What Does Shawn Think?

[0:00:00.5] TG: Hello and welcome to the Story Grid Podcast. This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better writer. I’m your host, Tim Grahl and I am a struggling writer trying to figure out how to tell a story that works. Joining me shortly is Shawn Coyne, he is the creator of Story Grid, the author of the book the Story Grid and an editor with over 25 years’ experience.

Now for those of you that have been around for a while and been listening to all the episodes of Story Grid, you know whenever I turn in some writing to Shawn, it’s a little iffy on what the feedback is going to be. I had sent Shawn my manuscript, and now he’s gotten the chance to read it and we get his feedback in what we’re going to do next.

Let’s jump in and get started.


[0:00:00.5] TG: Shawn, I think a lot of this episode maybe in your court, because I sent you the manuscript last week before we recorded, so you hadn’t gotten a chance to look at it. Then you sent me back your rework of the first 3,000 words. Overall, now that you’ve – well one is, I’m wondering how much you’ve read of the manuscript, because it’s only been a week. Then how you feel about it so far.

[0:01:16.4] SC: Yeah, I’ve read the whole thing and I think it’s – we’ve got all the materials that we need to create a really great book, I think. What I love about the material is that it’s extremely personal and it goes to my theory that, and I’m not the only one who shares this theory that with specificity comes universality. Telling your story without pulling out all of those tools that you initially wanted to just put, string together in a – almost like a spiral binder for people, I think are going to make the tools land better and stick in somebody’s head.

It’s like when Malcolm Gladwell talks about stickiness in The Tipping Point, that’s what he’s talking about. Stickiness being a thing that the reader immediately references when they hear a particular concept. The way to create stickiness is to set really amazing scenes, so that the imagery of the scene with the tool becomes indelible to the reader, then they’re able to recall the thing, right?

It’s like that story I talk about during 9/11, one of the women in the tower, the second she heard that they’re in distress, she immediately picked up her coat, got her purse and left the building. Pretty much everybody else in her company stayed put, because she was an anomaly, because she acted without really having a lot of information, while the other people in her company tragically didn’t have a story to tell themselves that would make them leave. Anyone facing that horrible situation now will know immediately, “I need to leave the building as soon as possible, because we’re not sure what’s going to happen next.”

That story is something that anybody who is familiar with that story now knows that’s an operating procedure for them in moments of chaotic mayhem. What I need to do is to effectively leave the premises without panicking, but quietly and effectively getting out of the building.

That’s what a story can do, it can immediately click in a reader’s mind when they face something similar. For example, in your book you talk about very, very heroine moments that we all face and all have faced something similar in our own lives. The fact that you reveal that there was a moment when your wife went to the grocery store and a had full basket of groceries, had checked out all of the groceries, handed over the credit card and it was rejected, because you didn’t feel you didn’t pay your bill.

That’s a moment of great, great distress to anyone. Having that in the book, if you just didn’t want to put that in the book, nobody would remember what the tool is associated with that book. The tool associated with that book is a very important one, which is as I recall it’s something like you need to take responsibility for the time that you spent, every moment of your day is a choice.

What you need to do is to track your choices and start making conscious decisions about what you spend your time doing. Then things like that won’t happen to you. Which is great. It’s a cautionary tale with prescriptive underpinning.

Anyway, the story, the way it is presented now for me is like, this is where an editor with a lot of experience who knows what they want to do and has a vision, which is a lot of things, if you are lucky enough to work with somebody like that, then when you hand them this raw gold – this is like gold bullion as far as I’m concerned, because what I can do is I can literally start from the beginning of this stuff and slice and dice it and Veg-O-Matic it and add additional context and layers into it that will make it even more effective. Because if we just take a very large step backward and ask ourselves the fundamental Story Grid question, what’s the genre of this book? What’s the genre, Tim?

[0:05:55.1] TG: It’s a big idea, non-fiction work.

