Episode 272: Telling the Truth About Writing: Is this Podcast Worth Doing?


Hello, and welcome to the Story Grid Podcast. My name is Tim Grahl. I’m the CEO of Story Grid, and I’m a struggling writer trying to figure out how to tell a story that works. Joining me shortly is Shawn Coyne. He’s the creator and founder of Story Grid. And everything that we teach inside of Story Grid is based on his tools and methodology that he’s developed over 30 years of being an editor and storyteller. Along with him is Leslie watts, our editor in chief of Story Grid Publishing, and Danielle Kiowski, the Chief Academic Officer of Story Grid University. Now, in this week’s episode, we had big plans to talk a lot about the guild, because right now, the guild is open for registration for the new semester.


Instead, we kind of went off on this tangent, and at first, we weren’t even planning on making this part of the podcast, but I just hit record, just so that we would kind of keep track of it. And we were talking about what we’re doing with this podcast, if it’s serving the right purpose, and the goal that we have, you know, we’ve been running this podcast now, if you’ve been paying attention, it’s been like seven years. Right? So and again, it started seven years ago with Sean and I just deciding like, hey, you know, you need content. You know, I said, you need content for your platform. I want to learn how to be a better writer, why don’t we just start this podcast, right? And at the time,


all of Story Grid was a book, right? That was all that was Story Grid, a book and a website. Now, of course, is turned into this amazing platform that has become that’s helping 1000s and 1000s of writers.


But it’s good to always kind of step back and decide, like, what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish? Is this the best way to do it. And again, when we were planning on this podcast episode, it was going to be kind of to talk about the guild and everything you’re going to learn in the guild. And I think we actually accomplished that in a better way. Because we talked about what we’re trying to do on this podcast and with me as our Sam right to single audience member, and then how that also relates to what we’re trying to do in the guild as well. And so this ended up being what I think is a pretty powerful episode, Sean, me, Lesley, Danielle, we all kind of get raw with about what we’re trying to accomplish and what we’re doing here together. And I think it’s a really, it was really important for me to talk about what we’re doing here and why this podcast is important to me as a writer, and the way that I think about it, because I want this to be helpful for you, as well. So really good episode, I do want to mention here that the guild is open for registration now. So we do talk about some of this in this episode. But if you want to learn more about the guild, what it’s all about and how you can take advantage of it, you can go to story grid.com/guild. So this is masters level training of writing, I think it’s the best training that exists in the entire world, on figuring out how to write your story, how to write at that beat, trope and scene level, we go deep into all of the tools and methodologies that we’ve been doing right here on this podcast over the last few months. So I highly recommend you go check it out and join us and start this semester with this September 4. So again, that’s story grid.com/guild. So let’s jump into this episode. It’s really interesting, I think you’ll enjoy it. And I hope that you get a lot out of it and really see our heart behind this podcast and everything that we do inside of Story Grid. So let’s jump in and get started. What what I think I need to bring up is the fact that


we we reach these moments of kairos in the podcast with with you, Tim, in that


we do a lot of work, a lot of analytical reasoning, and we were sticking to the script, right. So you’re not changing


substantially. The,


the words on the page as we’re going through it. So what happened last week is something that I noticed you’ve done in the past, which is you throw out everything and you start over.


And then what happens is


we have to rejigger and rethink the entire editorial process, because now we’ve got new signals that we have to evaluate. So we’re not evaluating the same signal sequences that you had written prior. Now they’re, they’re altered. And so it puts us in this moment of, oh my gosh, we got to rejigger our thinking and go back to first principles and start all over again. And so


Um, this isn’t to criticize you, I just noticed this as a pattern.


And these moments of kairos, I think, is when we hit the this moment of


kind of analytical reasoning has reached its, its breaking point for you as the writer. So


it you’re getting to this place, and then it’s kind of like, Oh, I’m just going to redo it all, because I’m hitting this place that makes me uncomfortable. And it makes everybody uncomfortable. And it’s exactly what we were talking about last week, when I when I was saying, You need to stop looking at your characters as it’s right. So Randall should not be in it for you, he should be a Dow, and the Dow comes from some kind of Tim experience that you can map on to Randall and so those are the moments when all of our,


the processes that we use analytically in order to get us to this, this place are crucial. And it’s very, very heartwarming to me that we keep hitting it, when we do use the Story Grid 624, and all of our analytical tools, because it takes us to this place of, okay, I’ve got the structure down, I’ve got the sequences of signals that I would like, but the sequences of signals are lacking, coherent, you know, integration and attunement. And that is a signal, that’s a global signal that I have not me, I’m speaking when I say I as as the writer, I have not mapped


my idiosyncratic personal experience into the story. So I’m sort of like, you know, frankensteining, the moments instead of,


you know, doing it, what would it be like, what in my life mirrors this moment. So


I’m not sure why I’m bringing this up, I’m not certainly not trying to make you feel bad. Because I think this is a, this is a pattern that that most creators hit, when all of the all of the structure is sort of generally there.


And now they have to, I mean, this is one way of attacking a story, right? So you can either do the structural work necessary to build out the tropes and the stuff and the crisis moments and the and now you’ve got this really nice


architecture, but now you have to, you know, paint the walls and, and put the clothes in the house and make it your own. And that’s the tricky part for for the analytical types like us. Now, just to juxtapose this against the other approach, the other approach is all about the chaotic,


spewing out a personal idiosyncratic experience, that doesn’t have structure.


