Tag Archives: Blueprint Your Bestseller

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:

CLICK ON THE LINK TO PURCHASE FROM AMAZON

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!

 

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

A Baker’s Dozen?

In my post called Target My Structure, I talked about how Stuart Horwitz’s book Blueprint Your Bestseller is helping me organize my memoir.

One of the most important steps of structuring a book, according to Horwitz, is to identify the series in your book. As I mentioned in that post, “a series is anything that has ‘iterations.’ Repetitions, a pattern. But not just any pattern–a pattern where the series “undergoes a clear evolution.” It happens or shows up more than once and changes a bit? It’s probably a series.”

There is no set number of series a book should have, but 12 is a reasonable number.  By happenstance, I have 12 series. Most of mine have to do with emotions, which is something that surprised me a great deal. I like imagery and metaphorical language, so I kind of thought I would find series with certain central metaphors or images. But when I did find iterations (repetitions) of an image, I would see that the image fit squarely within certain emotions that repeat throughout the book.

For instance, the image of a gun shows up in several scenes. In one scene, it’s a rifle. In another, it’s a pistol. In yet another, it’s a shotgun. But what is more important than the guns is that they represent the emotions fear and anger. Fear and anger are represented in different ways in many scenes. Guns are just one way they manifest themselves. But these emotions also show up in verbal arguments, physical abuse, and hiding/secrecy.

Once I had a list of my scenes in hand, I noticed that they correspond fairly well to the major emotions as identified by Pia Mellody.

ANGER

FEAR

PAIN

JOY

PASSION

LOVE

SHAME

GUILT

I also have a few other series in addition to these emotions, but I might add a 13th.  And it would be called THERAPISTS ;).

 

Do emotions show up often in your writing?

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Filed under Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals

Target My Structure

I’ve mentioned before that I have had many problems structuring my book. With 200,000 words of memoir already written, I was overwhelmed and confused about how best to structure the story. What to leave in and what to take out. Whether to organize chronologically or thematically.

So I was very happy to find the book, Blueprint Your Bestseller, by Stuart Horwitz. His “architectural” method is really working for me.

 

In following Horwitz’ plan, some of the first steps include identifying all the series in your book. You can’t know this until you have enough scenes written.  So if you don’t have 50,000 or more words, I would just write out your scenes first. Then find all your series.  A series is anything that has “iterations.” Repetitions, a pattern. But not just any pattern–a pattern where the series “undergoes a clear evolution.” It happens or shows up more than once and changes a bit? It’s probably a series.

Series can be symbols or metaphors like the hat that Holden wears in Catcher in the Rye. They can be characters, objects, phrases, settings, absolutely anything. When I worked on this aspect, I was shocked to discover that many of my series are emotions, such as anger, fear, and shame. Of course, these emotions don’t exist by themselves. They are represented by tangible events or objects, such as locked rooms and guns.

In another early step in this method, I discovered the “One Thing” my book is about. Horwitz took me on a sure path to find this out through a step by step process.

Every time I work on a new step I experience an epiphany about my book.

This past week I accomplished the next step. I created a target for my book, putting my “One Thing” in the center bullseye location. Then I placed post-it notes representing scenes (pink), series (yellow), characters (blue), and settings (green) on the board.  Horwitz says, “The trick of the exercise is to put the narrative element closer to or farther from the bull’s-eye, or theme, depending on the strength of the relationship.” Doing this project, allowed me to see that certain scenes and settings were too far removed, whereas there is a close-knit relationship between everything else.

Caveat: I have so many scenes that I did not place all my scenes on the board. It would have been impossible. I expect to weed out scenes in the next step of the process.

 

The architecture method is supposed to work with any book, no matter the genre.

As a blogger or a writer, do you ever have problems with structure?

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Filed under Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals