Episode 38: Plot Without a Formula – Interview with Stuart Horwitz

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey word-nerd! Welcome to another episode of DIY MFA Radio. So glad you’re here!

Today I’m so excited to host Stuart Horowitz on the show. Stuart is someone who is as excited about connecting with writers and helping them reach their goals as I am. We’ll be talking about planning your novel and how to plot without a formula.

But first, a quick introduction. Stuart is the founder and principal of Book Architecture, a firm of independent editors based in Providence, New York, and Boston. He developed the Book Architecture Method over fifteen years of helping writers get from first draft to final draft. He’s also a super-smart guy whose work I really admire, and good friend.

His first book, Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method (Penguin/Perigee) was named one of the best books about writing in 2013 by The Writer magazine. Now his second book, Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula, is being released in a few short weeks.

In this episode, Stuart and I talk about:

  • Common struggles that writers face
  • The three big elements that shape your draft: scene, series, and theme
  • Geeking out over Harry Potter
  • How to tackle your work as opposed to tinkering with it
  • Non-formulaic plotting/outlining and the tools that can keep you organized
  • The importance of finding a neutral audience
  • How to work with beta readers
“Intelligent planning is not the enemy of creative genius.” — Stuart Horwitz (Tweet this.)

Plus: Stuart shares his #1 tip for writers.



Here’s the link where you can grab your signed limited edition pre-release of Stuart’s new book, Book Architecture. Stuart is doing an awesome, special discount for DIY MFA readers, so use this link first.

If the limited editions are sold out, you can order a regular copy here.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Link to Episode 38

(Right-click to download.)

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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome.

  • Debby Hanoka

    Gabriela, I’m very interested in Mr. Horwitz’s approach. I’m also a bit old fashioned in that I prefer something print-out-able. Is there any chance you can/will post a transcript? Thank you in advance.

    • DIYMFA

      Hi Debby,

      Currently we don’t do transcripts of the podcast and there’s a specific reason for this. You see, I’m a big believer in staying true to the medium of the particular of a particular piece of content. The medium in which you share that content is as important as the message itself and I believe that writers/artists must consider the medium carefully for everything they create. We can’t just slap our content into different formats willy-nilly. Choosing a medium for your message must be a careful, measured decision.

      This means that I or my team create something for DIY MFA, we carefully select the types of material to share in a written post, versus a podcast, verses a video, etc. The medium is closely tied to the learning experience that comes with that content, and we believe in playing to the strengths of each different format. Simply doing a transcript of a podcast or a video would not be an adequate substitute.

      I totally understand your sentiment, though. I’m fairly tech-challenged myself (I resisted smart phones for YEARS because I couldn’t trust phones that did anything other than make calls). Believe me, I get how trying a different technology or medium might feel a little new at first. But this is all part of the experience that we’ve built into the podcast as a whole, and it just wouldn’t be the same as a transcript or even as a video.

      I hope this makes sense! Write on!

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