Story Grid Editor Certification Training Program

The only proven methodology for leveling up your craft as an editor and building a successful editing career.


So you want to be an editor...

Ok. What does that mean exactly?

Do you want to spend your days fixing comma placement and run-on sentences?
I doubt that’s your goal in life.

When you picture life as an editor, you probably imagine time spent reading exciting manuscripts, working with writers to develop their stories, and helping authors put their best work out into the world.

But how do you get there?

If you’ve started down this path, you know it’s bumpy.

First, how do you even get started? Maybe you find a writer friend and you decide to help them out for free. This should relieve any pressure, right? They're not even paying you!

You quickly realize, even though they aren’t paying you to be their editor, they are looking to you to help them with their writing and storytelling. There’s a lot of pressure there! You want to do a good job for this writer.

The anxiety of getting together your notes and feedback for the writer is very high! You want to do a great job for them and help them with their writing.

So now that you have the first free gig (or three) under your belt, it’s time to find your first real client.

But how do you find clients? And not just any clients, clients with the ability and willingness to pay for your services.

And then once you do, the pressure is even higher to deliver because they’re paying you for your service.

You’re confident in your intuition … you can read a story and tell whether it’s working or not, but when it comes to giving specific, actionable feedback, everything gets a lot harder.

So you end up spending three times as long on the project as you planned because you’re so worried that you’re not going to deliver enough value. If you track your time on these projects, you end up making less than minimum wage.

The problem is there is no tried and true system to start and run a profitable independent editing business.

A program to walk you through a systematic methodology for evaluating and giving feedback on a writer’s manuscript. And beyond that, a clear process to help a writer develop their idea into a working manuscript.

Then providing all of this in a way that enables you to build a profitable, sustainable career.

All of this causes even bigger problems...

  • If you don’t know how to give clear and useful feedback to a client, you won’t have a growing list of satisfied and referring repeat clients.
  • If you don’t have a streamlined system of reading and giving feedback, you’ll take far too long on each project and end up not making enough money and getting burned out.
  • If you don’t have the confidence to charge for your work in the first place, you’ll spin and spin, stuck at the starting line.
  • If you don’t have a way to run your business so everything runs smoothly (including getting new clients!), then you’ll spend more time on the business than working with the writer and their words.

At Story Grid, we want to help writers tell stories that readers love so much they share it with their friends.

This can’t happen without world-class editors running successful businesses that allow them to be creative and successful.

Alice's Story

Before Alice Sudlow became a Story Grid Certified Editor, she was working as a professional editor and constantly felt overwhelmed by the work and insecure about the feedback she delivered.

Every project took forever because she had no process or system for what she was providing. She would spend hours tracking character development, plot holes, boring parts of the story, and so on. She would track all of this on a giant whiteboard with boxes and arrows and sticky notes.

Giving feedback on a single manuscript would often expand beyond thirty hours of work.

And even with all that work, she wasn’t confident in the final product, so she kept adding to it, often writing dozens of pages of feedback.

She knew she was doing her best. But she worried that the feedback she delivered to writers was more overwhelming than helpful. And she was always afraid that her feedback was missing something essential; she was never sure that she had identified the most important problems in each story or the best solutions for those problems.

After she went through the Story Grid Certified Editor training, in her words, she felt like she was cheating!

It immediately cut her time working on each project in half. Simply using the tools, systems, and methodology inside of Story Grid allowed her to streamline her work.

On top of that, she was much more confident in the final product. Instead of dozens of pages of notes, she was able to give clear, succinct feedback with next steps and action items clearly spelled out.

“The amount of time I was spending went down, and the amount I was charging went up because I knew that the product I was delivering was incredibly helpful.”

— Alice Sudlow —

Randall's Story

Randall Surles had never worked as an editor before joining the Story Grid Certified Editors ranks in June 2019.

After receiving his certification, he started putting the tools and training he received into practice. He began working with clients and growing an independent editing business at night and on weekends while continuing to work another full-time job. By December 2020, he was making a liveable wage doing his editing “hobby” and he decided to quit to become a full-time editor the following year.

In 2021, he worked with over 25 authors and doubled his annual income. Two authors that he had worked with the previous year published their books, Nexus Point by K. Pimpinella and I Am Justice by D. P. Watkins.

In 2022, five more authors that he worked with published their books. The Wise Investor by Rich Fettke, which Randall co-ghostwrote, earned several #1 spots on Amazon. Operation Pineapple Express by Scott Mann, which Randall edited and co-ghostwrote, became an instant New York Times Bestseller.