And so those are sort of what people call the,


the pants Pantsers. So the Pantsers just do that. And then the structural lists, start with their structure, and I think you need to


you need to have a discipline to pants. Alright. And the DIS discipline inherent is the Story Grid methodology that will constrain that, that thing, so now, you know, oh, I need to get into a place where I feel like, Randall, what was it? What was it like for me if I had something that I needed to confess something like that.




this is a really, really important place to recognize as a storyteller, that you’re gonna hit these these moments of turning, you’re gonna have to turn your eye from looking at the structure and organization of the story and start looking through it into your experiential,


idiosyncratic way of signaling the meaning of that structure and organization into a very coherent whole. So I don’t understand why you feel like this. How does this connect to changing the format of the podcast or




so what I what I took away from last week,


was I think what you were trying to say which is like you got to


connect to the story. And


I actually spent a good, good amount of time going over this with Candace, and kind of trying to work through it. And I do feel like this is a skill,


being able to like drop into that place and find that connection is a skill that is


is not, is not as direct to develop as other types of skills.


And so


that’s kind of where I’ve been just sitting. And I feel like it’s so because like, last week, I started to get really frustrated. And then


I realized, like, this is the same frustration I felt before. I feel like I kind of get through something. So I was like, I’ll just calm down.


And then the last week or so I’ve just been, or we just recorded five days ago. So just the last five days, I’ve just been trying to like sit in that place. And kind of wait, and like, I keep poking at it. And like, can I come at this way? Can I come out that way? And when when I feel like I’m hitting a wall, I just kind of move on mentally? And?


Yeah, it feels like,


well, this story in particular, it just feels like I’m having a hard time getting there.


And I don’t know why. And I don’t know what exactly is causing it. But I do think it’s mine, I think it will come.


But then come back to what we were talking about of like, why do you feel like


I mean, this is why I was pretty adamant about leaving our disagreement in from a couple months ago. Because I feel like what’s always been charming about our podcast is that


we just, we just leave it all on the table. And we don’t try to make it pretty. And we don’t try to act like we all know what’s going on all the time. Because that’s how it actually works in the real world. And so I’m just curious why you feel like it’s no longer working as the podcast? Well.


This goes to


the 624 itself, right? So in an offline discussion that I had with Leslie the other day we were discussing, well, let’s look at the podcast, like we would like Story Grid people, because geez, we’re Story Grid people, right? So what will we say? The medium is here, and who is who is the the single Audience Member watching the podcast. And let’s try and look at it from their point of view and see how they are experiencing the podcast. And so what we came to the conclusion to was that Tim, you represent the single audience member because you are the output, right? So Leslie, Danielle and I are pumping input into you constantly. So you’re getting it from three different planes of perception, literally three different, you’re getting a big global, you know, blue, blue pummeling, and then Leslie gives you the red pummeling, and then he could tell you how it follows up with the green. And so that trinity of a pummeling to you.


And when I say pummeling, I mean just, you know, energy saying, Oh, you ought to think about this, and you ought to think about this, and you ought to think about this, and you then you have to integrate it all and about. So when Leslie and I were talking about that, Lesley made the very, very brilliant point like I bet it’s not very comfortable for people to watch the podcast, because they are sympathizing and empathizing with Tim, and they’re there, Tim is who’s trying to do his best. Like, no one would ever say that you’re not working hard. Right? And so but you know, then when I had a discussion with you about it, you’re like, I don’t agree with you, because I think people need to experience what it is to experience being a real person in the trenches, right? So it’s not exactly, all fun and sunshine, where you just methodically break through and then you have this incredible story at the end. There are these moments of turning point where you hit a wall, and sometimes none of the four of us has the right solution. And guess what, Danielle Leslie and I can’t solve the experiential problem that you’re facing now. So when you’re talking about how you’re going about


it, what occurred to me is that there’s there’s sort of like this, this liminal space between sort of overt arguments, right? So an overt argument is that I logically walk you through a series of steps, right? I go, Okay, so the, the elephant is gray.


Gray is a, you know, like a very logical progression and the elephant is the member of this family, therefore, all elephants are members of this family, something like that. Right. So that’s a very overt logical progression of an argument. And then you have a covert argument, where, you know, you sort of say to your, your, your kid, oh, well, you don’t want to go to school today, let’s never go to school that if you don’t want to go today, so that’s like a covert manipulation of sorts, where you’re trying to make them think and project into the future and make their own decision. And your what you’re saying is not overtly true, you’re trying to use what they call reverse psychology, right? So in between that, we’ve got this space of what I call play.


And when you think about little kids, this is what they’re doing all the time. They are getting over signals, meaning people are behaving in front of them in ways that are the way they’re behaving, right. So mom’s behaving some way dad’s behaving another way when you’re little. And so you’re trying to figure out how to behave. So what you do is you put that model of mom and dad in your mind, and then you go to your friend’s house and you play house. And you go, Well, you play the dad, yeah, I’m gonna play the mom today. And that’s how you play in order to figure out how to behave in the world. So the space of play for the writer is, is a tricky place. Because if you write overtly, and you just build an argument in deductive format of analytical reasoning, it’s not very potent. And then if you just tell a bunch of covert things that nobody can understand, that’s not very good either. So you have to combine them. And the means by which you combine them is by taking going into this imaginal serious play space of your mind. So when you were given the task, how was your life like Randles? Life? And what what could you map onto Randall, what you what you’ve been doing? Is, is going into this imaginal play space and saying, what, what is it like if I were really struggling, and I had something to confess, and I knew if I confessed, it would really make my life not so great. But the pain of the mental anguish of holding this thing in my mind is too much. What is that like for me? So you don’t have to say, Well, I’m gonna spend a week as a homeless person to figure that out. Because that’s, that’s the window dressing on the character. That’s not the essence of what is going on in this particular story. Randall needs to confess something because he can’t hold it in his mind, because it’s too painful for him. He would rather with Stan, the the, the pain of physical, external, you know, trouble than don’t withhold the internal pain of what he’s holding to confess. So when you have that sort of global generalized idea, then what you do is you go and you put on a lot of costumes in your mind. And you play with it, and you say, Oh, what was the what are those things that I would really like to get off my chest, but I know I would suffer if I did externally.


