Shawn Coyne Explains How to Write Great Stories Using The Story Grid

One skill I’ve always tried to develop over the past couple of decades as a writer and editor is my ability to tell more compelling stories.

Whether I’m writing (or editing) a 100-page research report, a 3,000-word essay, or a 750-word blog post— hooking my readers and telling a story that will keep them interested in what I have to say until the last sentence is one skill that I’m always trying to hone.

I’ve read many books about the storytelling craft, almost all of which focus on writing fiction. And while I’m not a fiction author, I’ve found that these books provide the best sources of strategies and techniques for planning, writing, and editing nonfiction stories of the kind that I create.

One such book that I recently discovered offers the most systematic and comprehensive methodology for analyzing and improving stories that I’ve ever seen. It’s called, The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know, and it’s by Shawn Coyne, a 25-year veteran of the publishing industry who has worked with hundreds of authors as editor, co-author, publisher, or agent.

In The Story Grid, Coyne has codified everything he knows about writing and editing great stories. He’s used his methodology — which he developed over the course of his career — to take hundreds of raw manuscripts to A-level published fiction and nonfiction. Books that he has edited and published have generated more than $150 million in sales in North America alone.

In this episode, I’m very pleased to have Shawn take us through how The Story Grid works, and how you can apply it to your own fiction or narrative non-fiction stories.

He also speaks about his publishing venture, Black Irish Books, which he manages with his long-time business partner Steven Pressfield, the noted author of many books of fiction and non-fiction, including The War of Art, which Shawn edited.

This is a longer episode than usual but I’m confident you’ll get a lot of practical strategies for improving your stories from Shawn.

I’ve put together this brief video with just a few audio clips from the episode. If you like what you hear, I encourage you to listen to the entire conversation.


The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know, Shawn Coyne

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield


The Story Grid blog

Black Irish Books

Contact Shawn

shawn [at]