Meet Stuart Horwitz and Learn About His Book Architecture Techniques

January 19, 2017


  1. In one paragraph, can you give us some highlights from Finish Your Book in Three Drafts

It’s not just marketing, I swear! You can Finish Your Book in Three Drafts whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, whether you’re an outliner who meticulously scripts every writing session or a pantser who pilots solely by feel. Because you don’t want to be writing the same book for the rest of your life.

Three drafts. That’s all you need.

  • The messy draft: which is all about getting it down.
  • The method draft: which is all about making sense.
  • The polished draft: which is all about making it good.

You can Finish Your Book in Three Drafts provided you approach each draft in the right spirit, and know what action steps to take between drafts. And that’s what I can’t wait to talk about at Mt. Diablo!

  1. Describe your most memorable moment as an author.

I’ve now completed over 80 tour dates throughout North America in the past four-plus years. But no matter how exciting life post-publication has been, it has never gotten better than those champion writing sessions where I was achieving the height of my flight. When someone says, “Your books are so original; I have learned more from you than anyone else” — I am happy, of course — but it is like I am hearing about a trip they’ve taken when I got left home.

Nothing will ever beat those rare nights when I knew I nailed it. When I had prepared for a writing session, and executed, while welcoming the unexpected. And then went to go smoke a cigar in the heart of Providence. I might have been thinking about the people who inspired me, but sitting there it was just me, myself, and I.

So my point is that we need to take writing and separate it from publishing. What writing has done for me exists outside of what has been published, and far exceeds it in value.

  1. What authors have most influenced your writing?

This is a hard question to answer. I mean, it probably numbers in the hundreds, right? I will just say when I saw a bibliography and my name appeared between Hesse, Hermann and Kafka, Franz, I thought. I am ready to die now in peace. Except for the kids I still have to raise and not wanting to leave a widow, that kind of thing.

  1. What are the biggest mistakes you see in author’s manuscripts?

This is a big question! I’d say the following five are the biggest structural mistakes I see — as I spend a lot of my time thinking about structure:

  1. What you’re writing isn’t what you think you’re writing.

Not that it’s that far off, necessarily. Let’s say you’ve set sail—to use an extended marine metaphor—heading for an island. Everyone needs some “sea room,” and now you’ve landed on some neighboring coast. Writing is a largely unconscious activity. At some point, we need to become conscious enough to see how we might get the reader and ourselves safely home. Some writers don’t want to be made conscious at any point during their process. In my experience, more often than not, they drift.

  1. You have not generated enough material to begin revising.

One of my clients was delighted with her first assignment, which was to generate fifty pages of crap. Her next assignment was to generate another fifty, making a hundred pages of crap. There is no substitute for not having generated enough material before you begin revising.

  1. You want to put too much stuff in.

A chef whose cookbook I worked on called it the “kitchen-sink” syndrome: a beginner makes a marinara sauce by using every vegetable in the refrigerator, and every spice on the rack. They use seventeen ingredients when there really should just be tomatoes, garlic, and like four other things. You want to be able to taste the parmesan shavings.

Writers think, How am I supposed to fill up a whole book’s worth of pages unless I include everything I can think of? Unity, the sense that your book is only about one thing—that the reader can trust you know how to drive this thing—cannot be achieved by trying to make things comprehensive.

  1. You let too many people read it before it was ready.

Why is this a structural problem? Because when you involve beta readers (people who read your draft when you know it isn’t done), you are far more open to feedback than you will be at a later stage. You may lose time and focus by pursuing a direction that someone else recommended rather than discovering the path which you really want to travel.

  1. Your narrator is too much like you.

In fact, basically, it is you. This is not as much a problem in certain non-fiction genres (like a blog), when it is considered great to sound as much like yourself as possible. Sounding like yourself while opening out to universal experience, is called “finding your voice.”

In fiction, however, you need maximum flexibility to explore emotions and imagine events that will embody those emotions. If your narrator is bound by only who you think you are, as opposed to who you might become, your writing can go stale.