“I took the Story Grid Editor Certification course with the goal of becoming a better writer, but what I got was so much more. I can honestly say that the course literally changed the course of my life. There is no way I would have had the confidence and knowledge to start my own editing business without the coaching of Tim and Shawn in the course and even today the mentorship never ends. The generosity of the community is fantastic. The tools work. I highly recommend any aspiring editor to take the Story Grid Editor Certification course and join a community of like-minded story nerds and professional editors.”

— Randall Surles —

What is Story Grid Editor Certification training?

By joining the Story Grid Editor Certification training, you will gain a deep understanding of story that you can’t get anywhere else.

By the end of your training, you will know exactly how to:

  • Look at a story and objectively evaluate what is working and what is not
  • Give clear, specific feedback on the writer’s work
  • Always know the next action steps your clients should be taking
  • Evaluate a manuscript from the micro sentence-by-sentence level all the way up to the macro manuscript level
  • Help a writer develop a story idea into a working manuscript
  • Identify Masterworks to help your clients progress in their understanding of writing
  • Start and grow a profitable independent editing business

At the end of the certification process, you will receive:

  • Prominent placement on the Story Grid website for your editing business
  • Client leads from the Story Grid website provided at no additional charge
  • Access to all Story Grid training at no extra charge for as long as you are certified
  • Membership in a supportive community of like-minded editors

How does the training work?

Story Grid Editor Certification is a three-year program that provides all of the training and resources you need to build and run a successful independent editing business.

The three-year program is broken up into nine, 15-week semesters with additional 1-week business training intensives in between.

In this program, you will learn:

Year 1 - Diagnostic: Works or Doesn’t Work?

  • Semester 1: Genre (Begins April 28, 2024)
  • Semester 2: Five Commandments of Storytelling (Begins September 1, 2024)
  • Semester 3: Units of Story (Begins January 5, 2025)

Year 2 - Intensive and Extensive: How to level up a Work-in-Progess

  • Semester 1: Story Grid Spreadsheet (Begins April 27, 2025)
  • Semester 2: Heroic Journey 2.0 (Begins September 7, 2025)
  • Semester 3: Story Grid Infographic and Genre Blueprint (Begins January 4, 2026)

Year 3 - Conceptual and Developmental Editing: Guiding from Idea to Manuscript

  • Semester 1: Narrative Path (Begins April 26, 2026)
  • Semester 2: Developmental Editing (Begins September 26, 2026)
  • Semester 3: Final Project (Begins January 3, 2026)

How to Build a Successful Editing Business
Additional training provided throughout the three years of certification that will walk you through every step of building a successful editing business:

  • Niching
  • Deciding on services
  • How to charge correctly for your services
  • Establishing your business
  • Building a website
  • Getting your first clients
  • Growing your client base

Semester 1: Genre

April 28, 2024 — August 10, 2024

As Story Grid Certified editors, we help writers tell stories readers love so much they share them with their friends. In order to accomplish this, we must understand what readers expect in the stories they consume, which requires studying Story Grid’s Five Genre Leaves: Structure, Content, Reality, Time, and Style.

Genre is a label we use to understand what audience members expect. The Five Genres tell us the who, what, where, when, how, and why of the story.

Each week in semester 1, we’ll do a deep dive into Story Grid’s Five Genres, including each Content Genre, by reading and reviewing great story examples.

Scene analysis is Story Grid's superpower from which all other powers derive. It's the thing that will always improve a story … guaranteed. You’ll analyze a scene or short story each week to build this skill while learning the fundamentals of what readers want in the stories they consume. Once you understand Story Grid’s Five Genres, you’ll be able to see and explain to your clients how well their story will satisfy their readers. This is a core skill you need to master to deliver a Story Grid Diagnostic.

This 15-week training will cover:

  • WEEK 1: Structure Genre: Node, Network, Network of Networks
  • WEEK 2: Content Genre - Action
  • WEEK 3: Content Genre - War
  • WEEK 4: Content Genre - Horror
  • WEEK 5: Content Genre - Crime
  • WEEK 6: Content Genre - Thriller
  • WEEK 7: Content Genre - Western
  • WEEK 8: Content Genre - Love
  • WEEK 9: Content Genre - Performance
  • WEEK 10: Content Genre- Society
  • WEEK 11: Content Genre: Status
  • WEEK 12: Content Genre: Morality
  • WEEK 13: Content Genre: Worldview
  • WEEK 14: Context (Reality), Time
  • WEEK 15: Style, Category, Medium

Over the course of the semester you will review over two dozen Masterworks across all of the various genre iterations.

Your Editor Trainer

Editor-in-Chief Leslie Watts oversees acquisition and editing of Story Grid Publishing’s fiction and nonfiction titles. A member of the first class of Story Grid certified editors, Leslie is also a podcaster, instructor, mentor, and proud story nerd.

