An interview with Stuart Horwitz!

I now own all three of Stuart Horwitz’s craft books for writers and you should too! Book three was recently published and it is already changing the way writers approach their book projects. Stuart’s new book, Finish Your Book In Three Drafts, offers a terrific promise: Learn how to write a book, revise a book, and complete a book while you still love it.

Um, yes please!

Thank you for visiting The Backstory Cafe today, Stuart. Let’s get to my biggest question first: Can I really finish a book in only three drafts?

No. But you can get awfully close! A fourth draft might be the one that you get copy edited, or that you make revisions under the guidance of a literary agent or publisher’s editor. Sometimes a fourth draft is read by non-fiction experts such as a financial advisor might need a compliance read. But at the end of the third draft you have something that is rock solid, that is ready to take on the world in this way.

That sounds doable. What do these three drafts look like?

•The messy draft: which is all about getting it down, including six tips on how to generate material.

•The method draft: which is all about making sense, including eight action steps for bringing the best parts of your first draft up a level.

•The polished draft: which is all about making it good. Continuing to get good ideas even as your targets continue to narrow in the form of a punchlist.

Think about which ones of those people often skip. They might spend an agonizingly long time in one of the drafts as opposed to the others. When you know what you’re doing in every draft you can make conscious progress and know where you are.

It seems like you are really into process? Can’t that injure one’s free-flowing creativity?

Well now we’re into the debate about who has a better way to write between pantsers and outliners. A pantser is someone who, as the name suggests, writes by the seat of his or her pants. An outliner, on the other hand, is someone who meticulously crafts every writing session. This isn’t a real debate, by the way, because we are all both of these at different times. Even the most ardent pantsers are bound to somehow keep track of where they are going next and what they have already accomplished, while even the most rigorous outliners get surprised when they sit at their desks and discover something about their books that they didn’t already know. There’s an interplay between outlining and pantsing, and while every writer is different, I think having some kind of process — which the outliner side of you brings to the table — is crucial for finishing…and finishing strong.

Sometimes I’m a panster, sometimes not. What if I get stuck? Can I hire you to help me?

That is what I do for a living. I am an independent editor, and I have the coolest job in the world. However, this question sounds like a plant, so I will stop there.🙂

That WAS a planted question! I intentionally slipped that one in so that I could share a bit about my own experience working with you as a book coach and editor.🙂 And here it is…

If you have a great book in you, but you’re feeling overwhelmed, call Stuart. Stuart helped me pull my nonfiction idea out of my head and get it onto the page in a very short amount of time. I’m a deadline driven person, so his goal-setting got me writing, but the best part of working with Stuart was the absolute absence of fear. He guided me through what to accomplish each week in small enough steps that I stayed productive and stayed on task—without the anxiety of wandering alone. I was no longer overwhelmed by the huge job of writing an entire book. I was focused on small impactful items, one after another. That cumulative process led to the development of a terrific book proposal which is now under consideration at a very fabulous publishing house (more news on that soon I hope!).

Okay, back to this great new book of yours. I’ve read it twice and I took new notes each time. I’ve got a novel project on my computer that is finally getting some attention, and I’m really thankful to have Finish Your Book in Three Drafts by my side. I like the supplemental material you provide. (For those who haven’t read Stuart’s new book yet, it includes videos and extra pdfs—yes, even the print version gets you access to the whole bag of fun!) Is that a new trend in book packaging?

Haha, I’m not sure if we are part of setting trends or not! The project really grew under our hands and I’m just glad we didn’t stop it before it got where it wanted to go. My first book, Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method was black and white, with some illustrations and photographs. then along came Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula and we went with a larger trim size (6″x9″), and we went in full color for the graphs and grids that are some of those method draft actions steps I mentioned above. Then we came to this book, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts, which we nicknamed 3D because the material is conveyed partly through text and full-color diagrams, and partly through videos that feature stop-motion action figures that are located on the Book Architecture website. If you aren’t online at the moment of reading we put in storyboards of the videos which make the book look more like a graphic novel, which I just love! There are also nine extra PDFs for when you want to go deeper into a certain concept, such as the five definitions of scene, or how to brainstorm your book’s query letter and non-fiction book proposal. That way, some people can stop for the moment, whereas others can go along at their own pace.  

I’ve watched the videos and printed out those pdfs. Thank you for providing so much extra content! I’m feeling great about this novel draft I’m working on now, but if I get stuck again, I know who to call🙂.

About Stuart:  Stuart Horwitz is the founder and principal of Book Architecture, a firm of independent editors whose clients have reached the bestseller list in both fiction and nonfiction, and have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Today, The Tonight Show, and in the most prestigious journals in their respective fields. Finish Your Book in Three Drafts is the third and final book in the Book Architecture trilogy. Horwitz’s 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 by The Writer magazine, His second book, Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula was released in 2015 as part of a five-year, 100-venue book tour of North America which will run through 2017.

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When Erma Calls: The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

“As writers we hold whole universes in our souls.” Wise observations by award-winning author Susan Pohlman in the article below. Susan shares her experience as a workshop leader at the recent Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop:

Moments That Matter

images-58My mother is an avid newspaper reader. As a girl I can remember finding her with the paper spread across the dining room table. She would read it cover to cover, clipping recipes, reading aloud the latest hint from Heloise or cutting articles to send to various family members that she was sure they’d appreciate. My favorite memory, however was watching her giggle as she read the Erma Bombeck column of the week. She, like so many of her generation, would tape it to the refrigerator for the rest of us to enjoy.


Imagine my delight when I was invited to participate as faculty in the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop this past March in Ohio at the University of Dayton (Erma’s alma mater and mine as well!) I had been eyeing this writing conference as a participant for years and had never managed to register in time for one of the 200…

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RIFT: Kathy Fish and Robert Vaughan Talk About Life Through Stories

This is one of the best flash fiction collections you’ll read all year!

Heavy Feather Review


Rift, by Kathy Fish and Robert Vaughan. Unknown Press, December 2015. 216 pages. $14.00, paper.

Imagine a coffee shop, something independent, unique, not part of a chain, where the air is filled with a rich, dark aroma, where the tinkle of music is subtle, underlining real conversations about real things. Now imagine a solid wooden table, highly polished by hand, scarred by time, yet warm with love. Stitting across from you are two writers you admire, not just for the skilled pieces of written art they create at their computers, but also for their humanity, their generosity, their views on the human condition. Who would those two writers be? How about Kathy Fish and Robert Vaughan? What if they were taking turns, telling you stories? What would that be like?

The answer is their collaboration, Rift, two hundred sixteen pages of flash fiction pieces divided into four…

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