  1. Who is your idol?

 My idol is my cat. He recently got in a fight with a fishercat — vicious animals that live in the Northeast that are like wolverines, and he had to have an eye removed.

While the procedure was going on, he was licking the doctor’s hand, giving him love because he knew the man was trying to help him.

Me? I come from a family where when we have a fever of 99 degrees we’re “in bed with a little something.” So I want to be more like my cat.

P.S. He has been getting along tremendously well without an eye and his hunting skills have not diminished in the least. Except every now and then he bangs into a chair and then makes off across the room like nothing happened.Horwitz.Author Photo.jpg 

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Stuart Horwitz. To learn more visit his website: where you can sign up for his newsletter.




October 17, 2013

In one paragraph, tell us about your new multimedia photo eBook under your pen name Steven Ross, What’s Up Bangkok.

It’s an interactive multimedia eBook with pictures, video, maps, audio, external and internal links highlighting international photographer and good friend, Daniel Herron. He’s from the Bay Area, Mountain View, but is now based in Bangkok. He takes great photos so I suggested we do an eBook showcasing his work with a focus on travel to Thailand through interactivity.

What do you think are the advantages of multimedia books and what genre do you think best suites this format?

You can do some much more through interactivity. With an iPad, enhanced features such as video and even audio can take the reader on a journey which isn’t available in print. Many magazines are now taking this path. “Entertainment Weekly” is cutting edge by offering a download of their weekly publication. Movie Trailers, additional video of movie star interviews plus direct links to Musical artists where you can buy one of their songs online are all possible through interactivity. Can’t do it in print. Best genres are Cookbooks, Children’s Books, Travel and believe it or not, Japanese Anime. Comic books are going through the roof as eBooks.

What should an author that is planning on using multi-media consider before taking the plunge?

Either Doing It Yourself (DIY) or farming it out. Some eBook building platforms aren’t that difficult to learn but like anything new, they take time. Do you want to build an eBook or an App? There’s a huge difference. If you farm your work out, make sure you have deep pockets. How much interactivity are you considering? Only pictures? Not that difficult. Adding any audio or video? Now you’re talking work. Our eBook completely taxed the platform we used. We made them better but not before a lot of frustration. I can’t tell you how the littlest things stopped me cold. Usually, I figured it out but sometimes, I had to ask for help.

What have been the biggest challenges in tackling this media and would you do it again?

Biggest challenge was having interactivity work not only on my computer but transferring it “clean” to an iPad Took two months for our eBook to playback the way I wanted it on an iPad. A lot of platforms say they’re interactive but most are vanilla. Yes, I would definitely do it again and already have two new projects in the pipeline. Here are two cool examples but trust me, this took a lot of work:

What platforms exist and do you recommend any of them for authors that want to make their novels multimedia? Would you have a different recommendation for nonfiction?

If you use an iMac, then I would recommend iAuthor. Most authors use WORD for print and that’s fine but if you’re considering multimedia or interactivity, many Platforms won’t work on a PC. Your best bet by a mile is a new iMac desktop with iMovie, iPhoto and Garageband. You’ll have to teach yourself how to use those but workshops plus One-on-One help is available at Apple. For our book, we used “Aerbook.” Located in San Francisco. Excellent customer service for code issues or help in understanding how to build something. I think they’re a great first eBook option if you want to build a children’s book or quick travel book. Other Platforms include “Inkling”, “Bookbaby” and “Vook.” Fiction or nonfiction would both work. If you really want to go all out, learn or pay someone who knows Adobe InDesign CS6. Probably the slickest option available but it’ll cost you some serious bank.

Did your background in television help you?

No, not really. I’m a visual person anyway so this was all in the same vein if you will. We did have access to our Audio Booth so we had a great option for sound quality.

What can an author expect financially if they do the work themselves before and after their book is published?

Try and do it yourself because you’ll save a ton of money. The sweat and frustration equity takes a toll but I was quoted $5000 to build our book and I did for just under $1000. Don’t expect to get rich. 10 months of work and we listed our eBook at $3.99. Most readers/viewers simply won’t pay too much online. For the amount of time and effort I put into building our eBook, it should be listed at $19.99 but I doubt we’d sell too many. Don’t forget, Apple iBooks takes 30% then your Distribution source (ours is Aerbook and we use their Retail Store) or Payment Channel, will take anywhere from an additional 5% to 12%. That doesn’t leave much left for you.