And those are tricky, because we try and push those down a lot. So it requires a playing in a murky kind of dark, shadowy place within ourselves. Because when we do these kinds of things, we kind of have to compartmentalize it in a way this is called, we kind of stick it in our unconscious, right? This is a very young man idea. And so these these things that we’ve done, that we’re not so proud of, and we really kind of ashamed of, and would do anything, if somebody could go in with a needle and just take it, you know, suck it out of our head, and we could forget it. Foi, would that be great, right? or so we think, but what those things are, are things that you need to come to terms with you need to break them apart. And the writing processes itself is a means by which you can do that. So when you enter this imaginal play space as a writer, it’s difficult because you need to individuate in a way you need to go and find


Those little murky things that you’ve really tried to jam down. And what’s funny, not funny, but wonderful, is when you describe the that, that therapy that you’ve gone through, which is exactly the same process, you’re supposed to go into it sort of altered state of consciousness, and just allow and report what you’re seeing.


So that’s why I think the fact that you are correct, you’ve been and continue to be courageous in in that ability, that we’re really, really close for you to be able to take that ability of being willing to confront things that you’re not so proud of about yourself, or about experiences that you had that were terrifying, and hurtful and traumatic and engaging with them.


And then that’s really something because that’s the mark of someone who has something to say, that’s someone who can go and play in there, and hopefully map it into these structures.


That the Story Grid process enables us to, you know, shape and map and, and tell us what problem we have to solve. Because this is what Story Grid is about right? Solving problems. The problem that we’re facing now in the podcast, is this transitional before between overt into play, so that you can covertly tell a story, and covertly telling a story doesn’t mean you’re manipulating people to to get them to do something, it’s to enable an insight cascade.


Because if you tell your kid, certain things, they’re not going to listen to you until you tell a story about somebody who did the thing that they want to do, and it didn’t end very well or it didn’t end well. Those are covert stories that mix overt and covert. And the way to get them is in this imaginal play space.


Where you get to go into your mind and generate simulations, a possibility that you can use. And so you some people even use the trick of like saying, Tim, or Shawn, they’ll just literally use their name in place for Randall. Tim didn’t like the fact that bah, bah, bah, right? And it’s real. And then then then you can do it a switch and you just change the name. After you’ve sort of played on the page, were in your mind. Because it’s one thing to play in your mind. And another thing to play on the page and what’s really, you know, you’re flowing with gas, when you’re playing in your mind, and you’re taking dictation. And so you’re just banging out what’s running in your mind in that imaginable space.


So that’s kind of what I always say the power of 10, like play 10 times in that space with those sorts of constraints.


What and this is, so we’ve we’ve established what the constraint air here is, Randall has to confess, there’s something inside his mind that he cannot sit with any longer.


And he has to confess it.


And it has to be a part of the larger system in which he’s a witness.


So he’s witnessing, and he’s holding witness to his own


injustice. He’s done some injustice himself, sorry to keep jabbering on but I’m trying to delineate overt, analytical, logical to covert, descriptive, experiential explanation that has


the meaning embedded, and the way to get from an overt to a covert and back again, is in this imaginal play space. So the overt narration is, is when we hear directly from the author. The covert narration is when we witness the showing of interaction on the page or on the screen.


And it’s the manipulation back and forth between those that flows the story because the overt Narrator can push us in time very quickly. Whereas the descriptive covert narration is in dialogue and it’s in the now


Anyway, I’ll stop there. I want to get back to the question of what what this has to do with the format too, because I think all of that is absolutely true for Tim, what you need to do is this as the next step in your story. And I think last week, we got to a place where


you know what you have to, you know that you have to connect with your avatar. And I think for me, the problem with the format is that we,


we go too far too fast. And I think part of that is the pressure from


knowing that we’re recording every week and wanting to make it interesting and things like that. And I think that we don’t continually.


We don’t continually apply the methodology overtly, in the way that would be most helpful. So like, to me, it would be to me,


what not you not, I’m not saying that you don’t apply it, I’m saying that we don’t apply it in the recording.


So like you send a draft, what we should do, I think, is


just start at the top of the 624 and work our way down. But sometimes we don’t, right, sometimes we’ll pick out a passage that’s interesting to talk about, or sometimes we’ll, we’ll do other things. And so.


So we don’t apply top, like from the not top down, but like beginning to end all the time. And I think Leslie made a really good point at the end of last week’s episode is that we can find these moments, or create a structure in which to work through these moments by going through that methodology step by step and kind of create a box in which to in which to play and innovate. And so we got there, but I think that


I think we got there in a way that’s not replicable in the way that it would have been had we gone through in a structured way every time. But yeah, so so like, my thing is, that’s what I meant by more prep is that, or, you know, it might be worth it to do it live. But then I simulate, like, Oh, if if I’m listening to the podcast, and every week I come to it. And these people are like, Well, let’s start with the five genre leaves, I’m gonna get bored really fast. And so I have this tension between, like, what’s interesting for the audience, and that’s cutting through to the most interesting part versus what’s right to do in terms of the methodology. And that starting at the beginning, and then, and then we wouldn’t get to draft so fast. And we would say, okay, or maybe we would, we’d have one draft, and we would still be iterating on it. And we would say, you know, we get to the protagonist, part of the 624. And it’s clear that you’re not connecting with Randall. And instead of doing that five drops in, maybe we do it, when we first look at it, and then we get to the same place. So that’s, that’s my feeling. I don’t know.


