How many of us have ideas for books (bestsellers of course!) bouncing around in our brains? I definitely do – but I also have a million reasons why I never get started. The biggest excuse for not writing is time. With endless to-do lists, work and family, who has the time to think about a book project? But writing the Great American Novel aside - the ability to clearly and creatively tell stories is one of the most important skills in the world of public relations.
At InkHouse, the art of storytelling is always at the core of how we work with our clients. Stuart Horwitz, founder and principal of the consultancy Book Architecture and friend of InkHouse, recently paid a visit to one of InkHouse’s Lunch and Learn sessions to share his valuable insights around how best to go about writing a story - whether it's for a client, your book or even a blog.
In his work, Stuart helps writers navigate the book writing process, covering everything from how to get started to signing a book deal. Horwitz was generous enough to share his wisdom around how best to organize drafts, generate ideas and vet material during the writing process.
Stuart’s first and most important mantra? Know what draft you’re in. Stuart recommends writing three drafts: the first draft is very much a ‘by the seat of your pants’ version – getting everything down on paper as quickly as possible, worrying less about editing and telling the perfect story and more about just getting it done. I believe he uses the phrase “pantsing” for the first draft. This type of writing should also help stave off writer’s block.
The core philosophy behind the second draft is taking the best parts of your story up one level – bearing in mind that repeating messages and themes and forming a grid for your different story lines are all useful ways to mold and organize the second draft. As Stuart says, “Intelligent planning is not the enemy of creative genius.”
The crux of the third draft? “Your book can only be about one thing.” Now is the time to focus the draft of your book, zero-in on what story it is you’re telling and edit to keep that story front and center. Remember, just because you wrote it, doesn’t mean it’s good. Stuart notes that this process should yield a final book draft with, “that fresh feeling of not having been too well-worked.”
Perhaps the best part of our time with Stuart, was when he shared his six excellent tips on how to generate material, from his first book Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise any Manuscript with The Book Architecture Method. For many, this is the first challenge they face when it comes to getting started on any writing project.
Here are Horwitz’s six tips on how to generate material:
1. Count your words
2. Find a neutral audience (get rid of the critics and the cheerleaders)
3. Don’t try to organize anything (write long, then figure out the good parts)
4. Make the time
5. Listen (remove outside distractions – listen for the sound of your own voice)
6. Have fun (if you’re having fun, the reader is having fun)
For me, it was an important reminder: No matter all the distractions of work, children and hobbies, if you make the time, you will begin to put words on paper.