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The Method & The Mystery


a guest blog by Kimberly Savage

I make it a point in life: never argue with Albert Einstein. Who knows what he had in mind when he wrote the words above but, to me, he describes the mysterious process of writing perfectly. And how we surprise ourselves along the way.

Applying the method

Starting the first draft of my work-in-progress, I had a sketch of what my book was about: the characters, the setting, the ideas. Enter the Book Architecture Method which both helps you organize the material you already know, and helps you discover things you didn’t know about your book.

I wrote my first draft and then, following the Method, I analyzed it. I figured out my theme. I recalled my scenes from memory. And I wrote down my series.

If you don’t know series, it is the quintessential Book Architecture concept. I think of it as an archetype, which can be a character, a setting, an object, a phrase, an idea, a theme. For more information on series, check out this PDF from Stuart’s third book, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts.

Many of my series that I had in my mind stayed mostly the same, maybe with some cutting and stitching. But I also found I’d started something new in the draft that stood out: Biology.


What the method reveals

Being able to take a step back is what any writing method should help you do…or else it’s not doing its job. In my case, I saw:

  • Biology is my main character’s favorite school subject.
  • There’s some subtext about genetics – since the character is half Native American.
  • Add to that, the character is a cutter, so there’s blood.
  • And, oh yeah, there’s rumination on life and death – what we know, what we don’t know.

I made Biology a series. If I was wrong, and it turned out to be a dead end, I could always erase it from my series grid.

Then I wrote my second draft, and a funny thing happened. Biology became a big deal in the story. I used it as a metaphor, a scene-builder, a character-enhancer. It became one of the main series of the story. It made my story much stronger, much deeper.

Biology as a series surprised me, because it wasn’t in my head when I’d started. And if I hadn’t been looking for new series and surprises, I would’ve missed it.

Get the big picture

Using the Method is an amazing way to harness the mystery of your own writing.

  • You go beyond what you already know about your story,
  • You identify the mysteries that you’ve created, and
  • You figure out how to make your story stronger with them.

You still have lots of room for all the things you have yet to discover.

So go ahead, give the Method a try. Your story will be stronger for it. And you’ll make Einstein so proud.


You Can Do It Too: Real Writers & The Method

You’ve read Finish Your Book in Three Drafts.

You’ve attended a Book Architecture class at a conference.

But you’re still not sure how Book Architecture could really work for you.

Two writers – Joshua Hedges and Cathy Sikorski – share their experiences with the Book Architecture Method in this group chat and how they finished their books in three drafts.

How did you hear about Book Architecture?

CATHY: I first met Stuart at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. Those of us who go to writers’ conferences are always looking to improve our writing and are open to all kinds of ideas. I took his class on a whim and was very inspired by his view on structuring a book. I had finished my first book, and was searching for a publisher, but I was already thinking about my next book.

JOSHUA: I heard about Book Architecture at the Pennwriters conference in May. My first novel took a ridiculous amount of time. Thinking about it makes me feel like a storm cloud just rolled in. I’d work my normal nine-to-five and then write. The weekend would come and I’d write. I tossed first novel mid-way though twice. When I finally decided to keep a draft, I entered revision Hell. There was a point where I revised chapter two fifteen times. I revised so much that the story turned choppy. Eventually, the chapters lost that fresh, original feeling and I hated them. I needed to get faster and focused. I couldn’t write a good book if I hated the book before I finished it. That was what attracted me to the Book Architecture method – the tag line: “Write a book, revise a book, complete a book while you still love it.”

What caught your eye about Book Architecture? What did you like about it?

CATHY: My first book was in a diary format and I liked it that way because of the topic. The linear structure made sense. But my next book would be more chapter structured and I was floundering. So, honestly, I picked up and put down Book Architecture many times in the next year as I was ‘pantsing’ my next book. Since that was my choice anyway as an author, to just get things on the page, I was all about ‘pantsing’. I’ve never been an outliner. So you can imagine how I liked the beginning of Book Architecture.

JOSHUA: I was writing wrong. I know there isn’t one way to write, but I think you could say there are a lot of ways not to write. It took me something like 10 years to write my first novel. Rewriting dominated my writing time. I started to hate writing because I’d write a chapter and then pull it apart. Forever. Sometimes my rough drafts ended up being better than several drafts in because I’d change so much. One minor plot change and I’d go back and revise the whole novel. As writers, we spend most of our time revising, but we live for that creative time when we have a blank page and infinite possibilities. I needed more of that.