I still I still fundamentally disagree with that. Because I think that you got, I think that you believe that there’s some sort of magical clean version of doing this. And I don’t think that exists. Like, go back to when you guys were trying to figure this out a year ago. Like it was just chaos, because you’re like, trying to figure this out as we go. And it’s like, I feel like we have figured out a lot obviously made huge progress. That was super helpful. But I think that you, I think you think there’s some sort of magical, clean version. And I don’t think that, like I don’t think that if we were not on a recording, and we like went systematically through we could have figured out five weeks ago that you weren’t, you know, like, I think that this is the right way to do it, which is like, hey, like, you know, we’ve looked at this, this is what we feel we’ve applied a little bit of the methodology that we think is the most helpful, and this is what we’re landing on. You didn’t switch to the protagonist. So go try to switch to the protagonist. So I try that and I try that and then it’s like, oh, the reason why you can’t switch to the protagonist is because you not just because you don’t technically know how to do it. You also you’re not and I don’t think we would have found that without me just being in my head against it three or four more times. So like, I think that’s the thing like that I like about the podcast, it is it is messy, and it is kind of chaotic in like


I don’t think we


I think the tools


it’s like


it’s like, there. If we’re always pushing me to the edge of what I know how to do.


There’s not going to be some magical moment where like, we’re applying the tools and methodology in such a perf or you guys are in such a perfect way. And honestly if we tried to do what you described, I would like lose my fucking mind. If like I had to like write a draft, turn it


then, and then you guys do like a full 624 analysis of the whole thing, on top of all the other shit you got to do. And so I gotta like sit here and wait for you to do that. And then we get on and we like systematically go through for all three of you can read the scene and be like, You didn’t switch to the protagonists. That’s a problem. And it’s like, you know,


I think that when we teach it, the way you teach it in the guild, doing it in a systematic way, the way you do it is the right way to teach everything. Like you, you don’t want to teach it chaotically. But I think


I don’t I mean, maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t think the goal of all of the methodology is to try to create some sort of non chaotic stuff, like, there’s never going to be a moment where like, I’m so good at writing. And you guys are so good at editing, that we won’t hate each other sometimes, or get angry or turn in shit. And we don’t know why it’s not working. And so we have to like, you have to keep sending me back to try again. Unless I’m just like pulling a,


a Jack Reacher or whoever, and I’m just writing the same book over and over, maybe we could do that. But like,


I don’t know, I like the chaos. Like, I don’t like it in the moment. But like, I like the chaos. And I like


I don’t think we would I think we would move slower, and make way less progress if we tried to do it systematically.


And, and again, this is why I don’t think the SAM is the person is, I think I’m the same. It’s me, you guys show up every week and give me what I need. That’s the only goal. And I think that is what portrays the reality to everybody. And I think that’s what people connect with. And like, I honestly don’t care if people think it’s too much, or it’s uncomfortable for them. Because they also like you say, oh, Shawn, all the time is like, show me what you’ve written. That’s world changing. And then we’ll have a conversation. But it’s like,


I don’t know. I don’t know, I just like


I don’t, I really feel strongly that there’s not a clean version of this. And what’s really nice is you have a whole new structure of tools. And like you asked me how I experience it. And it’s like, I have gotten more out of the last year than probably the previous six years, combined. Because of the the you have formalized this kind of


way of like pushing me and pushing me and pushing me in this way that so like it’s so much more like, I know what to go home and work on as opposed to when we were staying macro all the time. And then Shawn had to completely rewrite the threshing line by line to make it workable. So it was publishable.


This is, by the way, I think this is really great. Because it occurred to me that


it really goes to the first principles of what we’re talking about in The Guild and what we’re talking about teaching writing.


And so it’s about building up from the bottom up, which is incremental, sort of, hey, try this. Yeah, we’re doing well. Let’s go to the next one. Great. We’re doing well. Excellent. So that’s a build up of relationship. Right.


And yet, we can’t build up relationship until we break down a masterwork. So breaking down is looking at it from the top, and then going all the way to the bottom. That’s what the 624 does for us, right. So we start at the top of that five leaves genre clover and we slowly


step by step by step, we break that big thing down into its constituent parts.


And then we want to build up from the bottom. So in the podcast, we have these great moments of build up, where Tim goes, I totally understand that. That’s great. I’m gonna fix that. And then we have breakdowns right. So sometimes we’re building up and building up and then we have a big breakdown. Right? And that’s sort of happened last week. Right? And Leslie kind of put her finger on it and said, I don’t know that this is helpful because this


breakdown is, is traumatic, it’s chaotic. It’s, it’s distorting.


And Tim, what you said, right now was really important because what you were saying is, we can’t let the chaos out of the system.


Because the chaos is required for insights.


So the insight that we’re generating now about this podcast is that, oh, this is not about


teaching everyone in the world how to write. No, no, no, no, this is about teaching Tim how to write. And to build relationships with Tim, with build ups and breakdowns. So it’s sometimes Tim’s gonna break down. Sometimes we’re gonna break down, I’ve broken down on the podcast a lot. And then in that, but being okay with the breaking down, is what can build up the wrist make the build up even stronger. And this is exactly what our Story Grid logo looks like, right? Build up, break down, build up, break down, you can’t eliminate the breakdowns and make a full straight line to the top.


So I mean, that’s that’s a theoretic concept, but everything that we teach in the guild, is about understanding, the the buildups of enlivening complexity, and the breakdowns of over overly chaotic or overly ordered.


So when I’m too ordered, it breaks things down. When I’m too chaotic. It breaks things down. But when we’re complex, we get enlivening movement up and we build up relationship. So one of the things Leslie and I discussed discussed online is, well, it’s, you know, the four of us really have tight bonds and relationships. And we’re operating from a place where we know that we can say certain things without hurting the other person’s feelings, because we know we’re all we all are in good faith, dialogue, ghosts, right? All of us are trying to enabling each other to get better. So we’re not just here to help you, Tim. We’re here to enable each other different insights along the way. And sometimes those insights come in the middle of the process. And it’s just I I’m the first one to blurt out my insights, right? And I’m like, Well, wait a minute, that reminds me of chaos theory. And everybody’s like, can we just stick to switching out the protagonist, Shawn, instead of talking about overt covert and playspace, but I can’t help it because those are the breakdowns of the order that enable more complex understanding.


So that’s, that’s my only point build up and break down our central concepts of Story Grid writing technology. This is what we teach people how to do, how to build up relationships between avatars. And when it done a, when’s it gonna break down? And guess what you have, then? A value shift of value shift? Change? Yeah.


