Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It
Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It by Stuart Horwitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not gonna lie, when Stuart Horwitz approached me with a request to participate in the editing of his newest book, I may have squealed with unadulterated glee like the little fan-girl I am. I have been through this book a few times now and each time I find a new nugget of wisdom that I want to diligently squirrel away to reference during future projects. I already reference Book Architecture all the time in my work as a freelance editor. Now I’ll be adding Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It to my “essentials” shelf.

Stuart’s break down of the process of building your manuscript is empowering; it’s freeing. You’re not bound to creating an outline or to following a linear path when you’re writing anymore. The tools he shares in this book (series grid, theme target, punch list) can help you make sense of the writing you have already done and be intentional about where and how you build and layer the significant moments as you continue to craft your manuscript.

And, bonus, Stuart’s book, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts, shows you how to know when you’re done, how to give yourself permission to put down the pen on a project.

The storytelling element of this particular volume makes it different from other books I’ve read on writing, outlining, and crafting your manuscript. Stuart’s pith and wit made the subject matter all the more enjoyable.

I highly recommend this book (and his other titles) to anyone who wants to develop their writing process, who wants to look at their craft differently, and who wants to finish their manuscript while they still love it.

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National Novel Writing Month

It’s no secret. I’m a HUGE fan of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo). The event takes place in the month of November. Participants commit to writing a 50,000 new words of a novel in 30 days. In those 30 days, literary madness ensues, fast friendships are forged, barriers are broken, dreams become reality.

As we get closer to November, more and more posts begin to pop up giving you advice on how to get the most out of your NaNo experience, how to plot or pants with the best of them. (Don’t know what I mean by plotting or pantsing? Click here.)

Some posts, however, argue that NaNoWriMo makes worse literature. They say that NaNo is bad for writing, that it’s a fad diet that won’t keep the pounds off when you get back to daily life.

To those people I say, get out of the way and let people create in whatever way they choose. It’s fine if NaNo doesn’t fit your process. If you need to create in a different way from NaNo, you go right ahead. You do you. But don’t rain on our parade!

Now, I agree that 50,000 words does not a novel make. But who ever said the draft you create during NaNo was supposed to be perfect? Sure there will be problems with sentence structure, plot holes galore, and overused adverbs in those “winning” NaNo manuscripts. That’s what revision is for!

NaNoWriMo provides inspiration and opportunity for all. People who have always wanted to try writing a novel find motivation, encouragement, moral support, and success through NaNo. If you try to get it right on the first try, you’ll never get started. You can’t edit what you haven’t written yet, right?

Why NaNoWriMo is a great cure for writer’s block

People can get so hung up on choosing the right words to express their idea that they freeze and can’t write a thing. But NaNo can help fix that problem. If you have to write 1,667 words a day, you can’t freeze and worry about finding the right words. You just have to write. And spending 30 days regularly meeting a certain word count, whether or not your muse cooperates, can unlock your voice in a way that no Creative Writing course could ever do.

What better way to get past writer’s block? So you can’t think of what should happen next in your story, but you have 1,667 words to write that day? Grab a writing prompt, a weird little plot bunny that takes you in a completely different direction for the day. Even if you end up not using that day’s words in your final draft, you will show writer’s block that you’re the boss of your writing.

Short-term sprints help you get unstuck

NaNo is the perfect time to tell your internal editor to take a hike and make yourself sit down and write every day. And the best part is, when you get to the end, you can decide whether the NaNo process does or does not work for you and adjust your writing habits accordingly. But if you’ve been telling yourself that there’s no way you could write every day, much less 1,667 words or more a day, NaNoWriMo is your chance to challenge yourself.

At the end of November you might decide to pursue the manuscript and keep working on it, or you might decide to shelve those words and never look at them again. But no words are wasted words! It takes a lot of bad writing to get to the good writing. So pour it all out onto the page and don’t worry. You can edit in December.

I just finished reading Book Architecture yesterday, and I am excited to incorporate series grids into my personal and professional editing processes. I appreciated the format of the book, how each element was broken down and given a “real life” example. I immediately began noticing series everywhere.

I recommend this book for people who want to break out of the “traditional” plot formula, or who have already and are now wondering how to make sense of their manuscript. Series, and tracking series in a grid, can help you identify the important elements of your narrative, and can help you organize those elements for maximum emotional and/or intellectual impact.

I’ll be going back to read Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method

I’m starting a new event on the Writing Refinery Facebook Page today: Writing Prompt Friday!

I’ll cross-post here, too, so that everyone can participate. The idea is, look at the prompt, and write 1000 words or less, just a short piece, that incorporates the prompt. You can post a link to your piece in the comments and I’ll make sure to come give you some encouraging feedback!

Here’s today’s prompt:

If there’s anything being an artist will teach you, it’s that you’ve got to make a mess in order to create. The same is true with writing your novel. It’s no less a piece of art in progress than a painting. Sometimes in order to get to the heart of your story you have to write yourself into a corner you aren’t sure you’ll be able to get out of… this is the novelist’s version of a “mess”. Then give yourself and your characters a chance to figure out how to get out of the mess you’re in. Some of your most creative work can come out of this mess, out of this not knowing what comes next, out of this paint splatter that you didn’t intend.

Let go of your need to control every single moment and see what happens with your writing. You may surprise yourself.

mess of life by jesus miguel rosado perdomo

In the search for inspiration, the best thing you can do is to keep trying new things.