She has authored or co-authored craft-focused books, including Point of View, Conventions and Obligatory Moments, What’s the Big Idea?, and Story Grid masterwork analysis guides to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.

As a freelance editor for more than ten years, Leslie has helped hundreds of writers to tell the best stories they can in nonfiction and fiction books ranging from academic and self-help titles to thrillers and epic fantasy stories.

Leslie has been writing and editing for as long as she can remember—from her sixth-grade magazine about cats to drafting opinions for an appellate court judge. After a detour as a lawyer, she returned to her true calling as an author and editor. She believes writers become better storytellers through study and practice and that editors owe a duty of care to help writers with specific and supportive guidance. Leslie lives on the coast of Maine with her husband and two children.

Story Grid Creator

Shawn Coyne, the founder and creator of Story Grid, is a writer, editor, and publishing professional with more than thirty years of experience. He has published hundreds of books with many dozens of bestsellers across all genres that have generated more than $150,000,000 in revenue.

He started his editing career in 1991 as an editorial assistant. Just five years later, he was promoted to senior editor and tasked with launching a brand new crime fiction imprint. In 1999, he became an independent publisher. Throughout his twenty-year career in traditional publishing, he held positions at Dell Publishing, St. Martin's Press, Doubleday Publishing and founded an independent publishing house, Rugged Land, distributed by Macmillan Publishers and Random House.

In its six years of operation, Rugged Land published thirty-six hardcover titles and fourteen trade paperback titles. One-third of all original titles published at Rugged Land were placed on major bestseller lists, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and numerous regional bestseller lists.

After shuttering Rugged Land in 2007, Coyne became a literary agent at the Endeavor Agency, now William Morris Endeavor, representing bestselling authors including Robert McKee, Steven Pressfield, David Feherty, Scott Patterson, Anita Raghaven, and many others.

In 2011, Coyne cofounded Black Irish Books, where he has published twenty-five plus titles, including bestsellers such as The War of Art, Turning Pro, Left of Bang, Solitary, and his own The Story Grid.

In 2015, he wrote and published The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know and, later that year, launched the Story Grid Podcast. Since then, Story Grid Universe has grown into a community of 40,000+ writers dedicated to leveling up their craft.

How has Shawn's expertise in storytelling and editing impacted the book projects he worked on? In the high-stakes New York publishing world only about 35% of books turn a profit for publishers. Data from BookScan on the top 10 publishers finds that 66% of books sell less than 1,000 copies, and a mere 2% sell more than 5,000.

Shawn has published hundreds of titles at the major publishers as the head of many imprints and as an independent publisher. Not one title he published sold less than 1,000 copies. 86% of his titles have been profitable.

Shawn continues to study and develop his Story Grid Helix Narrative Theory, improve the Story Grid methodology, and teach aspiring and professional writers.

A small sampling of works he acquired, edited, published, or represented include those of James Bamford, John Brenkus, James Lee Burke, Barbara Bush, Dick Butkus, Harlan Coben, Nellie Connally, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Ben Crenshaw, Catherine Crier, Brett Favre, David Feherty, John Feinstein, Tyler Florence, Jim Gant, Col. David H. Hackworth, Jamie Harrison, Mo Hayder, William Hjortsberg, Stephen Graham Jones, Jon Krakauer, David Leadbetter, Alan Lomax, David Mamet, Troon McAllister, Robert McKee, Matthew Modine, Bill Murray, Joe Namath, John J. Nance, Jack Olsen, Scott Patterson, Steven Pressfield, Matthew Quirk, Anita Raghavan, Ian Rankin, Ruth Rendell, Jerry Rice, Giora Romm, Tim Rosaforte, William Safire, Dava Sobel, Michael Thomas, Nick Tosches, Ann Scott Tyson, Minette Walters, Betty White, Randy Wayne White, Steven White, and Don Winslow among many others.

What is included?


Every Sunday, starting April 30th, you will receive access to new training to study and apply throughout the week.


Use these assignments to solidify and deepen your understanding of the week's training.


Once the final assignment has been turned in, we will provide an answer key so you can check your work.


Join Leslie Watts each week to discuss the week's training and ask questions along the way.


You will receive custom feedback and grading on each weekly assignment to help you continue progressing.


Throughout the three-year program you will have access to in-depth training to facilitate you starting and growing a successful independent editing company.


Once you complete the three-year program, you will receive all of the added and ongoing benefits of Story Grid Editor Certification.


Join the Upcoming
Story Grid Editor Certification

Semester 1: Genre training begins April 28, 2024.

