Here at Last: The Best Guide to Structuring Your Novel or Memoir

Last summer I explained that structure was a problem for me in writing a full-length book. I wrote a couple of posts here and here about a book I found very helpful: Stuart Horwitz’s Blueprint Your Bestseller.  By following Horwitz’ directions for isolating “series” and creating a bull’s-eye target, I was able to get past the biggest hurdle I’ve had in writing the book.  Horwitz’ method is known as the “Book Architecture” method. He critiques, edits, and coaches writers on their manuscripts and can be found here.

After Blueprint’s help with my book, I discovered a smaller and farther-down-the-road structural problem that Blueprint didn’t address. I contacted Horwitz and asked him about it. He said something like “funny thing you should mention that as it’s going to be in my next book.” That’s when he asked me to be a Beta Reader for his new book!!

And here is the masterpiece:


I almost feel like one of the midwives for this book. Gee, I wonder how Stuart Horwitz feels about me using the childbirth metaphor for Book Architecture!

If you’re writing a novel or a memoir or any full-length book–or planning to write one–you will want to click the link above and order the book.

You haven’t started your book yet? Unlike his previous book, you don’t have to have written any pages. Dig in and learn how it’s done. He doesn’t provide you with a formula, but a clearcut and easy-to-follow guideline to create the bones of your unique book.

He uses a handful of books and films–one per chapter–to show how others have done it–and you can, too. You don’t have to be familiar with the stories ahead of time. Horwitz tells you what you need to know. If you are familiar, it’s even more fun. I knew some and not others.

The first chapter begins simply, with a children’s book, Corduroy. 

The other chapters cover the book The Great Gatsby, the film Slumdog Millionaire (I saw the movie, but it wasn’t until I read this chapter that I understood what it was all about!), the film The Social Network, the book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the book Catch-22, and The Metamorphosis, a novella  by Kafka. The last is the most complex, but by the time you get to the last chapter of the book you will easily understand Horwitz’ points.

His first book explained the concept of series and how to use them as building blocks for a book very well. But in Book Architecture we learn how to use series arcs and series grids to pull together  a rich plot and subplots.

I have a different reason to love each chapter, but one of my favorites is the Joseph Heller/Catch-22 because Horwitz shares the series grid that Heller created for his novel. What a fascinating document–and so helpful to understand how it’s all done.  It’s as if Horwitz pulls aside the curtain and lets us see the wizard at work.

Best yet? After reading Book Architecture, I was able to solve the remaining little problems with structure. I am happy with my structure now, plus I understand how it works so if I decide I want to change things around it won’t be a big deal because I have knowledge of my building blocks and how they can work together via series, series arcs, and series grids.

Thanks so much, Stuart Horwitz! Your new book rocks!



Filed under Book Review, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Novel, Writing, Writing Tips and Habits

29 responses to “Here at Last: The Best Guide to Structuring Your Novel or Memoir

  1. Mom

    Any writing “how-to” that kicks off with Corduroy, is right up this pantser’s alley! Thanks for the tip Luanne….clicking over now

  2. Looks intriguing….

  3. I totally agree, Luanne! Stuarts books have made my novel process so much more understandable. Every writer needs his books 🙂

  4. I’m glad you found this book! It sounds so helpful to nonfiction and fiction writers alike.

    • WJ, his method is absolutely outstanding. I learned so much about my own writing and how structure works because he takes you through doing it yourself–even to using paper, pen, tape, etc.

  5. Thanks for this. I will look for the book.

    • Elizabeth, it’s the best writing technique book I’ve read because it gave me the very clear way to fix the most difficult writing problem–that of structuring a full-length book. good luck with it!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this book with us Luanne. I adored reading Corduroy to my children (my daughter especially loved it) and Catch 22 is one of my all-time favourite books, but it’s been a long time since I read it. Looks as if I should read both these books again, right now! I am definitely going to order Horwitz’s book for some pointers, but I’m scared it might make me want to bin my entire first draft and start over 🙁

    • Sherri, you definitely don’t need to reread those other books before reading Book Architecture. It’s fun when you know the story, but it’s not even necessary. He won’t make you feel that you need to throw out and start over. He’ll give you the tools to re-arrange in a way that makes sense to you in the form of an epiphany!

  7. I know someone who is starting a novel now – I am going to send this to her. Thanks Luanne!

  8. Thanks for sharing this book, Luanne. I’ve been using “Structuring Your Novel” by K.M. Weiland, but who couldn’t use another guide…right? 🙂

    • Jill, this is definitely worth the $ and time spent reading. You will see your story in a completely new light that will allow you to move pieces around or delete certain scenes or show you where you need a new scene in a way that makes perfect sense. It’s great to have that fresh vision on your writing!

  9. Thanks for sharing Luanne and I love the serendipity of you beta reading the new book after finding the old one so helpful 🙂

    • I loved being part of the process, Andrea! When I was beta reading it was just when I needed it as I was getting my ms. ready for Stanford! Whew.

  10. Love your review, Luanne. Stuart’s presentation rocked on the new book. All writers can benefit from his structure advice.

  11. Thanks, Luanne! I’ll definitely pick up this book. And he asked you to be a beta reader? How cool is that!

  12. I like when you show us how to develop our stories to add punch and clarity to them. I enjoyed other posts you featured on this subject, but this book sounds excellent and specific, Luanne.
    It is so good to have fantastic resources and ‘tools’ to help us with our crafts! I bet my Dad could have made his book much better and using my 15 year old knowledge was NOT one of them! I typed and edited but my Mom refused to help. I am sure it prevented arguments but she was an English teacher who was very talented in her own writing. She could have helped! My brother faces this with my sister in law, which I try to help him with his writing articles and yet, am not a ‘technical’ writer and research publications need this sort of a writer. Take care and hope you are havign a wonderful time with interviews and promoting your book, Luanne. Now, on to the Memoir! Smiles!

  13. I love hearing about your father writing his book and you helping, Robin. It’s such a special memory to have. I can imagine that it could be awkward for a spouse to help with a book. It would work for some couples, but not for others. And I am pretty sure your mom would have had plenty of homework to grade anyway!!!

  14. Whenever I read something about plot, I break out in hives. After reading this post, I found a brief article by him online, and I think I can tolerate series more than organizational plot. It’s the weaving metaphor rather than the building block metaphor—more down my alley. Thanks for letting us know (and how fun that you were involved in birthing the book!)

    • I’m laughing at the thought of your hives. I know what you mean because it’s like filling out forms for me. I hate doing that. But, trust me, this book is not at all like that. You learn a way of making connections that help structure in a way that feels very organic.

  15. Congrats on getting to work on this! How fun it is to connect with other writers–I’ve had that thrill a couple times, having a favorite author consult on my manuscript and having a couple others leave comments on my blogs when I reviewed their books. I want to order this book…I’m just having an internal conflict…I don’t really have the time for this right now, but I still have the desire to keep revising my manuscript and resubmit after its rejection. Hmmm…I guess it could sit on the shelf until I get to it…

    • LIndsey, I can’t be enthusiastic enough about Stuart’s book architecture method. It is the opposite of formulaic and yet so easy to follow and so illuminating when you see things about your manuscript that you didn’t even realize!

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