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November 9, 2009

First Draft in 30 Days.

30_DaysAs a writer I’m always interested in craft books, and I’ve been meaning to pick up this particular one for a long time. The title—First Draft in 30 Days is a bit misleading because if you follow the methods prescribed you’ll end up with a very detailed outline rather than a first draft. Ms. Wiesner does state though that because you revise the outline so much before starting to write, the end result is more like a final draft, which will require only minor polishing before submission.

The first part of the book deals with preparation and the things the writer should do during thirty days. Days 1 – 6 are for the preliminary outline and include character, setting and plot sketches and a summary outline. Days 7 – 13 are for research. Days 14 – 15 are for story evolution, internal and external conflict etc. Days 16 – 24 are for a formatted outline where research, character and setting are incorporated into the outline. Days 25 – 28 are for evaluating the outline and days 29 – 30 are to revise the outline.

The book includes a series of worksheets for each day, which are helpful. They can be handwritten or done in a computer file.

The second part of the book shows how to incorporate the 30 day method when you have a completed manuscript or a partial one that is perhaps not working. There is also a section on setting goals for projects and book promotion.

One thing Ms. Wiesner stresses is the importance of brainstorming throughout the outlining process, which is something I agree with. She says constant brainstorming during your day means you’ll never sit down in front of a computer and wonder what to write.

I’ll admit that I’ve always been a determined pantser, but after reading Ms. Wiesner’s book I think I’ll try her outlining method. I’ve decided to plan a new story while I complete my current work-in-progress. I am a little worried about sticking to a rigid plan because I’ve always thought too much planning spoiled the story for me, so it will be interesting to see how I go during the next 30 days.

The methods outlined in this book will not work for all authors, but it is definitely worth reading.

First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Wiesner is available from Amazon.

Writers: Do you read craft books? Do you have any favorites that you reach for on a regular basis?

Readers: I’m always on the lookout for book recommendations, in particular young adult stories at the moment. What are you reading this week?


  1. N.J. Walters

    Let us know how it goes. I’m not sure this approach would work for me, but I’m curious to see how you find it.

    I don’t have any favorite books on writing. I’ve read some I’ve enjoyed, but I don’t seem to go back to any books over and over.

  2. Nessa

    I’m going to give that one a look up. I haven’t read a new book in a while as I have a tendency to do that instead of just writing.

    In between other stuff, I am reading The House of Night series.

    Meet My Mates #3 – Quilly

  3. Jaime

    I’m curious to see how you like this. I’m a pantser myself, but I confess, I’m intrigued.

  4. RKCharron

    Hi Shelley :)
    Like N.J. above me, I am interested in seeing how it works for you. I tried rigid outlining and it killed the book for me. I have learned that I am a ‘pantser’ too.
    Thank you for sharing,
    All the best,

  5. Linda Henderson

    Well I’m not a writer so I’ll tell you what I am reading. I am currently reading Summer Lovin’ by Carly Phillips.

  6. Amy W.

    Sounds interesting. I actually dreamed a weird fantasy scene the other day and wrote it down. Maybe I’ll have to take a stab at writing… in all my spare time- LOL! :lol:
    I just finished rereading the young adult series “So You Want to be a Wizard” by Diane Duane. Book nine is due out in April and I can’t wait. I’m now rereading “Men in Kilts” by Katie McAlister. Any book with dishy Scots and the “action” starting on page 22 is a good one in my book, plus the nutty heroine is an added bonus! :grin:


  7. Susan Helene Gottfried

    Let me know how it goes. Might be fun to play around with.

    As for reads, I’ll be giving away my copy of Beige, Cecil Castellucci’s novel, soon. Keep your eyes peeled; it’ll be part of a kick-off for a new venture of mine.

  8. Karen Erickson

    I love reading craft books. I even own this particular book but I have to admit – the extra plotting overwhelmed me and I gave up before I even started! I’m much more a pantster…

  9. Cari Quinn

    I was actually just looking at that book, Shelley…I’ll be interested to hear how it works out for you. I have another book with a similar premise, called Book in a Month. I’ve started using it for two books and soon fell off. Guess I’m a dyed in the wool pantser! ;)

  10. mary

    Actually right now I’m not reading anything. I’ve had a headache for a few days and haven’t been able to concentrate long enough to read.

    Next week…who knows.

  11. Shelley Munro

    It sounds as if most of you are pantsers like me. I do worry about all the preplanning spoiling the story idea for me, but I’m going to try this method if it kills me.

    LOL – I’ve had a really busy day and haven’t had a chance to start yet. I’m one day behind already!

  12. Steve J

    I’m happy to see a recent review of this book. I picked it up last summer because I wanted to try my hand at something entirely different in my life. I’m a highly organized thinker (ENTP and an IT guy) and enjoyed the organizational thinking promoted by Wiesner. I had been living with a “future fiction” novel in my mind about the (then coming) flu pandemic and this was just the guide I needed to pull the ideas out and get them written down.

    Unfortunately real life beat me to it, but it has been an amazing experience watching events unfold as the H1N1 pandemic has been spreading around the globe.

    I put blank worksheets up on Google Docs making it so easy to edit from anywhere and share with people with whom I’m collaborating. Thanks for the review, and I wish you the best.

  13. Shelley Munro

    Steve – thanks for stopping by. I think this is a great book, but like all methods, it won’t work for everyone. Life has kicked my butt recently and I haven’t started yet. Edits and family stuff have to come first…

    That’s a great idea using Google Docs for the worksheets. I might have to steal that one.

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