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Book Architecture Turns 20

Madison Utley speaks to Book Architecture Founder and Principal, Stuart Horwitz, upon the 20th anniversary of his independent editing business; how did he reach this milestone, what has he learned along the way, and what’s in store for the future? 

(No, he does not get special treatment simply because he’s the boss. My new interview format is my new interview format). 

 

MU: Initially, what appealed to you about a career as an independent editor? 

SH: I was speaking to my colleague, Anita Mumm, about this and she told me that one day she had an aha moment about wanting a writing life. I think that’s what hits all of us independent editors at some point. I wanted a life that has to do with the thing that I love, which is books and writing and words. There are more traditional routes and less traditional routes to getting there; for me, heading towards independent editing had to do with avoiding any more toxic bosses than I had already experienced. It was terrifying to have my life in someone else’s hands, for them to be able to handle my well-being whimsically–especially as I got into my thirties. 

 

MU: How did the vision that you had in your mind for what your business could be 20 years ago match up to how it has actually unfolded? 

SH: I didn’t expect Book Architecture to be my full-time job; originally, it was supposed to be a way to make money while I went to graduate school in East Asian studies. My goal was to become a professor of Buddhism. But over time, I came to find that the academic future I pictured was an image that I had for myself rather than my actual path. 

Concurrent to this realization, there were changes happening in the industry that were radically increasing demand for independent editors. The advent of self-publishing, the profusion of e-books–it was sort of like buying a stock at the right time. I was doing better financially than I would have as a professor, but it wasn’t just that; I was also getting a much broader context of exposure to the world through the projects I was doing. It was all just happening, and some of that is certainly luck. If I sit here and look at the last year, two years, five years, twenty years, it’s clear that nothing is clear. Book Architecture was just meant to happen. I figured it out before it was too late; that’s the only credit I feel like I deserve. 

Stuart’s former office in Providence, which had red walls because he wanted red walls. His current office is in San Diego, because he wanted it to be in San Diego. // Alternate caption, sourced from SH: “I am my own man.”

 

MU: Where did the name Book Architecture come from?

SH: I did an architecture course during my first master’s degree. There was so much more artistry to it than I realized, in the proportion and emphasis and repetition of stylistic icons. It struck me as a symphony in stone, something creative but also solid. That’s what I wanted to bring to my business; something beautiful, but also built to last. That is book architecture. 

Book Architecture also represents hope. The hope that you can structure your octopus of a manuscript in progress, that there’s some kind of clarity and sanity to be found. The hope that your voice is enough, that you as an author are enough. The hope that the critics in your head saying you can’t do it can be silenced and your creativity is inexhaustible. That hope has become my mission of sorts, to help strengthen the roots of confidence within others and myself. 

 

MU: Something we’ve talked a lot about is the intensity of this job, in being brought into clients’ worlds and entrusted with the details of the most meaningful and, often, the most painful parts of their lives. Can you talk about how that’s been? 

SH: These are the things that make for the best books, so if I’m in a situation in which things feel flat or uninspiring, I’ll usually start digging to see what we can liberate. But truly, in these situations of working with a client before they go to prison or a client with a terminal cancer diagnosis who is aware they’ll die before the book comes out, it is a profound privilege to tell their story. Some of the books I’ve worked on with these kinds of stressors have impacted me profoundly and changed the way I view the world. Experiencing that was part of what validated my leaving academia; this work became better than more formal education. The courses I take now are all one-on-one, they’re more varied, and there’s a richness, an immediacy, a real-lifeness to them.

When you’re in the groove and collaborating together with someone, it feels like a multiplication and not an addition. So, being able to be in the creative process with people of quality, and getting paid for it, and setting my own hours? Yeah, sounds good. 

 

MU: How has helming Book Architecture impacted your personal writing endeavors? 

SH: One of the best things about this job is that it has allowed me to work on my own writing concurrently, whether that was my three theoretical books on writing, my memoir (which is in a very exciting phase), or the novel that I’m currently working on, which is incipient but glowing. I think there are some people who feel like they can’t work with words and then also do their own writing, like somehow they’ll be using up their talent or it’s too much in the same headspace. I can empathize with that. For many years, I thought I had to wait tables, because that way I would have my creative energy all to myself. That makes sense in theory, but in reality I was existing in a toxic and draining environment. While my creativity may have been safe and untouched, nearly every other kind of energy was being sapped, which seriously inhibited my ability to sit down and write effectively. 

