You’ve got some ideas that would make a great story. Maybe you’ve sketched out a rough outline. Or you’ve rushed to the keyboard, words spilling out as fast as you can type. As you read over what you’ve written so far—whether it’s your notes on the back of an envelope or 20 chapters of plot and dialogue—you know one thing for sure:
You’ve lost track of what your story is about. The plot points don’t connect to create a compelling narrative.
Your story’s going nowhere, but you don’t know why.
The solution to this common problem is simpler than you might think. Creating a Foolscap page for your manuscript is a way of distilling the essence of your story’s essential elements into a single page.
This single-page outline lives on a legal pad of 81/2” x 13” paper—the size printers used to call “foolscap” and includes the added insights of Shawn Coyne based on his years of studying story structure and cognitive science. Then Story Grid Certified Editors Parul Bavishi and Randall Surles decided to share the Foolscap method with writers all over the world through this online training.
And that’s how the Story Grid Foolscap Course was born.
With a properly organized Foolscap, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of your story. On a single page, you’ll see each of the core elements and find it easy to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses.
Thousands of authors now use this elegant way to outline a book, screenplay, or essay.
But how do you actually create and use a Foolscap?
No worries. Your guides Parul and Randall have that covered. Their concise 7-part course will introduce you to the Foolscap, which also happens to be one of the fundamental pillars of the Story Grid approach to writing and editing.
To illustrate each aspect of the Foolscap, Parul and Randall walk you through a Foolscap for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a modern classic. And they provide examples from a broad array of other masterworks, such as The Notebook and The Alchemist, among others.
Is the Story Grid Foolscap Course for you?
Are you worried about your story’s structure? Unsure how to get out of the weeds and see the big picture? Would you like to master an approach that will help you succinctly outline any novel, essay, memoir, or screenplay? The Foolscap offers a powerful perspective—a way to identify all the must-have pieces in your work and make them better. If you love stories and want to tell them well, this course is for you. Beginners will start with the basics, and more experienced writers will find surprising and valuable new insights in the Foolscap to level up their craft.
Meet Your Guides: Parul Bavishi and Randall Surles
Parul and Randall are both writers and editors. They’re also story nerds, like you.
Parul Bavishi has been an editor for over a decade. She has worked as a literary scout and editor at Random House, Quercus, & Eccles Fisher and now helps thriller, YA, and nonfiction writers level up their craft and get published. Parul is also co-founder of the London Writers’ Salon. With Randall, she analyses hit TV shows on the Story Grid Showrunners Podcast.
Randall Surles is a retired U.S. Army Green Beret with an MFA in Creative Writing. This dangerous mix resonates most with those who love a peanut butter cup (Who knew chocolate and peanut butter would taste so good together?). A successful developmental editor, Randall has used the Story Grid method to help dozens of authors create compelling stories that work. In addition to his podcast with Parul, he hosts Selling Girls in America in conjunction with Guardian Group about combating human trafficking in the U.S.A.
Together, Randall and Parul designed the Foolscap Course to show you how to analyze your own story from the ground up. Drawing on their experience with published, self-published, experienced, and newbie writers, they share storytelling best practices and common pitfalls you’ll want to avoid.
Join them if you’re ready to take your story to the next level.
Why try this course now?
Like all writers, you want to sharpen your skills and grow. With the Foolscap course, you will quickly learn to:
Identify Reader Expectations
Parul and Randy explain the value of identifying the obligatory moments and conventions in your story. They share the crucial importance of what the Story Grid method calls the “Five Commandments” in each act or quadrant of your story.
The course teaches you how to look critically at your manuscript and make your story more compelling, surprising, and satisfying for your readers.
Learn through Practice
The course demonstrates the Foolscap in action using Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and other popular stories, including The Alchemist and The Notebook. You’ll get global story breakdowns of these stories to show you how to use the Foolscap in your own work.
What exactly happens in the Story Grid Foolscap Course?
The course explores the core components of the Foolscap and the principles behind its structure. Step-by-step, Randall and Parul show you how to fill in each section of the Foolscap for your own story and provide examples from familiar masterworks and bestsellers.
To help embed this knowledge, your instructors will share several examples of completed Foolscaps.
By the end of the course, you’ll have the confidence to create your own Foolscap for every new story you write.