[0:05:57.6] SC: Okay, great. We know that. What do you need in the big idea? You need ethos, logos and pathos. All right, the ethos is your bonafides. Why should we read Tim Grahl’s book about how to organize your life so that you can reach your goals? Well, you’re a marketing guy, you’re an expert in book marketing and you’ve already written a book about book marketing that has been very successful.

Check, we’ve got the ethos taken care of. The logos is the logical elements within the book that makes sense. Now, I’m going to get back to logos in a second, but the logical elements you have in the book are very strong right now, because these are all tools that you have used yourself personally to change your life from one thing into another.

All right, so the third thing is pathos. Pathos is another word for dramatic storytelling. A big idea book needs all three of those things inside of it. The big problem that we were having for the past year or so, you were reluctant to create the pathos in the story. I could’ve said to you a year ago, “Hey, Tim you need to do – you put some pathos in here.” You would go, “What? What are you talking about?”

Then I could say, “Well, you need to tell a story.” Then you’d go, “Oh, okay.” Then you tell a story that’s too generic. It was sort of okay, it was something people can relate to, but seemed sort of also someone who’s withholding a lot of information. Not that you were doing it to trick anyone. What  we discovered is that you were withholding the information to protect yourself and you realized after some time, you know what, this isn’t really protecting me. In fact, if I can actually dump all these stuff on the page and share it for the rest of the world, I might even kick it out of my bad part of my brain and it will cease to be a big deal to me anymore. In fact, I could probably laugh about it

[0:08:17.1] TG: I’m not quite there yet. But yes.

[0:08:20.6] SC: Well, you’ll get there. You will totally get there, because – what funny people do is they tell the truth. It’s funny when you think about it, “Oh, my gosh.” I mean, I bet you and Candice can laugh about it now to a certain degree. Remember that time that I went into the grocery Tim? You go, “Oh, my God. Yeah, that was crazy.” That’ what we’ve been doing over the last year is in my mind is your developmental editor as I’m developing you as a big idea book writer.

I’m thinking, “Okay, how do I move Tim from having the ethos firmly established –” when you have an ethos firmly established, meaning you have “a brand, or reputation,” in which you have an audience prepared to buy what you have to sell them. Okay, that’s a great big fat temptation. Steven, I talk about this temptation in our weekly business calls a lot, because you have to make choices.

When you have the ethos and the “brand” of I’m an expert in a particular field – okay, so that’s number one. Inside of you, you’re like, “I’m not exploiting my brand enough. I am not creating enough value in order to put more money into my banking account.” There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not saying there is, but when you go short-term thinking and say, “I know what I’ll do, I’ll bang out a book. I’ll bang out a book, 50 tools to get you what you want. Bang, I’m done. I’ll just have a list of it will be like maybe a 100-page book and there will be 50 tools in there. Each tool will be a page, page and a half, people will really appreciate that, because the toolbox will just be in front of them and they’ll buy it.”

Guess what? That is absolutely valid. I think people would buy that, but they might just buy it and not read it. They might buy it and say, “Oh, this is a good reference book that I’ll put on my shelf, and when I really want to go get my dreams, that’s the book I’ll go to.” Guess what? They end up never reading it, they don’t talk about it to their friends, you end up selling 9,000 copies, 11,000 copies and then it slowly dies. One day, five years later you’ll look at your Kindle account and you’ll say, “Gee, why am I not selling any more of those Kindle editions of my 50 tools to get you what you want? I don’t know. Well, anyway I’ll move on to something else.”

That’s not a big idea book. That’s called exploiting your ethos in a prescriptive self-help, quick here it is situation. I’m not saying that people who do that are bad people. What am I saying is that they are solving a short-term solution to getting some cash flow. I’m not saying either that the tools that they’re providing aren’t good. I’m just saying, that’s not what you wanted – it’s a different book. It’s a different book with a different goal.