Committing to my business full-time and being in control of my own destiny has had a huge impact on how quickly I’m able to clear my mind before a good writing session starts. Now, there’s a lot of cross-flow between the work I do for Book Architecture and the work I do for myself. I can do my job for five hours and then I can take a break, exercise, meditate, go to the coffee shop, whatever, and then write at night. I’ve created the context and learned the tools I need to access that headspace.  

 

 

MU: What are you most excited about moving into a new decade of Book Architecture? 

SH: In thinking through my answer to this question, I realize that Book Architecture is able to fit with everything that I want to do with my life moving forward. My wife and I are anticipating opening up a retreat center for writers in the next two years or so, and I fully intend for my work as an independent editor to continue through that. If there are areas of life that I’m more interested in learning about, I can seek out those clients. If I want to work more, I can get more clients. If I want to work less, I can get less clients. If I want to go be a digital nomad, done. I’m there. Over the past 20 years, it seems Book Architecture has become intrinsic to my identity and my lifestyle–and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

 

The BA Band: Lisa Tener

We’re excited to share that friend of Book Architecture and industry stalwart, Lisa Tener, has launched her new book, The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day.

When the Covid pandemic hit, Lisa’s personal journaling practice expanded as she threw herself into the pursuit with renewed vigor. Her daily writings infused the otherwise largely challenging time with beauty as she experienced rich inner growth and tapped into a new source of free-flowing creativity.

Having rediscovered the power of journaling for herself, both as a healthy processing mechanism in hard times as well as a gateway to previously inaccessible creativity, Lisa felt compelled to spread the wealth. Today, September 22, the fruit of that labor is being presented to the world; a resource created to uplift, spark creativity, and help guide readers towards fulfillment.

The Joy of Writing Journal contains creative and multifaceted prompts to helps users’ get their thoughts onto the page, whether in the form of a blog post, short story, poem, essay, book, or simply as a means to have fun and learn more about themselves. Better yet, the journal is interactive, containing QR codes which, when scanned, link to video and audio-based guidance and inspiration from other writers.

It has been a pleasure to witness Lisa pour her heart into this book, driven by a clear passion to equip others looking to access joy through their creativity with the tools to do so. The journal captures some of Lisa’s most valuable writing advice in a concise, innovative, and fun format. Sound up your alley? Ours too! Grab yourself a copy of The Joy of Writing Journal here

The BA Band: Molly Regan

 

Madison Utley speaks to Book Architecture’s favorite graphic designer, Molly Regan, about how she expanded into book design, the process of creating the cover for Stuart’s second and third books on writing, and the best and most challenging parts of working with authors. 

 

Q: Talk to me about what it is you do/the scope of your services within the book sphere. 

A: My main jam is logos and branding, but I also do a lot with brochures, posters, packaging, and signage. Stuart was my gateway to book cover design, which was something I’d always wanted to try. When I first did a cover for one of his clients, I realized it was really just poster design, but on a smaller scale. It can be hard to make a cover compelling enough that people pick the book up, while keeping all of the info legible, especially if there’s a big title and/or longer subtitle, but I’ve found I really enjoy the challenge of a tinier canvas. 

I also expanded into interior graphics for books. Trying to make charts and graphs interesting can be really fun. I especially like infographics. Right now, I’m actually working on some “loose illustrations” for a glossary of terms, and I will admit it’s challenging! I’m not really an illustrator, but it feels good to exercise different creative muscles. 

 

 

Q: How did you first get connected to Stuart? 

A: Alright, well, this is a little embarrassing. I had an old college project/poster listed on Craigslist, that I really thought someone would buy only for the frame. The poster featured some 1950s Olivetti typewriter ad graphics, which is how Stuart came across the listing as he’s a big typewriter collector. Anyway, he ended up buying it! And, some time after that, he contacted me to do a book cover… Craiglist unites!

 

Q: Tell me about the process of creating the covers for Stuart’s second and third book. 

A: They were both super fun projects. Stuart’s second book was my introduction to the Book Architecture method – the series, grids, rearranging scenes, etc. In our meeting, I remember him saying he was imagining something Mondrian-esque, which really complemented the grid process outlined in the book. It came together pretty organically; just playing with forms, sort of ‘painting’ in shapes. We both felt good about the cover we came up with. It’s geometric, but also lively.