The Book Architecture method breaks it up. Three drafts, each with a purpose. I was strangling my creativity with the pressure of getting it right the first time. Breaking up my focus freed me to spend more time creating. What really got me moving was to just get my ideas down on paper. I wrote something like 60k words in around 10 weeks, while being a dad of an energetic three-year-old and having a full time job. I wrote between 500-1000 words per hour. For me that was ground breaking.

Can you describe the project you worked on using the Method?

CATHY: The project was my book Who Moved My Teeth?  This book is a compendium of humorous tales, and advice that I have gathered in my 25 years as a caregiver for 7 different family members in friends and my 30 years as an attorney working with families and elder clients.

JOSHUA: My current novel is a YA space opera about a super planet where there are strong racial divides between those that live on the continents and Polynesian-like island people. An invading Emperor attacks the planet for its natural resources and Toa, my main character’s father, a retired war hero, is called back to war. But when the battle is quickly lost, Toa must find it in herself to master a power locked inside her and save her captured father and her planet.

Were you skeptical about any part of the Method?

CATHY: Yes, I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure that I could buckle down to a structure model. I also wasn’t sure that Book Architecture was a working concept, it seemed disjointed and difficult. Which leads to the hardest part. The glaring hardest part was the cutting up of the manuscript. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around cutting it up, how to cut it up and get it back together or even where to begin in cutting it up.

Once the pages were on the table and I began, it was more freeing than I thought, but I won’t pretend that it wasn’t hard or confusing during the process. I emailed Stuart at one point, and he was kind enough to guide me through the challenge of figuring out how to put it back together. And I will tell you, that because of this process, ultimately I changed really important parts of the puzzle to make the book make more sense.

JOSHUA: Stuart is clear that not every part of the method is for everyone. I took what parts made me more effective and used them. I feel like there are a wide range of options to pick from depending on your skill level. For example, applying scenes to a target is a little tough when you have a lot of different characters. That’s one reason that I opted to get more specific in draft three. I actually cut two character POVs from my novel in draft two which resulted in a good bit of changes. Good thing I didn’t just go back and start revising mid-draft, or I’d still be in the first draft.

What was the greatest improvement in your writing, using the BA Method?

JOSHUA: Speed. I knew I had to write faster, but I didn’t want my writing to suck. I can’t sell what’s in my head unless it’s readable. I’ve seen the benefits of my improved speed in my short story writing. I just finished a 7k word short story that might be published in an anthology and it only took about fifteen hours start to finish. Oh, and I enjoyed it.

I also have more focus on theme. I feel like that’s worth mentioning because we often get tied up in what our characters are thinking and feeling, but it’s the reader that needs to think and feel. The gift readers take with them when your book is on the shelf is the theme. They might remember characters or a few good scenes, but the theme is the bit of knowledge a reader can incorporate in what they think and believe. The theme is what gives writers the power to change the world. The Book Architecture Method talks a lot about focusing on the theme of your book, and I feel like it’s something I’ll be learning my whole writing career.

What do you like best about BA?

CATHY: I really liked that there actually could be a method. I think writers struggle with a beginning, middle and end to the writing process. Book Architecture helped me realize that yes, I could finish this. Even putting three drafts on the process made a light at the end of the tunnel.

JOSHUA: Stuart’s voice is pretty laid back, almost like you’re having a dinner conversation. Don’t get me wrong, you have to pay attention but his little jokes in his books keep things light enough to digest the material. I will have to read these books and implement them a few times to really absorb all that applies to my writing style.

How did using the Method help you succeed with your project?

CATHY: For me, the biggest improvement was probably putting pieces together so that they made sense and flowed from chapter to chapter. I’m not organized as a rule, so I looked at Book Architecture as a way to make my work look and feel and be understood as a cohesive whole. I don’t know that my writing is better…hahahaha….(cause writers are their own worst enemies) but I do think Book Architecture and Stuart’s generous help made my book better!

JOSHUA: With my current novel, after 10 weeks, I have ideas on paper that I can mold into a good book. Writers work so hard and we’re rejected so often. The pages of my novels aren’t words, they’re my Saturdays that I missed with my kid or the dates I skipped with my wife. It’s time out of my life for words I can share. Using my time effectively makes that sacrifice not so bad. It motivates me to move forward and keep writing.


