What I Learned About Building a Book from Stuart Horwitz

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Writing

Stuart Horwitz is the founder and principal of Book Architecture, a firm of independent editors based in Providence and Boston. Book Architecture’s clients have reached the best-seller list in both fiction and non-fiction, and have appeared on Oprah!, The Today Show, The Tonight Show, and in the most prestigious journals in their respective fields.

Horwitz is an award-winning poet and essayist who has taught writing at Grub Street of Boston and Brown University. He is the author of BLUEPRINT YOUR BESTSELLER in which he created a step-by-step process for revising and fine-tuning a book using the Book Architecture method. You can find out more about Stuart on his website: Book Architecture and by following his Twitter, @Book_Arch. You can also find Book Architecture on Facebook.

I first heard Stuart speak about his technique at the Writer’s Digest Conference in April, and I could tell right away that I was learning something big. Something game-changing. Something that would shift my entire revision mindset. A lot of writing instruction is very didactic, very how-to and “do this, don’t do that” but the Book Architecture Method is different.

Instead of hard-and-fast “rules” this method focuses on observation. How the pieces of a book fit together? What’s going on in this story? In these scenes? And what choices can a writer make so that it fits together better?

It’s hard to explain this method and do it justice in just a short article. And as we writers all know, it’s often better to show rather than tell. To that end, I thought I’d ask Stuart to share a few tips from his method so we could get an inside look at how it works.

Try this technique right now.

Imagine your book, and write down every scene using a colorful description. Something that will throw you right into the action of that scene. Don’t cheat and sneak a peek! What you forget is as instructive as what you remember. Are some of your scenes more forgettable than others? What you forget should inform your revisions. No one wants to write forgettable scenes, and certainly no one wants to read them.

Writing as Literary Architecture

I love this idea of thinking about writing as architecture for two reasons. The first has to do with the story itself, this idea that each scene builds on what has come before and leads to the scene afterwards. Writing a story is like building a monument out of words: all the components–from the foundation to the sculptured details–must work together to create something both beautiful and functional. Every piece of the story must pull its weight or the whole thing will tumble into literary rubble.

But more importantly, this idea of architecture speaks to the writing process. An architect must consider all the details and make sure all the important components of the building are there and must methodically work through each step of the building process. After all, there’s no sense carving gargoyles or creating beautiful stained glass for a cathedral with no walls or foundation.

Similarly, a writer must also honor every step of his own process and that’s what the Book Architecture Method does. It helps writers understand not only what the important components of a story are, but how to navigate the writing process itself.

I’m delighted to announce that Stuart Horwitz will be speaking at Lit Loft. I know his insights about the writing and revision process will be so valuable and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.


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