The Worlds of R. A. Hortz
First Draft in 30 Days
First Draft in 30 Days
A Novel Writer's System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript
By Karen S. Wiesner
Writer's Digest Books, 2005
Reviewed by Anna Dogole - Posted October 24, 2012
What is the best system for writing a novel? Just sit down and type it out? Outline your story first? Write out all your scenes, characters, and settings on 9 by 5 cards and than shuffle them until you get a story that you like? All of these systems work for some writers, and all of these systems fail for others. So what is right for you? Unfortunately, that is something that you'll have to discover for yourself. However one method that I've successfully tried, and which I would like to recommend to you is Karen S. Wiesner's method of outlining your first draft, a first draft from which you can easily work from to complete your final manuscript.
Wiesner's system is superlatively explained in her book, First Draft in 30 Days -
A Novel Writer's System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript. This book illustrates how, in a mere 30 days, you can create a comprehensive and detailed outline of your novel. While Wiesner's system is tailored for a 30-day period, it can easily be altered to fit your own schedule and goals. Wiesner provides step-by-step guidance on how to write your first draft along with clear scheduling guidance to help you keep to the 30-day time table. Does this system work? It does. While it did take me 41 days to complete my first draft, I see no reason why it could not be done in 30 days, and once you are familiar with the system, in even less time. The truth be told, even at 41 days, this is by far the fastest that I've ever written a first draft, and in many regards by following Wiesner's system I created a product from which it will be much easier and efficient to translate from a rough outline to a finished novel than my pervious attempts.
The First Draft in 30 Days system is not a 'get your novel written quickly and without effort' scheme. Following this program requires determination, self-discipline, and a lot of work. Wiesner provides all the information and advice that you'll need to develop and outline your story, but you must be willing to put the work into the project that it requires. In addition to guiding you through the writing of your first draft, Wiesner also provides twenty worksheets and five goal sheets that will help you develop and outline segments of your novel such as plot, character, and setting sketches, as well as help in outlining your short term and long term writing goals. Examples of filled out worksheets are provided, as are blank worksheets that you can copy and fill out as needed.
When you complete this system, the first draft of your novel that you complete will be in the form of a comprehensive outline. Wiesner acknowledges the controversy as to wether or not outlining stymies the creative flow, and discusses why this system actually helps you to brainstorm ideas to amplify your creativity, rather than to impede it. In addition, she shows how this system can be used to revive discarded projects, as well as those already in progress. Also provided are tips on promoting your work, setting long term writing goals, and developing timelines, both for your career and for your current writing project. She also offers advice on researching your story, and how to incorporate your research into your draft. Most important, she explains how to take your completed first draft, and turn it into a polished, complete manuscript.
First Draft in 30 Days promises a lot, and if you're willing to do your part, it amply delivers. At first glance I thought that the system would be too rigid to mesh with my writing style. I was wrong. I found that this system not only helped to increase my productively, but it also helped to keep me focused on the project at hand. I look forward to taking the first draft that I completed while going through this book and turning it into a completed novel. Most important, when I start work on my next book, I'll be using Wiesner's First Draft in 30 Days again. I highly recommend this book to both first time and seasoned novelists. While this method may not work for you, it is well worth trying. You may be surprised at just how effective it is and how easy it is to adapt it to your own unique writing goals and style.
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