(Only 30 Spots Available)


  • 15 weeks of study.
  • Weekly training released every Sunday
  • Weekly homework assignment to put the training in practice
  • Answer key provided one week after homework assignment
  • Weekly live discussion calls with Leslie Watts
  • Direct feedback and grading on homework assignment
  • Dedicated Slack channel to enhance communication and collaboration
  • How to Build a Successful Editing Business Training

Story Grid Editor Certification at the end of the three year program which includes:

  • Prominent placement on the Story Grid website for your editing business
  • Client leads from the Story Grid website provided at no additional charge
  • Access to all Story Grid training at no extra charge for as long as you are certified
  • Membership in a supportive community of like-minded editors.

$2880 per semester.
(payment plans available)


I filled out the application. Now what?

  • Call. We will review the application in the order they are received and reach out to schedule a call between you and Story Grid CEO Tim Grahl. This call is to go over specifics of the program and answer any questions you may have.
  • Registration. After the call we will follow up with instructions on how to register for the training.
  • Prerequisite Assignment. Once you have registered, you will gain access to the Story Grid University platform and find the prerequisite assignments including reading five scenes and one novel by April 22nd.
  • Join the Slack Channel. Get to know your fellow Editor Certification students before the training begins.
  • Training Begins. The first training and homework assignment will become available on April 30, 2023. We will email you ongoing details as we get closer.
  • First Live Discussion. Join Leslie Watts and your fellow Editor Certification students for the first live discussion call on May 4, 2023.

Have a question?

Keep scrolling for the FAQ. Additionally, you can schedule a time to talk with Story Grid CEO Tim Grahl or send an email to [email protected].


Should I register for the Self-Study or Editor Certification track?

The Editor Certification track is specifically for people looking to work with writers in a professional capacity. Whether you are planning to run your own business or get a job as a developmental editor, the certification will set you up for success.

If, however, you are looking to acquire the knowledge to simply help other writer friends or to be able to edit your own work, we suggest taking the Self-Study track.

What is the difference between the Self-Study and Editor Certification tracks?

Think of self-study as auditing the training. You get access to all of the training and assignments, but are not able to attend live discussions and will not receive feedback and grading of your assignments. You will also not get the ongoing benefits of Story Grid Editor Certification.

Additionally, you must take all nine semesters in the Editor Certification track in order to receive Story Grid Editor Certification at the end of the training.

Can I start with the Self-Study track and switch to the Editor Certification track later?

No. We want to ensure that every editor we award certification to has all of the necessary skills. The only way to do this properly is to work with you throughout the three-year program.

How will the grading and feedback be handled in the Editor Certification track?

Our goal is that every student in the Editor Certification track moves through the full three years and final project and gets their certification. However, we want to ensure that every Story Grid Certified Editor has reached a benchmark in their editing skills so we can confidently recommend them publicly.

Throughout each semester, you will have several assignments that will be turned in. You will receive feedback on them along with a passing or failing grade. If you are not able to pass the assignments by the end of the semester, we will ask you to retake the semester in order to keep progressing through the training.

I can't join now. When will registration open again?

This registration period is for the Story Grid Editor Certification training that begins April 30, 2023. Registration will not open again until the Spring of 2024 for the semester that begins April 28, 2024.

How does each week of training work? What is the time commitment?

The three mandatory items in the Editor Certification track are the weekly training, assignment, and live discussion.

The training will be released on the Sunday each week. Initial homework due by 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on Tuesday and final version due 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on Saturday

The live discussion groups will be on Wednesdays at 7:30 PM Eastern and Thursday at 9:30 AM Eastern. The recordings will be available for your review within twenty-four hours. You are only required to attend or review the recording of one of the groups each week.

You should plan on setting aside approximately five hours a week to complete the training, assignment, and live discussion.

How do the semesters and years of training work?

The Editor Certification training is designed to build your knowledge from basic story editing principles up to expert understanding and application.

Therefore, we require the classes be taken in the order laid out above. You will not be able to come in at later semesters.

Do I have to wait until I am certified to work with clients or use what I am learning?

Of course not! If you are already working with clients or writers, you won't help but want to use the Story Grid methodology because it is so far superior to anything else.

You are free to use everything you are learning throughout your certification.

However, you are not able to promote yourself as a Story Grid Certified Editor or access the additional benefits until you are fully certified.

Are there payment plans available?

Yes, we have both semesterly and monthly payment plans available for both the Editor Certification and Self-Study tracks.

Have a question we didn't answer here?

Schedule a time to talk with Story Grid CEO Tim Grahl or send an email to [email protected] and we'll get back to you shortly.