At the very start, that’s what you were talking about writing. For better, for worse, I convinced you not to write that book. Because for me, yeah I mean, just personally for me as an editor, I’m not interested in working on a book like that. You don’t need Shawn Coyne to write that book. You really don’t. That’s not really interesting to me. It wouldn’t have been interesting to me as a publisher, because I’m a publisher of Black Irish books, Steve is the editor-in-chief.

Basically, that means that we’re both partners and we just have these silly titles, but any decision that we make in Black Irish books, both Steve and I have to improve it. Steve doesn’t ‘want to do something and I do, we don’t do it. If Steve wants to do it and I don’t want to, we don’t do it. We both have to agree.

I was not going to call Steve and say, “Hey, Steve. Tim Grahl has this book; very, very solid book, self-help, it’s prescriptive how to, we can bang this thing out and make a few bucks on it, but it’s probably not going to backlist. This isn’t a book that you’re going to tell your friends to read. He would say, “Do we really want to do that? Because we only have so many hours left.” I mean, I’m not trying to be morbid, but it really does come down to do I want to – because I’m going to have to do – I would’ve had to do all of the marketing and cover and all that stuff that we’ve been talking about on the side. I’d have to do that for that book too.

When you don’t really have an emotional investment in the title, you can do a good job, and it can even become a bestseller, but it doesn’t really make your life all that different from what it was before. Once you reach a place in your career where you’ve done that book, you’ve done and probably published and been a part of over for 100 books, probably more than that in my career.

Once you’re at the batter’s box 400 times and you know your batting average, it’s more interesting to wait to the fast ball over the middle, so I can try and hit a home run. I’m not interested – I love singles and doubles. That’s great and I hate striking out, but I want to hit some home runs.

I’m now at the point where I’m teeing up for home runs, because why not? How many more plate appearances am I going to get? My point is that I think the raw material that you’ve given me is it’s similar to the raw material that Steve gave me 20 years ago when we created the War of Art. It was Steve’s thing. It was very similar to yours in that it was lot of story about Steve with a lot of really fascinating stuff inside of it. Now, when you deliver that, then I started thinking to myself, “Okay, how am I going to sell this piece of shit?”

[0:15:10.5] TG: You just said it was a home run.

[0:15:12.0] SC: I know. No, no, no. It’s not a home run yet, dude. I’m now stepping up to the plate. When I say, “How do I sell this piece of shit?” All it means is how do I look at this from the point of view of a reading experience? What is the best way that we can present this material and add to it and subtract from it, organize it in a way that we’ll have a very straightforward and addictive quality to it?

How can we get people to start reading this thing and just before they know it, read the whole thing? The stories that you tell in this are the way to do that, but we need to have a surgeon’s touch about sort of stringing them along and giving them little bits and pieces and moving them forward through design and sensibility and structure.

Another thing that a publisher or an editor has to understand is don’t try and come up with a brand new system if you’ve already created a system that has worked before. When you sent this material, I said to myself, “Okay, this is a really nice through-line story. How do I break it up into bits that will make the reader want to keep reading it?”

In addition to that, how can I add supportive material to the toolbox that’s Tim is describing here, so that people just won’t say, “Oh, that won’t work for me. I don’t think that’s true. This is just one guy’s opinion. Who cares? Blah. This guy seems pathetic. This is weird. I don’t get it. This won’t work for me. I don’t have a check for my parents. Nothing ever worked out right for me. This guy is –” on and on and on.

Now, one of the things that we often do when we start thinking about those reactions is to start trying to hedge our bets. When I first started editing this, I kept poking in paragraphs and saying, “Now for all of you out there who don’t have parents who sent you a check, this book still has – the point is that it might not be a check, it could be the fact that your brother said you can say in his garage.

Then I realized, no. If they can’t make the leap from understanding that everyone has a check in some manner, shape or form, that they can use to get them out of trouble, then sorry, they’re not the right audience for it. Anyone who’s turned off by that, we have to say sayonara, God bless, we get it, you don’t buy into this, that’s perfect fine, this book is not for you. If you complain enough, we’ll give you your money back.

