Blueprint Your Bestseller
Review By John Fraim (5/18/14)
The book Blueprint Your Bestseller is perhaps one of the most interesting books about screenwriting in recent memory. Even the more interesting because the author is addressing novelists and not screenwriters. He proposes a new way of writing novels that goes against almost all current “how to” books on writing and countless magazines. The book Blueprint Your Bestseller by Stuart Horwitz is on the outside about how to organize and revise your manuscript with a program called the Book Architecture Method.
Horwitz is the founder of Book Architecture, a firm of independent editors in Providence and Boston who work with authors. Horwitz teaches classes from ideas in Blueprint Your Bestseller. He holds two masters degrees: one in literary aesthetics from New York University and one in East Asian studies from Harvard University.
It seems a little more than coincidence that I encounter Horwitz’s ideas while working on a biography about my grandfather. For, perhaps more than anything else, Horwitz’s method involves not looking forward but looking back. For biographers like myself, this means looking back on a particular life. Yet for novelists, and screenwriters, it involves looking back at a particular work of art. A story they have created.
Brushing aside talking in current literary jargon of things like plot structure, Horowitz feels it is more important to simply get things out and later analyze and structure them. For this reason, he asks those who come to his book that they have something they want to apply his methods onto. He says at least a hundred pages. But he would probably say a screenplay also.
For Horwitz, the Book Architecture method is based on applying a number of tools to the past story. First, a division into scenes. Second, pulling reoccurring series of things from the scenes. Third, finding an overall theme from the scenes and the series. In the process, he has all of us reading the wonderful story “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Anderson (1843) and the translation by Mrs. Edgar Lucas (1910). He then applies the Book Architecture theories to the famous fairytale in a brilliant description of the true power of the little fairytale.
One of the best breakdowns I’ve ever read about the underlying hidden structure of literature and how to work with it. Perhaps the best explanation I’ve ever read explaining the power of the fairytale in terms of literary technique. His identification of the key scenes, series and them of the Ugly Duckling is He mentions that Hans Christian Anderson might have known about the ideas he promotes with Book Architecture today. After all, he did change the first name of his story that contained “Swain” in the title to hiding swain until late in the tale.
The method relates much to the old stream of consciousness technique but also seems to apply the ideas that Carl Jung had about symbols and other items from the depths of the unconsciousness in the modern world. They often appear (in fact most times appear) when we least expect them to make their appearances. Why is it that we never seem to see the important things in life when we have our “radar” of consciousness up?
For Horwitz, it is consciousness that creates art. Too much consciousness perhaps. This too much consciousness translates into too much planning. Horwitz would ask how is it possible that you can plan what you want to do on a date in the future. Best, he says, to look back on something created in the past and find the patterns within it through finding scenes, series and the theme. It is seldom what one things it is when they set out to write a novel. Or, a screenplay. The book offers a new way forward for novelists. Away from the old strict forms of planning and plot and into a true stream-of-consciousness production of a particular story. The initial output is not as important as the examination of this output by the modern author who is a combination of stream-of-consciousness technique with examination of the nuggets to extract from the stream. Always trying to extract the main series, the key scenes real story from the collection of the words an author writes.
One wonders about the application to these seven stories. Perhaps it is time to divide this group up into scenes and then find series and ultimately a theme as Horwitz suggests we do. His ideas are for novelists. But aren’t biographers novelists?