Rhode Island writing guru Stuart Horwitz didn’t want to write about his life. But when his older daughter left for college, she reminded him, “You said you were going to write your memoir for me.”
Horwitz met her halfway. He wrote a piece about his college days. His friends said it was the best thing he had ever written.
So Horwitz, the author of three popular books on writing, began chronicling the crazy path that led to his 20-year career as a book coach, editor and founder of Book Architecture, a full-service literary company headquartered in a former mill building in Providence.
He got a master’s degree in literary aesthetics from New York University—a good first step for a budding book doctor. But his second degree made less sense: a masters in East Asian Studies from Harvard, with a concentration in Medieval Japanese Buddhism. He thought he would get an advanced degree and become a teacher, “but a variety of things” got in the way, he says.
Instead, he became a wedding planner in Newport, where the gatherings became more and more outlandish and expensive. At some point he thought he might work in a field with more meaning, so he learned how to be a mortician. Then he asked himself, Do I want to bury people for the rest of my life? He took a job as an intern in the publishing industry, where he read and analyzed books for a literary agent. One day he told his wife, a psychiatrist, that he was doing the same work as his boss. Except his boss made ten times more than he did.
Horwitz came up with a strategy for structuring books, and wrote three of his own: Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method; Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula; and Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It.
In addition to his memoir, he’s working on a fourth writing book called How to Make a Living as an Independent Editor for the University of Chicago Press.
The book is timely. Today, only about 20 percent of the nation’s publishers offer in-house book editing. Instead, they rely on freelancers and editors like Horwitz to do the job. “I get phone calls from the big five publishers to take over,” he says.
As head of Book Architecture—his corner office includes statues of Buddha, a gaggle of old typewriters and books about Kafka—Horwitz has helped writers sign with top publishing houses or become successful indie authors. His clients have made the New York Times best-seller list in both fiction and non-fiction, and have appeared on Oprah!, The Today Show, The Tonight Show and in prestigious journals.
Horwitz, who sports a goatee and is fond of short-brimmed fedoras, promises to help writers start, finish and rewrite their books at the Historical Writers Conference in Providence in June. He’ll teach a master class on Thursday called “Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: Crafting Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction with the Book Architecture Method,” a deep dive into Horwitz’s approach to writing. On Friday and Saturday, he’ll teach two hour-long classes. The first, on building a web page, is a must for authors, he says. “Having a web presence where people can find you is important.” You don’t need to be a technical wizard. There are plenty of tools to help you build a site, he says, but “It can’t look like it went up in 2003.”
His second class, “Meditation for Writers,” isn’t the typical conference offering. “It’s an Eastern approach to writing and life,” Horwitz says. “The Western approach asks, How is this going to help me sell more copies of my book? The Eastern approach asks, How can I find peace?”
It isn’t all gongs and incense. Writers can use meditation to address Western concerns too, he says. “It will help you write a better book, and in less time.”
Learn more about Horwitz and his company at bookarchitecture.com