So let me say, I got two more things I want to say and then I want to hear, Leslie, Danielle, what do you think at this point? So the first is,


I feel like, we made a promise to the listener at the very beginning of this seven years ago, that is very important to me to keep, which is we tell the truth about this process. And I feel like if we take this process behind the curtain, it breaks that promise, if all we’re putting out is the clean videos like the crime story, genre, or whatever else.


It’s like, I think that’s why people, the people that have connected to us connect to us, because we don’t bullshit them. Because we’re like,


like, there’s so much fucking bullshit out there about the writing process that makes it sound like all you have to do is fill in these blanks, and then what it does the actual, the actual harm it does, is that, like,


there’s an actual harm that’s done, that’s worse than just it doesn’t work. Because when people say that this works, and they point to all these amazing works of art that have worked on this, and then people try it, and it doesn’t work. They feel like it’s them.


And that’s just not fair. And so like, to me,


this is hard. First of all, if I want to be a writer, this would be hard no matter what the question is, do we put it out publicly? And I feel like I would be breaking a promise. If we pull this behind the curtain and then I magically come out with a book 15 months from now or two years from now that’s fantastic or something.


So that’s one big thing.


In the other is like, the scene I wrote, based on eyewitness, my first draft was the best thing I’d ever written. Right, I did connect with that character, I didn’t do that thing of switch into the protagonist, because I couldn’t figure out how to connect to that protagonist. But I did connect with my protagonist. And you guys, were ready to just let me turn that into an entire book. Like, like, if you guys, Shawn, you know, over seven years, and then the other two of you over the last year have never come close to approving my first draft of anything. And that was because we spent all the time breaking it down, walking me through it, getting me ready. And all the work, you know, we had done previously.


And like that, that was on the other side of, you know, nine months of break down that we did do offline, what we’re trying to figure out the process. And so when I look at that, I’m just like, well, I’ll keep showing up and getting pummeled, if that’s what it takes, because that’s worth it to me. And so again, like if we want,


I don’t care if writers come into Story Grid, and they hear this podcast, and they’re like, it’s too much, and they go back to all the other bullshit artists, I’m fine with that. I want them to show up for this. And I want them to feel the pummeling. Because that’s what it takes. And it’s like, this is also the you know, it’s like, this is the downfall of as much as I love the book. And I reference it all the time. It’s like,


Stephen King’s on writing, he forgot how hard it was like, it doesn’t read the way it actually existed for him, when he was getting those rejection letters. And it’s like, in in and he did tell some of that hard stuff. But most writers when they talked about this, they’re just kind of like, oh, it was kind of magical. And oh, yeah, it was hard. And then now I’m amazing. You know, and I really think it’s just because they forget how hard it was.


It’s kind of like parenting, it’s like, if, if any, if any parents actually could remember how bad it was with their first kid, everybody would have a one child home, you know. And so it’s just like, so I want to document this, because I will forget, you know, 20 years from now, I’ll forget how hard this was. But it will stand as a reminder to myself and others how hard it actually is. So, now I’ll stop talking. Well, I’ll just follow up. And I’m going to hear what Leslie has to say. I just got one more follow up. And it’s short. So I just talked about build up and break down. You know what that builds a bond binds.


So the binding a build up and break down, makes things better or worse. And when you said, the first draft that you wrote, was the best thing you ever wrote. That’s enough for me. And the proof is in the pudding. The proof is in your deliberate practice, in your courage. And I think I think you’re right, I think the messiness of these approaches is important for people to see. So they can relate to someone who is being pummeled, because they are being pummeled. So yeah, it’s disturbing to watch, but it’s also kind of like, Oh, I’m not alone. Oh, this is the way I feel. Holy cow.


So that’s I, I agree with you, there’s no reason to sugarcoat things. And to give


a perfectly like, I think there’s a time and a place for perfect broadcast instruction. And I think, you know, the videos that we put out on the on the genres are really terrific. because it enables people to see that we’re, we know of what we speak. So this, this bottom up process of learning how to write, we didn’t really I didn’t think I needed to create this.


Because as you said, Tim, when I was in publishing in, in professional New York publishing, there were so many gates before the manuscript would ever land on my desk. That line by line writing was solid. And it only had macro problems. And that’s where the Story Grid started, was a macro diagnostic tool to fix structural problems within stories that that have solid line by line writing. But since we’ve since learned, it’s like line by line writing is really difficult to learn. So that’s how we created the guild. And that’s how we’re approaching


teaching how to write specific sentences that can bond


Am I up build up to a macro?


So I’ll stop there. But binding, break down and built build up,


brick binds people together and so does break down. Because if you can withstand the breakdown in the relationship, it fortifies the channel of relationship between two specific people or nodes or whatever. Okay?


Okay, so that was a lot.


And I’m going to there several different things I want to respond to. And I want to try to,


it’s going to be messy, so I’m just going to own that upfront.


But, but try to bear with me.


I don’t think we should hide the messiness of the process. But I do think we need to make some adjustments, so that we are following a process. Because




this is not, there is a feature list. But the feature list is not going to get you. And when I say you, I mean any writer is not going to get the writer from, from having an idea, oh, I’ve got this cool idea, to having a great story that really speaks to writers, the feature list will get you from I’ve got an idea to something that provides an experience of escape, but will not help the the reader transcend, they will not help the reader solve their problem. So it helps them escape their problems, but doesn’t do what story is fundamentally here to do, which is to transform themselves into someone who can solve that problem in their own context. So the process helps us do that, and, and following the process is really important.


So it’s not that does not mean it’s linear. It does not mean it’s tidy. But it does mean that we that it’s important that we follow the process. And it’s it’s yes, slow, it’s messy. But it’s really important. And I would say that, that draft that you’re talking about where you did so well was one where you had


it even if the whole 624 wasn’t filled out, it was pretty well fleshed out. And the parts that that you understood pretty clearly, I felt were the, you know, the Who am I talking to?


