Comparing Story Grids

When I think of some of the ‘a-ha’ moments I’ve had when developing my craft as a writing, I think of times I discovered these concepts: show verses tell; avoid on-the-nose writing; subtext in actions and dialogue. I could name many more.

I like to think one of my best ‘a-ha’ moments as a writing who is constantly learning is when I learned about the three-act-structure for storytelling. This can easily be used for novels, screenwriting and plays.

Some writers don’t follow a structure when they write their manuscript, and that’s okay.

But I prefer to follow some kind of guide, so I used the three-act structure to develop the first draft of three of my novels.

However, I kept coming across other methods of novel development in my reading on the writing craft. Many exist. Some of the ‘story grids’ I’ve come across include:

Each of these methods have their strengths. Scott Bell’s signpost come from his book Writing Your Novel from the Middle in which the writer begins developing the story from the turning point of the protagonist and works forwards and backwards from there.

Dan Harmon, creator of the sitcom Community, uses the plot embryo which is helpful due to its simplicity.

Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder, was written with screenwriters in mind, but the principles are helpful for novelists.

I kept seeing patterns in these methods of developing the novel, so I couldn’t resist comparing them. I created a spreadsheet and tried to fit together the steps of each of these story plans. Feel free to download it and let me know if it needs fine tuning.

novel development methods (Excel Spreadsheet)

novel development methods  (PDF)

Related article of interest:Dan Harmon, “Community” and The Hero’s Journey

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Find my latest book on Amazon: Christ Simply, A Chronological Self-Guided Study through the Life of Christ.



My Favorite Fiction Books from 2017

I read other books than the ones listed below, but they were non-fiction or fiction I didn’t want to include as a favorite.

Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror)


  • A Dragon of a Different Color
    by Rachel Aaron
    This is the fourth installment of Aaron’s Heartstrikers series, the story of which proceeded nicely until this one. The middle of this book is a world-building info dump disguised as dialogue. Still worth it if you’re invested in the series. Lots of great things happen, but I hope the next one moves faster.


  • We Are Legion
    by Dennis E.  Taylor
    I bought this from because it’s not available through my local library system. I was pleasantly surprised. Taylor’s protagonist is a snarky nerd who finds himself part of desperate space exploration program. Funny and sarcastic.


  • The Very First Damned Thing
    by Jodi Taylor
    I admit I downloaded this for free from It’s an introduction to Taylor’s The Chronicles of St. Mary’s universe, which looks good. Interesting, but didn’t blow me over. I’ll probably give the series a try.


  • Name of the Wind
    by Patrick Rothfuss
    I have been wanting to read this for quite a while. Rothfuss unleashes a beautiful writing style with this first book and the story kept me going. The story is complete, but there are some unanswered questions for the rest of this series to address.


  • Crosstalk
    by Connie Willis
    The protagonist got on my nerves, but I so badly wanted to find out what was going on, I plowed through it. Not on the same level as Willis’s The Doomsday Book, but a fun read.

    17     24

  • Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods
    by Sylvain Neuvel
    This series has been a nominee for Goodread’s Best Books two years in a row, and I can see why. The story is told by a group of people involved in a project of finding robotic parts buried around the world and building mechanical giants. Neuvel includes a lot of twists and surprises.


  • The Book of Lost Things
    by John Connolly
    Looks like a kid’s book, but with all the violence, sex and depressing imagery, it’s definitely for grown-ups. Connolly adds some adult themes to some beloved fairy tale icons and draws up this creepy tale.


  • All the Birds in the Sky
    by Charlie Jane Anders
    This turned out to be one of my surprise favorites of the year. Patricia and Lawrence keep crossing paths. At the end of the world, they become involved in a war, end up on opposite sides.


  • Dark Matter
    by Blake Crouch
    Another surprise favorite for this year. Crouch takes the alternate reality trope and raises some interesting questions.


  • Raven Boys
    by Maggie Stiefvater
    A group of teens in backwater Virginia, get mixed up in dark matters in their search for a lost king.

Mainstream Fiction


  • Landline
    by Rainbow Rowell
    This popped up a couple of times as a book I should read, so I did. A woman tries to repair her marriage by magically talking with a younger version of her husband from the early days of their relationship. Didn’t really reveal how using an old landline phone could do that.


  • A Visit from the Good Squad
    by Jennifer Egan
    While this book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011, I’m not sure it is any more thematic than any other similar piece of fiction. I did enjoy the complex characters Egan developed through a series of interrelated short stories.


  • Invisible Monsters
    by Chuck Palahniuk
    Every page of this novel is insane. It creeped me out, but it was Palahniuk at his most bizarre and entertaining.


  • No Country for Old Men
    by Cormac McCarthy
    Man stumbles across a lot of drug money. Lots of anti-heroes in this book. Good read and a good movie, too.


  • Call Me by Your Name
    by Andre Aciman
    A coming-of-age story about an Italian teen in the seventies who falls for an older guy staying with his parents for the summer.



  • Fahrenheit 451
    by Ray Bradbury
    What would happen if books were illegal and burned when found? I need to read this one again and soon.


  • Slaughterhouse-Five
    by Kurt Vonnegut
    Billy Pilgrim descends into madness, or does he? He tells his tale as an unreliable narrator in this classic.


  • A Separate Peace
    by John Knowles
    Sort of in the same category as Dead Poet’s Society.


  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
    by Ernest Hemingway
    Finally, after three tries, I got through it. A slow-paced novel isn’t necessarily a bad thing in Hemingway’s case. It built up the tension.


  • A Farewell to Arms
    by Ernest Hemingway
    Upon finishing this book, I have completed the Ernest Hemingway collection.


  • Winesburg, Ohio
    by Sherwood Anderson
    A little depressing, with characters who are depressed. Still glad to add it to my classics repertoire.

Young Adult Fiction


  • Thirteen Reasons Why
    by Jay Asher
    Lots of controversy about this book and the Netflix series based upon it. I’ll be honest. I didn’t think a girl would really kill herself over the reasons presented in this story. But news events in the last month have changed my mind. It does happen.


  • The Outsiders
    by S.E. HintonI decided to re-read this on its fiftieth anniversary. This is the novel that created the whole Young Adult genre–although I doubt Hinton saw herself as the one who would pave the way for all the vampire novels in the Young Adult section. It’s always fun to re-read a book to see how I’ve grown since the last time.