I hope to be back soon, yakking away. In the meantime, here’s a little writing advice from Annie Dillard:
When you are stuck in a book; when you are well into writing it, and know what comes next, and yet cannot go on; when every morning for a week or a month you enter its room and turn your back on it; then the trouble is either of two things. Either the structure has forked, so the narrative, or the logic, has developed a hairline fracture that will shortly split it up the middle–or you are approaching a fatal mistake. What you had planned will not do. If you pursue your present course, the book will explode or collapse, and you do not know about it yet, quite.
The Writing Life
Where she uses the word “book” you can substitute article, short story, poem, or blog post. It’s true for them all. The advantage to a blog post, of course, is who cares ;)? If you split your post, your readers will be willing to split with you (because they know you and are hanging out by the coffee pot, teapot, or Mountain Dew with you) or they will stop reading at the split and, if you’re lucky, drop by another day. But in more formal writing, you have to create a beauty of unity every time (even if it does so by disunity).
The structure of my life is temporarily forked, fractured, and threatening collapse, but I might be melodramatic because on top of everything else this month, I’m drinking all liquids today. Guess what for? Haha, that’s right. The dreaded C-word. It’s my first colonoscopy, y’all!
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!