Who’s the author? Who’s the single audience member? And what’s the problem I’m trying to help them solve? So what we discovered in that was that you were solving a different problem from the pattern scene. So we wanted to pull you back in there, constrain you to that, that pattern scene because that’s what we’re, that’s what we said, we’re trying to do. We want to help you, Tim,


iterate this pattern with your own creative essence.


So we’re pulling back to the pattern. But then we, we didn’t lock in that narrative device level. So the the, the model of communication that your following. Another way to say it is, what’s the story, you’re telling yourself about the story you’re writing that enables you to communicate it in such a way that you’re, you’re sending them the signal, the message that you want to send the point you want to make to the reader, clearly without a bunch of noise in the system, because it’s


the noise will get in the way of that of that signal every time. Right? Like when I’m reading something that’s really noisy, I experience it as pain, which is why I sometimes end up talking about it like this where I’m like, sounds like a very angry because there’s a part of me that’s like, Ah, why won’t you clarify this signal? So


So I it’s not that we need to hide the process. But we do need to tighten it up a little bit, I think so that we know where we’re going and what we’re doing. So we have a target, and that we come back to it. You know, every episode. What are we doing here? Why are we doing this? What’s the what’s the step in front of us today and we


may go many different places from there. But I think if we don’t do that, then we’re going around in circles.


And so


I think that that, that will actually improve the experience for you help thing help you move along faster, but also make the experience better for the for the mass audience that is, is,


is also listening. And,


and then the thing that I want to own about this process is that


with the, with the mass audience listening, I pull my punches.


And I shouldn’t do that, because that doesn’t serve anybody. But I do do that. And so that’s the thing that I want to commit to going forward is I’m not going to pull my punches, it may be messy and uncomfortable, and for me and for everybody, but I really want to, if we’re going to do this, then we should do it. And if we’re going to do it, then I want to follow a process. Because I think that’s the most effective way that we’re going to, you know, meet the goals that we’re setting for ourselves. And that means that everybody has to be committed, and, and, and anybody can call anybody out on anything at any time.


So that’s all I have to say for now. Yeah, I wanted to add to like something that I’ve realized about what I’m saying about the process, because I also agree that the chaos is really important and that, and I feel like the process gets us to this place where we can have constructive chaos. But like, for me, I think


I think for me, personally, it’s just more chaotic than I feel like that where I do my best work. Like I don’t think that I’m bringing my best to you every week. And that’s part of the tension that I feel is that


is that I just feel like with more process, I would have more productive things to say to you. And so that is and whether that, you know, if we want to continue in the same vein, like that just means that I need to spend a lot more time offline, going through formally before and before we meet and, and getting to a place where I can


where I have that comprehensive view that I feel like I’m craving. But that’s my experience of it. It’s just it’s not that it’s


it’s not that it’s your problem. Like I feel, I feel like it’s just the setup is not enabling me to


or the way I’ve been participating in the setup, I would say is not 100%. Well, I won’t be doing any preparation


beyond reading the scene, because that’s my role, right? My role is to be the BlueZone. Right. And it’s interesting because we just sort of locked into what what we like, where we feel comfortable, which I think is important. So Leslie is in the transformational heroic journey to point ozone. She wants to enable Sam to be able to solve her problems and transform her worldviews such that she becomes a general problem solver, right? And Danielle is really about the the iteration of reduction of noise. Right? So Danielle really likes to and is very good at and makes her feel comfortable going to the words and saying


is that? Is this noisy? Is this clear? What’s the signal? What’s the point? How is this coming through? And my My thing is about


really connecting to the universal story patterns that are generalizable across all people. So all people experience build up breakdown and binding of their lives. And so what what we need to do as storytellers is to show people how build ups and break downs can occur in relationships. And yet, the binding of the people relating to one another gets strong as they get better at signaling to one another what they mean, what they want, what they need, and how they’re going about doing getting that target. So Leslie speaking of targets is very onpoint because the target that super duper super position of target is having


The ability to form relationships in and of themselves.


Because we’re not very good when we can’t bind, and have moments of breakdown with people that we care about. Because that binds us together as a unit of like minded people in good faith doing their best to enable the growth of each and every one of us. So yes, you are the focal, you are the focal person that we’re focusing on, to level up a particular skill called writing. But all of us are participating in this growth BioLogos in that we’re all having our own, you know, insights that are enabling us to get better at doing this thing called storytelling. So


it’s messy. Yeah, sure. But I do think that your idea, Tim, that the necessity of people witnessing for people in good faith, doing their best with care, and a dedication to find more truth, and to create a beautiful expression of that care and truth in a work of art called a story


is important, because it’s not a magical process, it requires a lot of break down and build up and binding


with yourself, while you’re creating. And so you got to stick to it. You gotta know that pain, as Lesley says, is gonna come because you’re gonna write noisy stuff. And it’s gonna hurt when you recognize the noise. But guess what, we’re going to teach you how to recognize the noise, so that you can


tone it down and get the signal higher. So




I agree about sort of laying out the target. The current target goal state for each podcast episode is x. So we could start each podcast in the future with, Hey, here’s where we are. The last episode, our target was this. And unfortunately, Tim did not hit the target. So now we’re going to explore how to enable him to hit that target better this time.


So what’s the target? The target is for Tim, to have a clear signal that Randall is the most important person in this story.