That’s what you don’t want to end up doing, because then you start trying to anticipate arguments against what you are writing and dumping your counter-argument into a narrative that should just be left alone.

[0:18:32.0] TG: Yeah. I’ve learned that long ago. It’s that idea that nobody will love you, unless there is people that hate you. If nobody reads this book and absolutely hates it, that means there will be nobody that reads it and absolutely loves it. If I shoot for the middle, the most I’ll get it is somebody that thinks, “Oh, that was nice.” I definitely don’t want to rub off the edges.

[0:18:53.1] SC: Okay. Back to the structure of what I’m trying to get across here is that as – now that I put on my editor hat, I’m thinking – and publisher hat, I’m thinking, “Okay, so what are the givens here?” Well, the givens are that Steve and I decided to publish this book. Great, the Black Irish boxing glove is going to be on the spine. Does that mean anything?

Whether or not it means anything to anybody else doesn’t really matter to me. What does the boxing glove to me, Shawn Coyne, co-founder of the publishing company? Okay, well what it means is this is a publishing company devoted to really helping people raise the courage to pursue the things within them that will give them the most meaning.

What is the thing that started Black Irish? That was the War of Art. The War of Art was a really fun creation that Steve and I – Steve mostly put together 20 years ago. What was the really defining characteristic of The War of Art that was interesting to a brand new audience of people? Well, it was the very, very short succinct chapter breaks in the book.

Now some people hate that and some people complain about it. I don’t care. Those aren’t who are going to like Black Irish books. Again, I say fairly well. For me, I love that format. I absolutely adore it. The reason why I do is because it’s like having a really nice conversation with somebody and you take pauses, and so when you read these short snippets of story, or explanation, you can actually as you’re turning the page, they actually sink in a little bit into your consciousness.

You’re not required to hold 95 paragraphs in your head to understand the 96th and how it turns based upon the first paragraph, you’re just required to really give up to 2,000 words a very intense read-to. That was a terrible sentence, but I think you know what I mean.

What I said to myself is, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could turn Tim’s project and adapt it so that it has the feel of a Black Irish book? That it has the feel of something like The War of Art?” I like that. I think that’s a really good idea. I think it will make your story even more effective if I could somehow make that work. What I did, what I sent to you a couple days ago was the first 3,000 words of the book.

The way that I approached that putting together was how can I make this a lot like The War of Art? How can I make it feel like, “Oh, this is familiar. It’s completely different, but familiar. It’s uniquely familiar.” That’s one of my favorite phrases. Anybody who’s read The War of Art, if they start reading your book, they’re going to have a feeling of uniquely familiar. This is a format that I love. Isn’t this interesting?

My problem was is that you wrote a story. You didn’t write, sort of as Steve writes, which are global axiomatic ideas as your chapter headings, and then supportive material underneath. You wrote a story. What I try to do –

[0:22:43.8] TG: Well, that’s what you told me to do.

[0:22:45.4] SC: That’s right. What’s great is now I had to say, “Is it possible to take a story and make it have that kind of resonance that Steve puts in The War of Art?” I don’t know if it works yet, but that’s why you saw what I sent you. Does that make sense?

[0:23:06.5] TG: Yeah, I love the way it read. When I first opened the file and just scrolled down, I’ve read all the Black Irish books, so I know the format and then I started reading it and I really liked how you did that, so I’m happy with that for sure.

[0:23:22.9] SC: Okay, good. As everyone knows, the beginning of The War of Art is really about setting the scene, acclimating the reader into the world in which they’re going to explore. The first I think nine or so chapters of your book, what I did is I broke up your beginning hook, introduction into these nine little bite-sized pieces of story that move from one to the other in a way that I think is very fluid. It’s the thing that I’m hoping once people start reading it, they’ll just keep turning the pages.

