13 Writing Tips From Book Architecture Founder Stuart Horwitz
Jun 22, 2022 Beth Monaghan
Stories are how we make sense of the world. But writing can be frustratingly difficult. And it takes time and practice to get better.
It’s always good to invite an outside perspective. Meet our dear friend, Stuart Horwitz. He’s written three books about writing, Book Architecture, Blueprint Your Bestseller and Finish Your Book in Three Drafts, and he works with other writers through his company Book Architecture. Stuart helps them navigate the book writing process, covering everything from how to get started to signing a book deal. He’s also our go-to creative writing mentor.
Whether you’re writing a blog post, bylined article, your book, or even a thought leadership social post on LinkedIn, you’ll benefit from his advice on how to generate new material. Here are our favorite tips (and inspiration) from Stuart using his direct quotes from over the years:
#1: Believe in yourself first. “That fear of the blank page really amounts to making it through the first ninety seconds. It's about getting through the very first ‘Should I?... Do I dare?'...Well, sure you should. If not you, who?"
#2: Commit to a topic that brings you joy. “If you’re having fun, your reader will have fun too.”
#3: You can’t be all things to all people. “Figure out which five to six audiences are important, then drop the bottom three. And pay special attention to your number one audience.” We couldn’t agree more; focus drives attention.
#4: Your voice needs to match your audience. “You have to figure out who doesn’t know what you know and who needs to know. Then you want to use a voice that will connect to that audience.” Stuart’s formula: voice + audience = communication.
#5: It’s not a message until it gets repeated. “People follow along with stories when you repeat themes and vary them over time, creating aha moments they didn’t expect but that feel right.” A good theme unifies everything.
#6: Know what draft you’re in. Stuart recommends writing three drafts. The first one is the “messy draft” — you’re just getting it down with the scenes that show what you’re trying to convey. The second one is the “method draft.” Here you’re making it make sense by working with the structure of your work, and sharing it with others for feedback. The final draft, the “polished draft” is about making it good. You’re making your sentences good, tinkering with things that still aren’t working, etc.
#7: Save the judgment. “We’re writing, not editing....write it quickly and don’t look back. It’s important to keep the process moving.” Editing comes after the writing.
#8: Keep the good but drop the bad. “You can’t force it; you do it through revision.” Stuart sometimes even suggests writing your first draft by hand, then typing the second draft—that way you consciously discard the parts that don’t work.
#9: Push your creative edge. “If your story is too packaged, there isn't a shred of danger in there. You need to start from the place where you're scared.” In our world, we call this authenticity, which requires vulnerability. Audiences know “marketing messages” when they see them.
#10: Respect your audience. “It’s your fault if your audience doesn’t understand your message, not theirs. You want to make your word choice accessible and you want to make the construction of your story logical...If they feel that they are being talked down to it will start to turn them off.”
#11: Tackle the work but don’t tinker. "Sometimes leaving the great stuff alone is a win."
#12: Know when it’s not your story to tell. “It’s important to consider another person’s perspective before you post or publish.” Whose permission do you need before you go live?
#13: Don’t force a conclusion. You might not know where you’re heading until you get to the end. That’s what the second draft is for — making it make sense.
Want more? Watch Stuart’s three-hour-long episodes on writing, process and revisions entitled, The Book Architecture Experience. It’s free because he’s good like that.