And unfortunately, that’s not quite clear yet, because we still feel like the detectives, the most important. And we tried to solve that problem using technical green stuff. And we did it but it still didn’t work. So now we went up to the red level. And now we’re seeing well, how is Randall processing the information of his life? Maybe that’ll help. And that’s where we got to this point where, oh, so So Randall has cognitive dissonance, meaning his actions are not in concert with the way he thinks about the world. So he’s got a secret inside his mind, that is getting so painful, he must release it through his actions. So he’s no longer having a performative contradiction. And all that means is you do one thing and you think another. Nobody feels very good when that happens. Because you’re constantly trying to get your your actions to mirror your thinking, you want your mind and your body to be in tune. So that you can overtly move through the world and attain the goal states that you wish, without having a lot of noise in your head saying, that’s not really your goal. State. Be careful. Don’t do that. No, no, no. Right. So that’s sort of where we got to, and from what I understand, you haven’t figured that out yet. That’s okay. Because it takes a while to get to figure that out. What’s the cognitive dissonance because then you’ve got to find, you’ve got to map your own cognitive dissonance dissonance from your past, and give it to Randall. And it takes a while to find that perfect little piece of cognitive dissonance, because the secrets that we all have in our minds, we like to keep them that way.


And so the great thing about storytelling is you can give away your secret through an avatar.


Right? And so it’s nobody will say this is Tim gross problem. They’re gonna say, Wow, Tim created that avatar who has that really weird secret? Wow. How did he do that? Well,


yeah, we all know that we are all keeping sort of our own secrets. So that’s why storytelling


As a process itself is a process of self revelation as much as it is self expression. You have to do self revelation before you can do self expression. And that’s the wall we’re hitting.


So I think the target goal of the previous couple of episodes was for you to nail Randall as the protagonist, and you haven’t done it yet. Until you do, you’re going to be in lock, you’re going to be locked. And so what we’re trying to do is give you a transparency to opacity shift, so that your framing of Randall is not in it. Your framing of Randall is now a vow. And you can map your roundness on to Randall. So instead of seeing Randall as a tool to generate a story, that’s awesome. Now you’re seeing Randall as a as a human being, who has to release some terrible information that he has in his mind? And how, how much how far will he go? How much personal sacrifice will he make? In order to release that or Willie? Hold it? That’s the big question.


So I hope that that sort of puts a a perimeter around our target goal and where we stand in this project right now. And it’s also a means by which we can solve the riddle of how to iterate the ED McBain masterwork pattern of a beautiful story called I witness.


Now, the witnessing function is a very important thing that we all have. And this story is about that very thing. So


where I’m coming down is, let’s proceed. And let’s take Danielle and Leslie’s advice here and make it more deliberate. And discuss IV about and frame at the beginning of each podcast, and end each podcast with Well, our goal state was this, we got a little closer to it at the end, or you know what we leaked a little bit, and we broke down on our goal state, we need to get back on track. And each week, as long as we have this framing device, I think will will be more helpful to you, most importantly,


and to the broader mass audience, too. So if anybody has anything else to add there, I invite them to bring it but I hope I somehow synthesized what what might be at play here. And if I didn’t please correct me. Well, I would like I think you did. But I would like to bring it home a little bit more to make sure there’s not something I can be doing. So Leslie and Danielle, when you’re saying you’d like a little bit more process, first of all, I I agree with you. So I, I, I do agree with you. And I can see that. And I can also see how that would be more helpful for me too.


So because it is it is like


yeah, I treat the podcast very selfishly. And I think I don’t think that will change. So I always am filtering it through what this means for me. So. So I would like to hear like do I need to like


get you lysine earlier, so that you will,


you will have time to look at it. Do I need to when I write the scene, I need to make sure it when I turn it in, I turned it in with filled out 624


Or like, you know, or you’ll assign me section or like, so let’s say I, I want to I want to iterate this


you know, what would be the most helpful to you so that when you show up when we show up to do our editing session that just happens to get recorded and put out on the internet would enable you to be the best version, the type of you know, show up the way you want to show up right now. I feel like what I’m hearing is the way we’re running this you guys aren’t able to show up the way you want to show up and for Shawn and I it’s always been so off the cuff or like there. Again, this was you know, before you guys were on the podcast, I would literally like sometimes send him a scene like 30 minutes before we are recording because I knew he just needed to like read it really quick and then he was ready. And so


and so like what do you need for me so that you guys can show up the way that you want to show up?


I think getting having a standard time and a little more time


to review the scene would be helpful. I


thing that.


Also, where, you know, that’s just as a general rule, but but then and then I want to have a 624. That


that is the, the, the,


the model that we’re using for the story, and that you update it


as needed as we go. So we have one document with that. And then we have one document, that is the scene, and you’re always making changes to that document. Since it’s a Google Doc, we can keep all of the old iterations. So or you can make a copy if you want to keep those iterations, but working in one document, and then and having having those be the central place we go.


So we can keep track of where we’re at and where we’ve been, where we are in the process. I think those would be some really useful, useful first steps. I agree 100%, especially with the model 624, because, and I’m really glad you brought that up, because


my experience being at the green level, is that I can see when things aren’t working. But


my advice on how to


how to or whether to change the theme depends on the target. And that depends on the blue and red levels of the 624. So to do my job effectively, I need to know what we’re trying to do. And I think that’s what’s been missing for me is so like last week, right?


We talked about, well, the protagonist still doesn’t feel right. And we talked a couple of weeks in a row about well, this is how you do it mechanically, right? This is how you do it. And last week,


I was like, it doesn’t make sense to talk about the green level, because your problem is in the scene that you don’t like the protagonist enough, like you haven’t found your way to the protagonist. So we need to focus at that red level. And I think that’s what I mean by


you know, figuring out each time what level we need to focus on, because it’s not always the green, I don’t always have I mean, I can play the role of talking about the red, of course, or the blue or whatever. But, but the green stuff doesn’t always have a role in the podcast, that sometimes we need to be working at that higher level and not not trying to execute stuff. So if I’m preparing,


sometimes I’ll be if we don’t have that model, I would be working at cross purposes, I think because I would have to make assumptions about what we’re trying to accomplish with the scene. And then that might not be part of the overall vision using the other two levels. So that’s the most important thing for me is just knowing, knowing that target so that I can help you execute effectively, at that green level, we can start there, as you were talking, it started to feel like maybe, and this is where like


I’m trying to decide the best way to go about this. Because as you were talking, it starts to feel like you know what, I should turn this in, you guys should look at it, you guys should talk and figure out where’s he missing the mark. And then when we record again, like if you if you were like my editor, or again, there’s no podcasts, it’s just this, you guys would probably look at it. And then somehow between the three of you be like, This is what he needs to work on. And then when you present it to me, it would be less of you guys kind of feeling around in the dark to figure out what I should be working on. And we’re just delivering directly to me. This is where you’re missing it.