That brings me to the next point is, okay now that we have a global concept for the structural life of the book, we’ll have these really interesting hooky sentences from your actual story at the top of each page followed by anywhere from a 100 to 2,000 words, then the next thing is how can we divide the book up into movements? If these were a symphony, what’s the first movement of the book? What’s the second movement of the book and what’s the third movement of the book?

The first part, I think is, okay you faced the reality of your situation. You’re basically in a car crash. You’re in a psychic car crash. You’ve been thrown in to the abyss of sorts. The first section of this book is about – okay, the very first thing you have to do to get your dream is to crawl from the wreckage. This is how you’re going to get out of the car that’s just crashed. That’s why after we did this introductory thing, then I put in, “Book 1.”

Then I again, I took a page from The War of Art and also from one of those Roman Stoics, I put the chapter, the book one title is First Principles. The First Principles are those things that we start with and build from. They’re the foundational ideas from which we build methodologies.

For the Story Grid, the first principle is stories have structures. That’s the first principle, right? Stories are not random. That’s my first principle that I started with. The first principles that you want to start with are at the beginning of your book, which are the tools for you to use to really just stop the bleeding, just get things under control just for now. It’s not about anything bigger than that.

We can’t solve the big problems until we tie off the tourniquets, just settle down. Let’s just settle the shit down. That’s book one. I haven’t moved really much further past that. I’m doing a little bit each morning, but that’s generally my thought pattern. The question I have for you is I’m trying to think of the other two books. The things that come to my mind are book two would be hitting the wall. That’s also thematic for running.

When the marathoner hits the wall, it’s when they have an all is lost moment. “Maybe I’m just not good enough.” I do know in your story, there is that moment in the book. Then the third book would be, “Is that all there is?” Obviously, I love song titles. The wall would be Pink Floyd, and is that all there is would be [inaudible 0:27:19.0] which would be book three?

Then in that global sense, we have three books, like War of Art. We have first principles, we have whatever I – the second book chapter heading would be, and then the third book. Thematically it goes from stopping the bleeding to realizing you’re not that good yet. Then the third is, “Wow, that’s disappointing. I just went through all this hell and I’m not really all that happy. What’s up with that?” That pushes us into the ending payoff of your book, which I think is a really nice thing. That’s when your big idea really comes into its own.

What I love about your book is that traditionally, you tell the reader what you’re going to tell them, you tell them and then you tell them what you told them. Now what you’re doing is you’re luring them in with a candy that says, “I’m going to make your dreams come true.” Then you pay it off with the actual big idea. The big idea I think is transformational for people.

When you understand that life is a series of projects that engage you and bring you meaning, then it’s almost strange that whether or not the project is successful or not isn’t really all that important. It’s a great payoff to your story, because it’s almost counter-intuitive to your brand. Your Tim Grahl brand is I’ll teach you how to sell more books now. You’re almost like a carnival barker in a way.

I’m not ridiculing it. That’s a very powerful thing you can do. Not realizing your power, stating your power is just stupid. You can tell people how to sell more books. There you go. Great. What I love about it, this book is like, “Yeah, he can tell you how to sell more books,” but really, whether you – when you do, you’re going to really need this book.

Generally, that’s my overall editorial vision for the book. Just to show the levels of analysis, it’s in keeping with the Black Irish sensibility that Steve and I are really, really committed to maintaining, often at great emotional and financial cost. It’s that important to us. Dollars come and go, but once you tart up your vision to get a couple of bucks, it’s over at that point.

The one thing we always said to each other is let’s patrol each other and make sure that we don’t tart up what we both want in the end. That’s a really good thing about having a business partner whose on the same wavelength with you, is that they stop you from doing things to get money and you stop them. Together, what happens is that you have a consistent vision and the projects that you create and you put into the world end up magically to have the same constituent elements, and it reinforces a thematic message that is important.