For his third book, my initial designs were too tame and not the vibe Stuart was going for. With his input, I turned towards more of a comic-book style – which provided a good framework for featuring stills from the stop-motion videos that were released in tandem with the written book (!). It was the right look for the tone of this book, and definitely more fun.

 

Q: How do you go about figuring out a client’s vision and getting it down onto the page?

A: When a client comes to me with a clear idea that they’re already set on, I accept that brainstorming is off the table and instead focus on making a good design out of what it is they want. When they’re more open, I’ll shoot around ideas of what I think they might want or need and, if they connect with something, I’ll run with it. It’s always fun when a word or doodle I come up with during a meeting or from the notes I keep becomes the driving force of a project.

 

Q: How does the process change when working with a hard-to-please client?

A: It is sort of heartbreaking when you present a good idea and the client passes, especially when their reasoning is unclear. It’s rare, but there are times when you have to let go of any creative input and instead simply become the facilitator of your client’s vision. I think of those projects as ‘work-work’ and not fun work. That kind of work will definitely never see the light of day in my portfolio, and that’s okay. 

Scrivener & The Book Architecture Method

Please welcome Book Architecture’s guest blogger and award-winning author  – Ray Daniel!

 

Stuart Horwitz’s Book Architecture trilogy, Blueprint your Bestseller, Book Architecture, and Finish Your Book in Three Drafts, delivers a powerful framework for writing a novel.

Scrivener, the software package from the company Literature and Latte, is a powerful software tool that combines word processing with outlining, research storing, and task management to create a single novel-creating platform.

One would think that there would be powerful synergies between a novel-writing software tool, Scrivener, and a novel-writing creation tool, Book Architecture, and one would be correct.

This blog shows one way to use Scrivener to manage the Book Architecture process.

Since it’s easier to work from example, I’ll be using my third Tucker Novel, Child Not Found, and parts of my fourth Tucker Novel, Hacked as examples of a novel built using Book Architecture and written in Scrivener.

The Binder

The binder is the perfect place to begin, because it organizes all the information about your project into a single place. The binder for Child Not Found looks like this:

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image2The first thing to notice is that my binder contains the three drafts Stuart outlines in Finish Your Book in Three Drafts. The messy draft, method draft, and polished draft each have their own folders. I didn’t actually write three drafts of the novel. I generated the material for the novel in the messy draft, and then duplicated the messy draft to create the initial version of the method draft:

 

Here we see the first place where Scrivener intersects with the Book Architecture method: draft management. Rather than have separate word processing documents for each draft – or even worse, one document that keeps changing – we have a place to store each of our drafts so we can refer to back to previous drafts as we move forward.

As we see here, we copy the messy draft to create the method draft. But where did the messy draft come from? It came from Blueprint Your Bestseller’s Action Step #0.

Step #0: Generate Material

Generating material is the first step in the Book Architecture method. There are many ways to generate material and Blueprint Your Bestseller discusses several of them. One of the most basic ways to generate material is to start at the beginning and simply write the book into a word processor. This results in a long document containing your entire novel.

Organizing Material into Scenes

If you’ve generated material, and need to bring it into Scrivener, you can import and organize your novel into scenes. Blueprint Your Bestseller encourages writers to cut up their scenes as Action Step #5. I suggest, for reasons that we’ll see, that Scrivener users do this as Step #1.

Scrivener makes it easy to cut your scenes. You import your book into Scrivener (perhaps with copy and paste) and then use the Split at Selection command to split the document into two documents:

image3

You place your cursor between two scenes and use the right mouse button to split the scene at the selection. This gives you two scenes that you can name. You keep working your way down your document until you’ve “cut up” all your scenes.

Generating Material in Scenes

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While Scrivener makes it easy to split a novel into scenes, I recommend a different approach: generating material scene by scene. That is, you create a separate document for each scene and allow Scrivener to compile it all into a book. You can set Scrivener to compile your scenes however you like.

My books have one scene per chapter, so the compilation process is simple. But you can use folders to combine several scenes into a chapter and several chapters into parts.

Generating material scene by scene in Scrivener has the obvious advantage that you don’t need to split your manuscript into scenes later on. It has additional advantages in that it is satisfying to finish a scene and move on to the next one, and that you can use icons in the binder to add orienting material to your manuscript such as acts, beats, sequences, and days. For example here are the scenes that make up my most recent Tucker book, Hacked.