Joshua Hedges is a debut YA writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. He’s currently seeking publication for a YA dark fantasy novel and writing a space opera. Some of his short stories are web-published here and here.




Cathy Sikorski is a practicing attorney in dealing in Elder Law. She been a significant caregiver for the past 25 years. She has engaged in many speaking engagements, radio programs, and podcasts to promote humor in caregiving with her first book, released by HumorOutcasts Press, Showering with Nana: Confessions of a Serial (killer) Caregiver. In November of 2016, Corner Office Books released Cathy’s second book Who Moved My Teeth? a practical and legal guide for adults and caregivers. Cathy is a contributing author for She has been featured on the Huffington Post. She can also been seen on the West Chester Story Slam YouTube channel. Cathy has a blog, “You just have to Laugh..where Caregiving is Comedy” at

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:



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:


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


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:


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



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.


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:


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:


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


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:


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:


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:


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.


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 and follow him on twitter @raydanielmystry.

How To Set Up A Book Tour: Part I – Preparation

Thanks to Where Writers Win for posting this on their blog on July 19, 2016

“There’s only one thing more frightening than being asked to do a book tour, and that’s not being asked to do a book tour.” —Gerald Petievich

This is the first of a three-part series on setting up your own author tour. I almost included the word “offline” in the title because so many tours these days are blog tours where the author participates in question & answer sessions, contributes guest blogs, or publishes an excerpt…and never has to leave his or her seat.

For the publication of my most recent book on writing, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book and Complete a Book While You Still Love It, I did all of these things, and I had a terrific experience with each one. But I also like to leave my desk. So here we won’t be talking about the safe, comfortable online tour, but a road trip tour, a spotlight on stage, face-to-face book tour.

And you don’t need someone else to set this tour up for you. Since the publication of my first book, Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any manuscript with the Book Architecture Method, in January of 2013, I’ve been on tour throughout North America. I have covered over 75,000 miles and just completed Tour Spot #72, setting up every venue appearance myself.

You may still be skeptical. That’s okay. Throughout this series, I’ll invite you to ask critical questions such as:

  • Who is paying for all of this?
  • How many books do you sell on average?
  • Isn’t this a lot of work?

In exchange, I’ll ask you to be honest about some of the questions that you might prefer to leave unspoken, like:

  • What if I’m terrified to present my work in front of other people?
  • How would I even begin to set up an author tour?
  • What if no one shows up?

And let us see if we agree on one thing before we begin. Magic happens in front of other people that could never be replicated online, with benefits for both the audience and the performer.

Your Launch Kit

Let’s break up the steps to prepare for your book tour in order to prevent overwhelm, and start with the Launch Kit, which includes:

  • author bio: long & short
  • book description (elevator pitch): long & short
  • headshot!
  • notable blurbs/endorsements
  • presentation or workshop description

Author Bio

I like to have two versions, one that is 200 words long, and one that is 100 words and retains the highlights. Actually, I have (19) bios, but that is not ideal. Bio maintenance isn’t something anybody wants to do, like updating your LinkedIn profile when you’re not looking for a job. But knocking these two versions out and the outset can make your life much easier.

Book Description

Just like the Author Bio you should have this in two versions, a longer one that can function as a press release of, say, 600 words, and a shorter one of 200 words that can be taken from your back cover copy.


If you are in the writing game for any degree of personal glory you will probably relish having this done. I know I did. But I have also seen a painfully shy author get beautiful photos done because the people taking her photo liked her book. This is not a self-indulgent step you should talk yourself out of doing. Also for this item, I would hire a professional ($). Note: throughout this series I will identify the amount of money you are likely to spend by the number of dollar signs present.

Notable blurbs or endorsements

This can strike fear into one’s heart, because everything is relative. You never know if the people you know are “big” enough. For Finish Your Book in Three Drafts I solved this by simply going to three people who I knew really understood and appreciated my work. Two of them were published authors in my genre and one of them was an award-winning coach…but you still may not have heard their names (yet!). I went to them for a different reason than their name recognition though. I chose them because of what they would say.

