perhaps there may be some underlying subtle differences between film story and novel story – apart from length? Having said this, I hugely enjoy and benefit from your hard work and have listened to all your podcasts and will remain an avid listener no matter what you decide to do! I look forward to your analysis of what happens with adaptations, Anne, if you feel able to fit that into your, I’m sure, very busy schedule.

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ANNE HAWLEY says:

Interesting idea. I feel like our Season 4 (the current one) has broken us out of the pure Foolscap story analysis and freed us each to pursue our specific story interests. You’re convincing me that at least one of us (me) really should pursue the book-to-movie question for Season 5–which we start recording in a few weeks.

Thank you for you encouraging words!

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Annamarie Muirhead says:

Great job Ann, hardly any background noise, I really enjoyed this interview with Shawn.
Thank you so much.

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ANNE HAWLEY says:

Hi, Annamarie! Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I know I found it inspiring.

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Jack Lewis says:

I’ll cast another vote for analyzing filmed stories that began as books. Even the shortest works, when turned into movies are subject to artistic and financial decisions, which (in some cases) stray from the originator’s vision.

That said, I like that you editors have branched beyond the foolscap into separate areas of focus. It really works so well as is I hesitate to add more to your busy schedules!

How about this: start with the Story Grid annotated versions of books that some of you are doing?

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ANNE HAWLEY says:

We’ve looked at a number of films based on novels or short stories: Bridges of Madison County, Brokeback Mountain, Cloud Atlas, Arrival, True Grit, Jane Eyre… More to come. True Grit is (someday going to be) my study guide, so we’ve covered that one already. Some of the others are analyzing classics that became movies 100 years after they were published (Valerie’s masterwork is Dracula, for instance), and the variance between written and filmed can be so enormous that they’re barely the same story.

So, it’s a bit of a balancing act.

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