It’s like the Simon Sinek thing. Start with why. Whenever Steve and I get confused, we think about, “Why are we doing this again? What’s the point again? Because I don’t really understand why I have to deal with this copy-editing stuff.” Anyway, that’s just generally what an editor/publisher, in my estimation, this is my responsibility now is to say to you, “Tim, I’ve flogged you with so many whips over the year and a half that  now is the time for me to put up or shut up, because I can’t expect you as a writer to carry 30 years of experience in book publishing editorially to deliver the thing that I’m sending back to you.”

A lot of people always say to me, “Don’t you feel like you’re messing with the intentions of the writer to a degree that is overstepping the boundary?” What I say to that is any real good writer welcomes that. They do. I’m not saying I’m always write, and plenty of times I’m absolutely wrong. A really terrific writer who is okay with themselves has no problem saying, “No, I don’t think that’s not going to work for me. I don’t like that title. No, the structure doesn’t work. I don’t like the thing in the middle. That’s a little weird. I’m going to fix that.”

What Steve always says when I send him my editorial comments and we talk about publishing stuff is he always says, “Look, I have no idea whether I agree with you or not, but let me think about it.” Then a week later he’ll either say, “I successful made all the ideas that you had, my own.” Which is the point. That’s exactly the point.

That is what an editor does, is that they give the conceptual ideas to the writer and the writer comes back and goes, “I’ve now stolen all of your ideas and now they are mine.” That’s fine. That’s what an editor and a writer should do. The editor has to lose their ego. They have to say to themselves, “How do I serve the king or queen? How do I encourage them to deliver the thing that is the closest to the masterwork genre that I’ve chosen to hold up against their project?”

From the very start, the very first thing you ever said to me about this book was I want to write a book for everybody who just wants practical tools to win The War of Art. When you did that, what you said to me is the top of my hierarchy of self-help books that I want to reach, at the top of that is the war of art. How close can I get to that?

That’s what you said to me when you said, “I want to write a practical guide, like The War of Art, only with really, really intricate practical tools.” What you said to me is like, “Steve is a lot smarter than I am in the abstract. There’s no way I can compete with him on that level, nor would I want to, because he’s the guy who helped me actually come up with these tools. What I’d like to do is to look at it at a lower resolution than Steve. I would like to look at it at the very micro-tool obstacle level. Whereas, Steve is looking at it as the mythic, deep, Jungian, holy cow, I can’t believe this, this is the way is organized way.”

The lens he has looking at this world is very, very specific and it’s very, very convincing, and it’s very, very inspiring. What you said to me is like, “Hey, man. I can’t write that book. I know I can write the book about how to crawl from the wreckage of a life that’s falling apart and IRS sheriffs are at my door knocking and demanding payment. I can tell people how to get out of that shit.”

That’s what your book is, but the genre choice that you made is – I always say this to anyone who wants to write a book, what’s your master work? What’s the book that you hold up and say, “If I could go into the matrix and put my name on that book instead of the writers, I would do that tomorrow, because that’s the book I want to write.” When you said, “I want to write a book like The War of Art.” I’m like, “Well, yeah. I can help you do that.” It wasn’t easy right?

[0:35:44.0] TG: Okay. Before we close up the episode, I have a couple just grunt questions here. The first is should I be giving feedback on this, or should I wait for you to give me the whole thing back?

[0:35:58.7] SC: All I need is global feedback. Is this a direction that you’re okay with me pursuing?

[0:36:05.9] TG: Okay. Yes. I love that. When I read it, there was things that you added, or switched around that I’m like, “I want to say it that way. I would just make this tweak to it.” Is that like later?

[0:36:18.2] SC: Yeah. Basically, this is what happens with Steve. I go in and I mangle everything he writes. I even rewrite stuff that I think is vague. I’ll rewrite it as if I’m Steve. I don’t write in my voice, I write in Steve’s voice. Then when I send him back the manuscript I say, “You need to go through this line-by-line, because I didn’t do it a lot, but I did do. I took artistic license and I mimicked you and I f’ed around with a lot of the stuff that you have in here.”