How long does adding multimedia content typically take?

Took me about 10 months. Do a rough draft on time then double it. For a basic picture book with only a little bit of interactivity, I would think two to four months.

What about copyright concerns?

This is a great question and big concern. We had to completely revamp our eBook on the day of publication due to the owner of Aerbook saying there were copyright issues. Dropped all copyrighted music and went back in and built everything using royalty free music. Royalty free music (on iTunes) or original songs are your best friend!

Can you provide some useful links?

Heavy hitters called Aptara:
Payment System you link directly into your eBook—Gumroad:
Carla King, eBook author/Self-Publishing Bootcamps:

You can contact Steve at:
Website coming soon:

Bought the Farm – Origin of Term

October 19, 2012

During our critique meeting, the question arose as to where this term originated.  Elisabeth Tuck took it upon herself to investigate and here is what she discovered:

The origin of this phrase is uncertain. It appears to have been founded in the 20th century and all the early references to it relate to the US military. The New York Times Magazine, March 1954, had a related phrase, in a glossary of jet pilots’ slang:

“Bought a plot, had a fatal crash.”

That clearly refers to a burial plot. The ‘bought’ in that case probably doesn’t suggest any actual or potential purchase, but to an earlier use of ‘bought’, i.e. being killed.

The following example from 1943 isn’t the earliest, but it does make the meaning explicit. It’s from Cyril Ward-Jackson’s It’s a piece of cake; or, R.A.F. slang made easy:

“He’s bought it, he is dead – that is, he has paid with his life.”

Specific references to ‘the farm’ come a little later. There are reports of the phrase being in use in the US military from 1955 onward. Here’s a citation from 1963, in Ed Miller’s Exile to the Stars:

“The police dispatcher says a plane just bought the farm.”

There are a few suggested derivations for the phrase. One, put forward in a 1955 edition of American Speech, is the idea that when a jet crashes on a farm the farmer may sue the government for compensation. That would generate a large enough amount of money to pay off the farm’s mortgage. Hence, the pilot paid for the farm with his life.

The second theory is that military men might dream of returning from the battlefront and settling down with a family to a peaceful life down on the farm. If someone were killed his colleagues might say, ‘well, he bought the farm early’, or similar. Well, yes they might, and there are numerous sentimental US films where dialogue like that wouldn’t be out of place. That’s not to say the phrase was coined that way though.

A third suggestion is the idea that, if a serviceman was killed in action, his family would receive a payout from the insurance. This would be sufficient to pay off the family mortgage.

There is another theory though:
Some say that phrase originated in the 30’s or 40’s and meant that when someone passed away, their life insurance policy was large enough that they could pay off their mortgages and “buy the farm.”  A WWII pilot said that it originated from bombers in England during the war:  when engine problems arose after takeoff, pilots would pull a lever that dropped all their bombs at once, often onto farms which the government would have to pay for and hence the pilot was said to have bought the farm.
It seems likely the phrase originated during WWI. If a soldier was killed the death benefit was sufficient for the surviving family members to purchase a farm. Hence, a soldier who was killed,”bought the farm.”  It also might refer to the play and movie “Of Mice and Men.”. At the end of the story when George has to kill Lenny, George assures Lenny that he (George) has indeed bought the farm where they will both live happily together.
Regardless of the origin, when used in the context of wartime destruction or death, to have ‘bought the farm’ is not a pleasant prospect for the person who had to pay.

SCBWI Golden Gate Conference

April 1, 2012

At the beginning of March, I attended the Golden Gate Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) at the Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California. I went knowing that I would not be pitching my work since I had recently acquired an agent for my novel, Between Shadow’s Eyes (

I have attended SCBWI events in the past with the goal of meeting an agent or editor, but this time I had no agenda. It was great to sit back and listen to the speakers and absorb knowledge without the distraction of a scheduled critique or pitching session. I was free to take notes or browse the grounds if I wasn’t interested in a topic, whatever my heart desired.