In my opinion, that is the most impactful part of a blurb or testimonial. Whenever someone says something good about you that is called a “third-party recommendation.” Any blurb will have that covered, and then people go on to see what your recommenders had to say. Okay, maybe if I had landed Anne Lamott for my cover page, the needle would have flickered a little more. But as my old editor at Penguin used to tell me, “Blurbs don’t sell books.”

Presentation or Workshop Description

You will need to have a description of your presentation. And before that, you will need to actually have a presentation. Don’t just show up and rely on the skill of your host (or expect that there will be a host) or the good graces of your audience to come loving you and wanting just to ask softball questions. Have something to say; have a beginning, middle, and end; and know who might like to attend.

Also, keep your options open. Be flexible about length, format or content. Communicate that willingness to meet a venue part-way, and they will love you forever.

Customizing Your Outreach

The best thing about creating your launch kit is that you can combine these elements into any of the following, with even basic design skills:

  • sales sheets
  • flyers
  • posters

You can also hire a graphic designer ($$) to do some of this work for you. Click here to see a sample of a sales sheet that we put together at Book Architecture, so no $, besides salary. You can also send a fully designed poster to a venue to print for you before your arrival (no $). It can be the same poster as last time, just with a few changes to the venue, date/time, and other relevant information which can vary, like whether there is an admission charge.

Your Boilerplate Outreach Email

Now we have climbed to the pinnacle of your preparation efforts: the outreach email. Fortunately, we can build on everything you’ve already done, so you are already there. I have put the purpose at the beginning of each paragraph in bold, and followed the sample writing with some additional observations in ALL CAPS.

I hope this email finds you well!

connection: As a veteran of the Bay Area where I lived for 5 years in the previous decade I know that if you want to bring an event to writers, aspiring and accomplished both, in the East Bay you start and end at (name and address omitted). And thus I am getting in touch to see if we might partner on an event. On Tuesday, July 29th I will be on a West Coast leg of my book tour. SH: YOU GOTTA ASK. REMEMBER VENUES ARE LOOKING FOR CONTENT.

book description: My book, Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method came out from Penguin/Perigee and has been getting raves from both readers and reviewers, including being chosen as one of the best books on writing for 2013 by The Writer Magazine.

event: My multimedia presentation on revision is totally unique, featuring a series of stop-motion animations to demonstrate some common aspects with which writers struggle. You can see some of the highlights in this two minute video: Welcome. SH: WE’LL TALK ABOUT TOUR TRAILERS IN THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THIS SERIES.

notable social proof: In 2013, I completed (20) stops on the first year of my two year North American tour. Some highlights include solo presentations at the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC and the Tucson Festival of Books, and standing-room-only workshops in San Diego, Boston, and Taos, NM. The tour is now rolling strong into its second year. More information about it (and about my work in general) can be found on my website:

what you’ll do: As I mentioned in the first graph I have plenty of “peeps” SH: NOTE CASUAL SLANG who will want to turn out to see me at (Name and address omitted). In addition, I will gladly work with you to determine which newspapers (especially arts sections), listings, local blogs, patches, and writing groups (including genre groups), colleges and universities, libraries and other organizations with listserves I should contact – and follow-up exhaustively. My turn-outs have been routinely excellent, and attendees leave inspired and rededicated to their craft.

attachments and be polite: I have attached a press kit (READ: LAUNCH KIT) to this email. Can you let me know what other information you might need?

Looking forward to the possibility!

I sent this email to the best store in my genre in the entire Bay Area. I actually used to dream of being in their Writing Reference section. Their answer came back in four hours. Sure. Love to have you.

In other cases I received a no, or no answer. In the next installment in this series we’ll go over uncovering leads and locating venues in more detail. The theme: If you don’t hear no every now and then, you’re not trying hard enough.

Pitching the Indie-Published Book Tour

One word on independently, or self-published, books. This is changing so quickly (just last month, Barnes & Noble announced they would begin carrying self-published books), that my advice may already be out of date. So I will just say, it can be a dance.

Being independently published should not be a deal breaker, if you can demonstrate enough other professionalism and enthusiasm. And always make sure that your book is bookstore friendly: i.e, you offer a 55% discount, not 40%; your books are returnable; and they are available via a major distributor such as IngramSpark and not exclusively on Amazon’s Createspace. Perigee/Penguin published my first book, and my company (Book Architecture, LLC) published my second and third books. I saw no change in the number or quality of venues who wanted to work with me. In fact, the tour has only grown in the stature of opportunities.