He goes, “Understood.” Then he goes through everything that I did and he makes it his own. That’s one of the things that he means about making it his own. He’ll cut and paste and redo and take out all the stuff that I’ve written. Occasionally, he’ll go, “That’s not bad. I’ll leave that.” You’re welcome to do the same thing.

That’s something to do when I send it back to you and you go, “You know what? I’d rather move this chapter here and that chapter here and this line is weird. I don’t talk like that. I’m going to fix that.” Great. You’re actually line editing my line edit.

[0:37:29.5] TG: Okay. Yeah, so I’m super happy with this the direction you’re going. Okay, so that’s good. The other thing I was having is Candice – I had Candice read this, because I stopped having her read versions of it, because it was changing so much. Now I’m like, “Okay, I need you to actually read this, because this is the book now.”

We are talking about – her view is – I’m just going to give you her feedback and then our discussion of what I think I should do and then would like to hear your view of it. She was like, “I really don’t like when you promise to fix people, or you promise that you’re going to fix yourself, because –” she’s like, “One is you wouldn’t tell anybody that you have fixed yourself. That is anything you would ever claim, so why are you claiming that in the book?”

I was like, “Well, it’s setting up the ending payoff of when I say this other thing.” She’s like, “Yeah.” She’s like, “You weren’t trying to fix yourself. You were running from the voice that was telling you that you are a fuck up. You kept thinking if I do this, that voice will go away. If I do this, that voice will go away. She’s like, “Then when you reach the mountain top and the voice was still there is when everything unraveled.”

I really like that and I was wondering what you think about making that little tweak to it. Do you think it still sets up the ending payoff the right way? I feel like that rings a little more true. She’s like, “Everybody has the voice.” She’s like, “Not everybody uses the language that you’re broken and need fixing.” She’s like, “But everybody has the voice.” What do you think of that?

[0:39:10.8] SC: Well, I think it’s a perfectly valid and brilliant look at the story. I think it is in your manuscript. Now, here is the nuts and bolts philosophical point of view is that the operative structure of self-help uses the metaphor of tools. Even though not lying to yourself doesn’t seem like a tool, it is a tool, right?

When you’re using the language and the metaphor of actually using a tool, what do you use a tool to do? To fix things. When you start straying off the central metaphor that you’ve chosen as a way to hook your reader, that’s why I think the payoff of your book is so wonderful, because the payoff of your book is, “Guess what, dude? You were never broken to begin with.”

We all think we are broken. I think that is the message that people will relate to. Will people relate to the voice that’s calling them an asshole? Yeah, absolutely. That’s the voice of resistance. The voice of resistance – I added a couple of things in your thing just to pump up that idea, because basically saying to people, “Look, while I was fixing this in my head I was hearing, ‘What a loser you are. Look at you you pathetic piece of shit.’”

You have to say to yourself, “Hey, it’s totally cool. That guy is going to be there, but you just have to keep moving forward.” That’s how you beat resistance is you just keep moving forward.  You crawl, you run, you sprint, you do whatever is necessary to keep moving forward. If you really stress the voice, then the tools – the tools are real. These tools fix problems, these tools fix external problems that keep you from attaining a goal.

If you start giving too much voice to the negative guy in your voice in your head, basically Steve’s book tells everybody about resistance. Steve’s book tells them this is an internal bastard that you’re going to fight your entire life.

What your book is doing is how do I fight that internal bastard? Well, here is some tools to beat it from the other side. If you solve your money problems, if you solve your lying to your wife problems, if you solve your lying to yourself problems, guess what? The resistance gets beaten. The climactic moment is resistance never goes away, so what do you do now? That’s really like the climactic moment of the book.