On the last day of the conference, the editors in attendance announced what kind of books they were seeking. To my surprise, one of the editors seemed like a good match for my novel. A quick email to my agent, and viola! a query letter was submitted. Another fun outcome of the conference included a sidebar conversation with agent Josh Adams on blogging.  His advice- don’t blog if it takes you away from other writing projects.

Choosing a Website Photographer for Writers

March 14, 2012

After a few mis-steps. The new photos are now uploaded.

Writers on the Journey Blog

When I decided to have professional photos taken for my website (, I asked around for recommendations from my writer friends, but their leads were not exactly what I wanted.  So I turned to the information highway.  I had hoped that a simple internet search would uncover a local photographer that specialized in author headshots, but that also had experience photographing dogs.  Yeah, well, that detailed of a specialty was a pipe dream.

I had better luck when I queried the broader terms of head shots, pet photographer and San Francisco Bay Area.  From this search, I narrowed my choices down to two very different options.  One was a traditional business and the other was a family boutique operation that either shot on location or in their home.  I soon discovered that the boutique family operation was shifting the focus of their photography business (RicKaraPhotography) to include web…

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Choosing a Website Photographer for Writers

February 25, 2012

When I decided to have professional photos taken for my website (, I asked around for recommendations from my writer friends, but their leads were not exactly what I wanted.  So I turned to the information highway.  I had hoped that a simple internet search would uncover a local photographer that specialized in author headshots, but that also had experience photographing dogs.  Yeah, well, that detailed of a specialty was a pipe dream.

I had better luck when I queried the broader terms of head shots, pet photographer and San Francisco Bay Area.  From this search, I narrowed my choices down to two very different options.  One was a traditional business and the other was a family boutique operation that either shot on location or in their home.  I soon discovered that the boutique family operation was shifting the focus of their photography business (RicKaraPhotography) to include web hosting and design (   I probably would have opted for the more personal experience of working with a less commercial business anyway, but this information, as well as Ric’s promise that if you weren’t 100% satisfied you didn’t pay, cinched the deal.

From the moment I walked in the door, I knew that Ric was more interested in producing a quality product than maximizing profit.  Ric discussed the type of look I wanted.  He took a few practice shots and we discussed the particulars that I liked and didn’t like in the shots.  As the three-hour session progressed, I was allowed as many outfit changes as I wanted.   At the end of the photo shoot, I had a variety of poses with and without my dog.

We wrapped up by reviewing the available background choices, but when I got the photos and compared it to my website pages, I didn’t like how my choice blended with the website.  Ric was very accommodating and indulged my request to plunk a variety of backgrounds behind a sample photo to aid a change of backgrounds.  He also accommodated by touch up requests.

Here are a few words of caution about choosing a photography service.  Make sure you will own the copyright to the photographs.  Have a clear understanding of what is included in the price.  You will need to decide if you want outdoor or indoor photos.  If you choose shooting indoors in a studio, you may have the choice of preselect backgrounds or shooting on a green screen.  I chose shooting against the green screen so I would have maximum flexibility in background choices.  While all of these options may be important considerations in selecting a photographer, I think the most important criterion is to pick someone you are comfortable working with.  RicKaraPhotography (  was the perfect fit for my needs.  I couldn’t be more pleased with the final results.




Kitten or Lion? A Character Development Technique

January 8, 2012

I saw a great photo affixed to my hairdresser’s license today.  The picture showed an orange tabby kitten looking in a mirror that reflected back the face of a lion.  It occurred to me that this could be a great question to ask when you are flushing out a character for a novel.  For example, how does your protagonist see themselves—as an innocent victim or a fierce fighter ready to take on the world?  Does this self-image vary between interactions with different people?  Does his or her personality change during the course of the novel? 

After you have answered the above questions, dig a little deeper:

How would the character’s parent or spouse describe your protagonist? 

More importantly, how do you, the writer, see your protagonist?  Have you captured that personification on the page?