 

Analyzing Your Scenes

The first five steps of Blueprint Your Bestseller help you analyze your scenes:

  • Brainstorm Your Scenes—Make a list of your scenes from memory.
  • Your Good Scenes—Highlight the good scenes, those that are done for now.
  • Your Bad Scenes—Highlight the bad scenes, ones that need work.
  • Your Forgotten Scenes—Note the ones that skipped your mind.
  • Cut Up Your . . . we already did this.

You can do all this with Scrivener’s Label feature. Each scene has a programmable Label field which you can see in the Inspector on the right side of the window:

image5

You can program the label with the words Good, Bad, Forgotten, and even Putrid (If you want to go beyond Book Architecture’s recommendations.)

image6

 

When you edit the labels you can add colors by clicking on the colored dot next to each label.

Now that you have colors on each of your labels you can use them to examine your scenes.

image8

To color code your scenes, select:

View -> Use Label Color In -> Binder.

Hmm. Lots of green. Not so bad.

 

Working with Series

Action steps #6-#10 from Blueprint Your Bestseller all relate to finding the series in your story and attaching them to scenes. Then you look for key scenes where several series intersect, find the theme of the book, and consciously choose how to present the series in terms of frequency and rhythm.

The Scrivener keyword feature is perfect for managing series in Scrivener.

Creating a List of Series

The first thing we do is create a list of series using keywords. We see the project keywords using the Project -> Show Project Keywords pulldown menu. This gives us a list of keywords and we use it to capture our series:

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The little plus-sign icon in the lower left allows you to add series. You can double click on the colored squares on the right to give each series its own color. You are now ready to add your series to your scenes.

Adding Series to a Scene

Each scene should deliver at least one iteration of a series. At this point we go through all our scenes and add series to them. The easiest way to do this is to drag the series (keywords) from the Keywords window above into the scene title in the binder window:

image10

You can see the list of series associated with a given scene using the Keyword panel in the inspector:

image11

Once you have all the series associated with the scenes you can easily see how your book handles the series.

Searching for Series

The easiest way to analyze your series is to ask the question “Which of my scenes relate to a given series?” For example, let’s examine the places where the series “secrets” came up in Child Not Found’s messy draft.

First we tell Scrivener that we want to search for keywords:image12

Next we do the search and look at the binder:

image13

We see that we have ten scenes that deal with secrets.

Series on the Corkboard

Scrivener lets you view a collection of scenes as index cards on a corkboard. You can add colors from your series by selecting the View -> Corkboard Options -> Show Keyword Colors menu item. This view helps you find key scenes:

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The card display button in the lower right hand corner lets you control the number of series colors that appear on each card.

Series in the Outliner

You can also view sets of scenes in the outliner and view their series (keywords) using the outliner’s column selector like this:

image15

You access the column selector by using the right mouse button on the column title area at the top of the list. (By the way, Scrivener does not require numbers on the keywords. I added the numbers myself as part of my process for sorting analyzing scenes.)

Using Scrivener for the Rest of the Process

At this point Scrivener has helped us cut up our scenes, label them as good, bad, or forgotten, and assign series to them. At this point we can proceed using typical Scrivener features.

Finding the Theme

Blueprint Your Bestseller action steps #7-11 have to do with finding your theme. You’ve named your series in the keywords, but the other steps of describing the series, listing the series sentences, and “finding your one thing”, are best done in a spare document in the Story Notes section in the binder.

Drawing the Target

There is no “Draw the Target” function in Scrivener. You can do this with a big poster board and post it notes. Software tool geek that I am, I use Literature and Latte’s tool Scapple to create my target. Once you’ve completed your target exercise you can store the result in Scrivener’s Story Notes section either by taking a picture of it or (if using Scapple) dragging and dropping it.

Ordering Your Scenes

Stuart Horwitz says that a novel is 99 scenes arranged in the correct order. Now that you’ve fully analyzed your novel with help from Scrivener, you duplicate your messy draft to create a method draft and then rearrange and rewrite the scenes. You’ve now got 99 (or whatever number) scenes in the correct order. So you duplicate your method draft to create a polished draft and you’re all set.

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Ray Daniel is the award-winning author of Boston-based crime fiction and is the author of the Tucker Mysteries. His short stories “Give Me a Dollar” won a 2014 Derringer Award for short fiction and “Driving Miss Rachel” was chosen as a 2013 distinguished short story by Otto Penzler, editor of The Best American Mystery Stories 2013. CHILD NOT FOUND is the third novel in the Tucker Mysteries. For more information, visit him online at raydanielmystery.com and follow him on twitter @raydanielmystry.