Then the ending payoff is I’ve got an answer for that. Here is the answer. I think Candice is absolutely right about the very, very common – I mean, everybody has that voice. That’s Jung and everybody’s been talking about that for the past 150 years in different ways. They talk about is, Candice knows more than I do, because she’s becoming a therapist. I think that’s a different book than, “Hi, I’m just Tim Grahl and here are some tools. I can teach you to fix you.”

Because the beauty part of your pitch is I’m going to fix you. Then the payoff of your book is, “Guess what? You were never broken.” If you leave with you’re not broken, here is how to silence that bastard who tells you you are, then people get confused. Because what they’re buying this book for is to get the ethos of Tim Grahl to tell them how to get the shit that they want. You’re going to do that. You do deliver that.

The bonus value is the psychological kicker at the end. If you lead with the psychological kicker, you’re going to alienate the people who just want the tools.

[0:43:38.7] TG: One more question. Because this is the first time you’ve read the end of the book, because it’s the first time I’ve tried to write it. I mean, I know we’ve got editing and you’ll put it in this new structure and everything, but do you feel like I nail – that I got that? Did I end the book correctly? Because the one piece of the book you’ve never seen before.

[0:43:58.9] SC: It needs work, but it’s generally there. I know where you’re going. I get the idea. We’ve got to set off some dynamite in different places and we got to amp up. Yeah, it’s generally there.

The other thing that we haven’t really talked about is I want to dump in like five or six really great psychological studies that backup your tools. Those are things that – that’s the logos element that I was talking at the beginning. There are a lot of great, and thanks to Malcolm Gladwell who points out it’s not hard to find these psychological studies and boil them down into a paragraph. There are all kinds of great, great neuropsychological studies that back up every single tool that you have in your book.

Now we’re going to literate with wonky stuff from Princeton University in there, but what we will do is pick select moments that people might say, “All those nay sayers would say, ‘That’s not true.’” Then you go, “Oh, well actually this study backed up this idea, and here it is and here is a two-paragraph summary of what these guys at University of California, Sta. Barbara found.” You know what I’m saying?

We can dump that little stuff in to really amp up the logos within your story. Then we’ve got ethos, logos and pathos, hopefully all working at the same level, which – then you add the Black Irish thing. Then when the book is done, I can say to myself, “You know what? I gave it everything I had as the editor. Tim worked his ass off.” We move on to the next project. We launched the thing, we do everything we can to sell it, we try and get into 10,000 people’s hands and then we can say, “What’s next?”

[0:45:55.3] TG: Okay. That sounds good. I’ll wait for you to get me the rest of the manuscript and then I’ll dive in and start going through it.


[0:46:04.0] TG: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Story Grid Podcast. This week, I have two special announcements. The first is we put up a brand new Story Grid website. You can go to storygrid.com to see that. We have all the past episodes there, all the content is still there.

We’ve spruced it up a little bit, hopefully made it a little easier to find what you’re looking for. If you’ve never been, or haven’t been in a while, make sure you go to storygrid.com and check that out.

Also, for those of you that don’t know, my day job is doing book marketing. We have talked about a little bit on the podcast, but surprisingly running this podcast is not my day job. The other side of this, on this podcast Shawn and I talking a lot about the writing and the editing of running down a dream, but if you want to see behind the scenes on me launching this book, I’m doing that with my other podcast, Book Launch Show. You can find that at booklaunchshow.com, or search in any of the podcast platforms, you should be able to find it.

Again, we’re going to be talking about the writing and the editing and all of that kind of stuff here, but if you’re ever interested in running a book launch, or the book marketing side of launching a book, I’m going to be giving all the behind the scenes details over at my other show at booklaunchshow.com.

Then as always, if you like to support this show, you can do that by telling another author about the show and by visiting us on Apple Podcast and leaving a rating and review. Thanks for subscribing and being a part of our work here at Story Grid. 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.