How to Edit a Manuscript: Part 4 – Story Grid Intensive

In part 1 of the How to Edit a Manuscript series, we introduced you to the way Story Grid approaches editing a manuscript and gave you the first three steps in the editing process. In part 2, we showed you how to assign a Competency Grade to a manuscript. In part 3, we covered the Story Grid Diagnostic, the foundational analysis process for manuscripts.

If the manuscript is at Level One, Two, or Three, the editor will stop at the end of the Diagnostic. Continuing to analyze a manuscript that isn’t close to working will not provide helpful feedback for the writer.

The best service an editor can provide at that point is provide a clear path to develop the storytelling skills the writer needs. This may mean ongoing Development Editing through regular calls with the writer or encouraging the writer to join the Story Grid Guild where writers learn storytelling from the ground up. This should always include masterwork study.

If the manuscript is at Level 4 or 5, the editor can offer a Story Grid Intensive analysis of the manuscript to uncover subtle problems in the scenes and global story.

How to Edit a Manuscript: Part 4 - Story Grid Intensive

How to Complete a Story Grid Intensive Analysis

Since the manuscript is working at a certain level, it’s worth the additional time to analyze the manuscript to see where the writer can raise the manuscript to a Level 5 or beyond.

After the editor has had the Diagnostic call, sent the deliverables, and given the homework through the next step, the editor will let the writer know that they’ll be working through the Intensive editing work while the writer takes a break and studies the suggested masterworks of their genre.

The Diagnostic call needs to happen before deep analysis of all the scenes. This way the editor will have a clear idea about the writer’s goals and align the advice with the global genre intention.

Level 4 manuscript problems are global concerns, and the editor needs to know what the writer wants before they put in the intense work that comes next.

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1. Complete the Story Grid Scene Spreadsheet for all scenes

This is difficult and meticulous work. Don’t try to do it in one day. Do five to eight scenes a day and then move to a different task or project. This work is exhausting, and while it doesn’t require too much deep thought (except, of course, identifying the story event and value shift), the back and forth between easy meticulous work and deep thinking will take its toll.

The editor works through columns using the progression outlined in part 6 of The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know. It breaks the big job of completing the scene spreadsheet into manageable steps. 

After the spreadsheet is completed, the editor reviews the final product to perform the vertical analysis of the spreadsheet. When we add story data to the spreadsheet, we move horizontally, scene by scene. Looking at the columns, we see how each element, for example the point of view, changes over the course of the story.  

2. Review the Foolscap generated by the scene spreadsheet template.

With the scene-by-scene spreadsheet work fresh in your mind, the editor will be able to sort through the story to get down to its core parts, the four QUADRANTS

This is also the time to consider how well the CONVENTIONS and OBLIGATORY MOMENTS. The editor will make notes in the spreadsheet to tell the writer which of the scenes in the book are fulfilling the functions of these content genre must-haves. These entries will automatically generate the Foolscap, which the editor can revise with specifics and note anything that is missing or needs to be adjusted.

3. Check the stages and archetypes of the Heroic Journey 2.0.

This Heroic Journey 2.0 check is primary to the reader’s ability to empathize and relate to the protagonist. If one or more of the 20 stages or the archetypes are not easily identifiable, the editor should make a note and be sure to have the writer address the problem.

4. Check the Value Shifts for the 20 Skeletal Scenes.

The 20 Skeletal Scenes are the scenes that make up the FIVE COMMANDMENTS OF STORYTELLING for each of the four quadrants. Each scene must turn on the CORE VALUE prescribed by the global genre.

If one or more of these scenes is not, the editor will make a note and ask the writer to revise the manuscript.

5. Set up four calls with the writer.

After the work of the Intensive has been completed, the editor will send the writer all the materials created throughout the Story Grid Intensive analysis. Then they will begin the four-call developmental editing process. This may will take four or more weeks depending on how much time the writer can devote to revision, but it’s important to maintain momentum as writer and editor move through this process.

Call #1

In the first call, the editor will focus on the global analysis using the Foolscap and Heroic Journey 2.0 to explain where the writer went off track. The editor will start with major problems that can be fixed relatively easily (for example, missing Heroic Journey 2.0 components or 20 Skeletal Scene inconsistencies).

During all of the Intensive calls, the editor will use the masterworks as examples to explain problems they’ve found in the scene-by-scene and Foolscap global work. Grounding the advice by using masterworks as examples is crucial to get buy-in from the writer.

Once they writer understands the global problems, the focus will turn to the first quadrant or beginning hook. After the call, the writer will address any problems in the opening scenes of the story and anything problematic in the first quadrant.

The writer should send the editor revision work for the second call based on this first discussion.

Call #2

The writer will have had a week or so to review the materials (depending on the schedule the writer and editor decide on) and will have sent some ideas for revisions to the first quadrant before the call.

The editor will begin the call by talking through the revisions and how the the first quadrant should resolve and transition into the second quadrant or middle build up.

The second half of this call should be about the second quadrant and its progression from the ordinary world to the extraordinary world to the point of no return or midpoint climax.

If the writer discovers something cool to add to or change the first quadrant that works, the editor will help to think about the best ways to set up and integrate that new idea into the other quadrants.

Call #3

The editor will begin the call by covering any homework assigned to the writer from the second call. If the writer revised scenes in the second quadrant, they will talk through how these have evolved.

The rest of the call should be devoted to third quadrant or the middle break-down, especially the setup and execution of the all-is-lost moment, which will force the protagonist to make a choice that will push the story into the fourth quadrant or ending payoff.

This is the very difficult work that needs to be surprising and believable. The editor is here to spitball with the writer and help them come up with their own innovative solutions. The editor will provide inspiration by talking about how other writers have handled these problems and offering several examples as possibilities for the writer. 

Call #4: Final call of the Intensive

This call will be all about the fourth quadrant of the book. Again, by using the masterworks as inspiration, the editor will help the writer deliver the ending in a way that makes the most sense while also being very surprising. The end of all stories must be surprising, but upon reflection, inevitable based on everything that has come before.

What’s Next?

At this point in the work, all the global problems with the story should have been addressed. The writer will need to review the story again and make changes to the story to ensure everything is working together correctly.

Once the Story Grid Intensive has been completed, it’s time to move to the Story Grid Extensive. This will ensure all the problems from macro to micro are found and fixed.

We will go through the Story Grid Extensive in the fifth and final part of this series tomorrow.

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