Read something in a different genre than you usually do.

Go to an art museum.

Write in a different place.

Take a modern dance class.

Do something that makes you consider your world, the world, differently than you would normally. Do something that makes you ask questions. Look at art that makes you uncomfortable and then ask yourself why it makes you uncomfortable. Ask yourself why a lot.

Live in a state of constant questioning and keep blurting out answers until you find one that sticks… until you find one you can’t get out of your mind, then follow it and see where it leads you.


Day 6: Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself.

Let me tell you a quick story. A year ago I was not a runner. Well, just barely. I had just completed my first ever 5k! And that was a lot of distance for me.

See, I have never been a super active person. I’ve just relied on a good metabolism to keep me “in shape”. Then, one day in 2013 I felt a shift. Suddenly, for some inexplicable reason, I knew that if I didn’t get up and do something about it, I was going to die in the zombie apocalypse.

So slowly, in fits and starts, I began to run. At first it was frustrating and hard to do. But I rallied my running buddies around me and with their support I started training for my first 5k. Then for my first 12k, and then for my first half-marathon (running next week!!).

If I had hopped off the couch and tried to run 13 miles, I never would have succeeded. The zombies would have eaten me or I would have died of a heart attack or an aggressive case of the shin splints. But by knowing my overall goal, to get active, and giving myself milestone goals along the way, I’m now able to easily (if slowly) run 12 miles! Who would have thought?

The same thing applies to your writing life. You can’t just jump off the couch and write a novel… well, not a good one, anyway. It takes training, commitment, and support. Carve out time, just a little at first, then more and more as you get practiced letting the words flow through your fingers onto the keyboard. Find writing buddies to support you, to cheer you on, to push you from behind when you’re exhausted an about to break.

When you look back a year from now, will you be surprised, like I was, at how far you have come?

Day 4: Teach us something that you do well.

Ok ok ok… If I’ve learned one thing today it’s that I procrastinate well. But I don’t have to teach you how to do that, do I?

I do NOT enjoy claiming to do things well. I feel like when I do that I open myself up to looking like a royal jackass.

 But… posting for Your Turn Challenge is important to me… and because I recognize that and because I want to honor my truth and my desire, and because I know that Seth is right and if I don’t post I’ve already failed… and because yesterday I told you that failing by NOT taking a risk is worse than taking a risk and failing… I post today.

If there’s one thing I do well, it’s call myself onto the carpet when it really matters. And this matters. Having a voice, not letting anyone silence us, much less letting the voices in our head have control and tell us we’re worthless… it matters.

And so this is what I teach you today, writers. Even when it hurts, write. Especially when it hurts, write. What you get from those sessions, what you give to the world, is a truly great gift.

Now I just hope I can follow my own example.

Good lord, I love Harry Potter. J. K. Rowling is a master of reaching readers’ hearts, and her series will stick with its fans for a long time for one simple reason. Characters.

Even as I type this I’m watching The Goblet of Fire for the millionth time, and loving the story all over again. What a well-written world that captures the imagination and a cast of characters that really brings it to life.

**Warning: Possible Spoilers Ahead** 

(Actually, my entire blog may be one gigantic Harry Potter Spoiler, so…Be Ye Warned)

While watching the third movie, based on the third book of the series, The Prisoner of Azkaban (PoA), I was struck with the delayed gratification that Rowling must have experienced as people became familiar with her characters and with her world. As author and creator of her series, the back story and motivations, the hidden scars and deep-seated emotions of her characters were second nature to her. But to the reader, who doesn’t know the end of the story, certain actions don’t carry the same weight or emotional significance as they do for the author.

An example will help me explain what I mean. In PoA, Harry has a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin. Now, we only receive bits and pieces of Lupin’s back story, not learning the full extent of his relationship with Harry’s parents until much later. So, during a class exercise with a boggart, when Lupin throws himself in front of Harry to shield him from the thing that he fears most, the full impact of what he does is not quite clear the first time through.

For me, it didn’t really hit me until this time through (and trust me when I say I’ve read and watched this series more than a few times). Lupin’s love for James and Lily and for their son runs so deep that he’s willing to throw himself into the path of Voldemort…even a copy of Voldemort…, and in the end even meet death…in order to save Harry. And this time around, in finally connecting to Lupin and the depth of love that he has for the Harry, I burst into tears.

Which surprised me…because I had never cried at that scene before. Yet how could it possibly have taken me that long to really see into the heart of Professor R. J. Lupin?

Now…Rowling could have tried to rush me to that point. She could have tried to force more of Lupin’s story on me to begin with, so that I would be aware of the significance of that relationship before I reached that scene in the story. But…I doubt, if she had, that I would have had the same emotional connection to the character that I do now, that the power and the impact would have been so strong.

Do you see what I mean about delayed gratification on the part of the author? And on the part of the reader, although I didn’t really know what I was missing until today.

My point is, while I understand that, if the reader only knew what you know about your characters, they would love them more…you have to realize that the process takes time. Sometimes it takes a whole series to tease out the depth of love that one character has for another, to get to know and love a character so well that their heart becomes plain…and sometimes the reader has to love your series so much that they return to it over an over again before they really get it, before they really come to appreciate that one character that you feel like gets overlooked time and time again. But, if you’re patient, and if you’re a good story teller, that moment, the moment that you reach your reader’s heart, will be well worth the wait.