Here's an overview:
Introduction to the Foolscap
Understanding the origin and the components of the Foolscap.
A review of the 12 genres as defined by Story Grid and help in choosing the right one for your Foolscap.
Obligatory Moments and Conventions
Understanding the purpose and definitions of the Obligatory Moments and Conventions required in every story, and reinforcing that knowledge by walking through examples from masterworks.
Point of View
A clear introduction to why the Point of View matters for your story and how to make the right choice.
Objects of Desire
Defining and filling in the Objects of Desire for your characters on the Foolscap.
Defining the Controlling Idea for your story, which will help you truly understand the readers you’re aiming for.
5 Commandments of the 4 Quadrants
Mastering the essential moments of your story by outlining them across 4 quadrants.
Who should take the Story Grid Five Commandments of Storytelling?
If you are just starting out, learning the basic elements of the Foolscap will help you write better stories and understand the art and science of storytelling like never before.
The Foolscap is grounded in fundamental principles of cognitive science, which is why you can use it to examine any story and identify areas for improvement. As your understanding deepens throughout the course, you’ll take your craft to the next level.
Understanding the core principles of all stories allows you to give your clients more targeted, personal feedback to help their writing shine.
The Story Grid Foolscap Course is grounded in research accumulated over decades, analyzing the patterns of stories that resonate over generations.
Shawn Coyne, with more than 30 years of experience as an editor, agent, and writer himself, identified these principles and used them with his clients to produce bestselling novels across multiple genres. Story Grid Certified Editors trained by Shawn use his proven methodology to help writers build novels, screenplays, narrative nonfiction, and even song lyrics that work.
Here’s a Quick Recap:
If you decide to join the Story Grid Foolscap Course, you’ll get:
In-depth explanations and illustrations of how to complete the Foolscap for your own manuscript.
Detailed guides to each section of the Foolscap, including Genre, Point of View, Controlling Idea, Obligatory Moments and Conventions, and the Five Commandments for the Four Quadrants.
Examples from masterworks such as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Notebook, and The Alchemist, among others.
In the end, you’ll walk away with:
You’ll see the mechanics of how the Foolscap can help you identify plot and character problems in your manuscript.
You’ll learn about all the sections of the Foolscap and how to identify these story elements in your manuscript.
BETTER EDITING SKILLS
Whether you’re editing your own or someone else’s story, you’ll be able to apply the Foolscap elements to pinpoint the specific parts that need help.
Yes! After you understand the elements of the Foolscap, you’ll be able to apply the elements to any story, from novels to films, short stories, plays, and even comic books. If you want to communicate to an audience what your story is about, the Foolscap will help you do it.
Does the Foolscap work for nonfiction?
Yes. The Foolscap is grounded in the core elements of storytelling. Embedding these fundamentals in your nonfiction books or essays will make your work more compelling to your audience and supercharge your impact.
If I haven’t finished my manuscript yet, will this course still help me?
Absolutely! This course is built for writers at any stage in the creative process. If you haven’t finished your manuscript, you can incorporate the Foolscap to help you plan the rest of your story. If you’ve already finished your draft, you can use the Foolscap to revise and level up your work.
What do you mean by "beginning writer"?
A beginner is someone new to writing stories or a seasoned writer who is new to the Story Grid methodology. This course is for writers in both situations—and for Story Grid veterans, too. No matter your experience, you can gain a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the Foolscap in this course.
I’ve never read The Story Grid book. Will I still understand this course?
Definitely. The Foolscap is a tool you can understand without the context of other Story Grid tools and methods. Everything you need to know is captured in the course. Parul and Randall made sure to cover the basics in a down-to-earth way that will connect with someone brand new to Story Grid.
Is the course taught live, or are the videos pre-recorded?
The eight lessons are pre-recorded so you can view at your own pace, pause, take a break, rewind, or do whatever you need to do to learn at your best.
Will I have lifetime access to the course material?
Yes, you have lifetime access to all the material.
How is the course accessed?
You will be able to access the course on any web browser on your desktop or mobile device.
Will an editor help me review my work?
No, but you can engage an individual Story Grid Certified Editor separately, if you need more help. You can schedule a consultation with an editor to ask about working together as you implement the Five Commandments of Storytelling in your own writing and revision. You can also find a community of story nerds just like you in the Story Grid Guild. It’s a great place to form a study group to go through the course material.