And so this is where


you, you know, I don’t know, maybe it should be every other week. Maybe it should, you know, because I’m thinking like, I feel pretty comfortable that I could turn around most things most weeks within like two days.


You know, like turn it in if we recorded Friday morning turned in by Monday morning. But then does that give everybody enough time? With everything else that you’re doing? Can I just


I think what you just came up with there between Lesley and Danielle is something that I think will be useful in a generalized way. What do I mean by that? What we need is a spec sheet.


And the spec sheet is the 624 It’s sort of a


But it’s like the full cap, you know, page for an entire novel. But it’s very specific to a scene.


So the full cap is extraordinarily valuable to a global editorial process. We’re talking about an editorial process about a single unit of story called a scene, or short story. Okay?


So having the 624. And we all it’s almost like,


you know, when you go to college, and you got to sign that paper that says, you read the handbook, and you will abide by the spec sheet of the handbook, and very, you know, so it’s sort of like, you’ve got to sign off on the spec sheet. So as long as everybody has signed off on the spec sheet, then you can do comparison measurements, right, that are generalizable. And if you have three people comparing and contrasting the story against the spec sheet, then the three people can order the hierarchy of problems.


Right. So as Danielle was saying, hey, it’s a green problem, but not really. Because it’s not a green problem, because he’s not following the spec. He keeps changing the spec. And I don’t know what the spec is anymore. I’m confused.


Right. And this happened when you delivered a scene that was really interesting and workable, but it did not follow the spec at all.


And we didn’t want to beat you up about not following the spec, because you wrote a really good seeking.


And so we didn’t want to like bludgeon you and say, Tim, you’re not following spec dammit. So then you said, Hey, I’m not very happy that you guys didn’t bludgeon me for not following spec. I want to follow us back. So now we went back to it. And now you’re not following it again.


Right. So now we need the spec sheet. And I can foresee in the future. And you guys already do this in the guild, right? So you establish the spec first. When you go through your scenes, you walk it through in minut detail. And you establish the spec of the scene. And then you say, Okay, here’s the spec, folks, go iterate based upon this spec. And Leslie and Danielle have signed off on the spec.


And therefore it’s really solid. And then they can compare and contrast what they did versus the spec. So this is a very long winded say, thing that I could foresee in the future having a and I know that Leslie’s he’s working on something like this, a workbook that has, here’s the here are the questions that you have to answer to get your spec down. Here’s the final spec, go iterate now compare and contrast. And now we’re going to do a hierarchy of problems. don’t solve green problems, if you got a massive blue problem. If you have no genre, you’re toast, right? Because the genre is going to tell you the global value, right? If you don’t have a red zone, your toast at the green level.


So you want to lock your blue, make sure it’s coherent with the red narrative device point of view, right? Then go down to the green. And then if your green isn’t working very well, then you say to yourself, Oh, I’ve got to go back up here. So that will tell me how to valence the language at the green.


But if you have no blue and red, you can do all the green work you want. But you’re never going to get from here to there. Because you don’t have your target value set.


You gotta lock your target, you gotta lock your target, because you need a spec to judge whether you’re getting closer or further away from your target.


So I think this was really, really important because it establishes a better methodology or a better process. And we’re all we’re doing is taking Story Grid 1.0 global macro stuff, and we’re applying it to the nuts and bolts of seeing construction. And we changed full SCAP to something we call a 624. So we’re not we’re not changing Story Grid method methodology on the fly. We are rejiggering


yet, so that it can become a recursive operation across all levels of story. And we take this all the way down to the beat level in the concepts of build up, break down, binding, build up, break down binding, right.


So this is very, very good, because


what you’re establishing is a spec sheet for a scene, you lock the spec sheet, and then you iterate. And you try to get as close to the target of the spec sheet, which is located at the top


in each iteration, now what you can do is between Danielle Lesley and I, we can do that hierarchy of problems.


So we tried to solve a green problem, because we assumed you knew the target value, and then you switch the target value on us.


Right? Because the target value is


you know, what’s, what’s the ED McBain thing.


Justice, whatever justice is serve, when


forget, the thing about not revealing.


the better part of our justice is serve when discretion is the better part of valid, that is the target value, you are not going for that target value, you are going for a different target value that’s about i it i thou relationships, which is a it’s a moral or worldview, target value. So we need to lock you down in discretion is the better part of value about valor, you got to iterate that we don’t want to hear about how bad it is for certain members of society. We went off the rails there because we changed the target value. That’s why there’s noise in our system. And both Lesley and Danielle are like we lost the thread here what’s going on. And the problem is you changed. discretion is the better part of our


and we need to get back to that. Thanks for listening to this episode of The Story Grid Podcast. For everything Story Grid related, you can check out story grid.com. If you want to check out the transcript for this episode, any downloads for this episode or any past episodes, you can go to story grid.com/podcast As I mentioned in the beginning, we’ve opened up registration for the new semester of the Story Grid Guild, and you can see all the information about that at story grid.com/guild. Along with that, make sure you check out all of our books is story grid.com/books And we’re putting out daily videos on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, all of those places. So make sure you look for Story Grid and follow us there. And lastly, if you want to support the show, you can do that by telling another author about the show and by leaving a rating and review on Apple podcast. But thanks so much for being a part of the podcast and we will see you next week.


The Book

Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.

First Time Writer

Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.


Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.