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First Draft in 30 Days: A Novel Writer's System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript
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First Draft in 30 Days: A Novel Writer's System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  436 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
Finish an outline so complete it reads like a first draft—in just 30 days!
Say goodbye to writing and rewriting with no results. Starting—and finishing—your novel has never been easier!
First Draft in 30 Days provides you with a sure-fire system to reduce time-intensive rewrites and avoid writing detours. Award-winning author Karen S. Wiesner's 30-day method shows you how to
Paperback, 216 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Writer's Digest Books
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Jun 07, 2011 Richard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, writing
This book has a persuasive title designed to grab your attention and sell copies. A more accurate title might be How to Write a Complete Outline for your Novel In 30 Days. But I can understand why they didn't go that way. Spending 30 days writing an outline doesn't sound very exciting.

However, when Karen Wiesner talks outline, she's referring to a scene-by-scene outline that's about one quarter as many pages as the finished manuscript to be. And when you finish an outline like this, writing the
Mia Siegert
Mar 10, 2016 Mia Siegert rated it liked it
I'm mixed about this book. There are some things I kind of glossed over because they didn't apply to my type of writing, but the section on re-outlining and working on a completed draft was very interesting. Going to be attempting to use these methods for a current project.

So, I liked it, but I don't think it's the right manual for me.
Jennifer Chase
Jan 07, 2010 Jennifer Chase rated it it was amazing
This book helped me to get my first novel written -- I'm grateful that I found this book. I use a slight variation of the outline techniques discussed for all of my novels. It's worth checking out for anyone who wants to write their first novel or anyone who has already written several books. Everyone can learn something from this book.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
An editor once told me that if you're going to take advice on writing, take it either from name-bestselling writers or gatekeepers such as acquiring editors or agents--not necessarily anyone who writes for Writer's Digest or has taught a writing class. By those terms Karen Wiesner doesn't qualify. I bought this book anyway for one reason--there really isn't much out there that gives you much guidance about how to construct plots, and I had a half-written novel on my hands that was stuck. Well, t ...more
Pippi Bluestocking

+ Is a lot more than a simple what to do on each day; lots of short and sweet advice on writing, pretty much everything you need in a very condensed form.
+ Strongest point: the plot outline.
+ Pantsers (*raises hand*) will surely benefit, though might find it intimidating at first.
+ Encouraging and helpful to have in arm's length. Handy method that works.
+ Some surprisingly cool advice near the end.


- Not writing a first draft but a complete, detailed outline. The first draft is what you'll
Margit Sage
Jan 16, 2012 Margit Sage rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Aspiring novelists
Recommended to Margit by: Highly rated on
Shelves: writing, nonfiction
I followed this process pretty much during the month of October, 2011 to outline my first novel, although for the character sketches, I used some questions I found in other books in addition to the ones she suggests. I found the book and the resulting detailed outline incredibly useful when writing the actual novel during NaNoWriMo in November (I was able to finish my ~60,000 word novel on December 1st, having written the 3k word prologue the last few days of October, ~54k words in Nov, and the ...more
Oct 09, 2011 Sara rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing, read-in-2011
I've checked this book out twice wanting to like it, but the title is misleading and I don't have the patience for it. The title SHOULD be "First OUTLINE in 30 Days", because it talks about planning instead of drafting...
Aug 29, 2010 LeAnne rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing
I'm sorry. I couldn't do it. This is more a detailed outline than a first draft and I just don't think that way.
Jan 04, 2017 Kimber rated it it was ok
Shelves: on-writing
Too much organization....I understand the importance of structure, deadlines etc but leave room for creativity, spontaneity and imagination! This won't work for me....
Chaunce Stanton
Dec 21, 2013 Chaunce Stanton rated it it was amazing

Planning a book before writing a book seems off-putting to many writers who would rather dive in to Scene One and just see what happens. Having written in that manner for my first novel, and then having to spend a lot of time in rewrite, I can say from firsthand experience that "pantsing" - flying by the seat of the pants - is definitely one way to write, but not the most efficient way.

If you are a hardcore pantser, don't bother picking up this book. Chances are you're too stubborn to take anyt
I'm surprised by all the comments about the book's title being misleading. When I originally got this one, I read the blurb on it and knew it was an outlining technique. The author also says on the first page you will be creating an outline so complete it qualifies as a first draft. What you write with the outline is the first full, and hopefully final, draft of your novel. I first used the technique outlined in this book to revise a novel I'd written. I have since used my own variation of it to ...more
Oct 04, 2015 Scarlett rated it liked it
After reading and highlighting (the inside looks like a disorded rainbow) I got a few tips, I have trouble to read to between the lines even in mine own language. I will definitely be trying the 30-method but I'm not sure when. There are a few things that botherd me while I was read this book.
- The continues word "reader". I will never be writing for readers so that they can be pleased. The only I have to please is myself, not some faceless person on the other side of the globe.
- The time mana
Virginia Jacobs
Jun 11, 2016 Virginia Jacobs rated it liked it
I'm giving this book three stars for now because I haven't yet tried out the techniques in it. I really like the idea of a structured outline--I have a day job, so I need to be as efficient as possible with my writing time. However, because of said day job, I doubt 30 days is enough time to complete the tasks Wiesner assigns to 30 days.

Also, I'm still skeptical that after 30 days, the outline will be sufficiently strong enough to count as the first draft, and that the rest of the writing process
Jan 28, 2008 Susan rated it liked it
Shelves: genre-nonfiction
I have found this book highly useful, but I can't say that it's perfect. Her terminology is garbled and her examples are often too straightforward to clearly express the points she's trying to make. Most of all, this is a book about detailed outlining of a novel. It actually has nothing to do with writing a first draft. The author claims that her outlines are so detailed that they count as a first draft, but I don't buy it and neither do most of her reviewers on Amazon.

In many ways, this book ha
Not so much about writing a first draft, but rather about writing a very cohesive and detailed outline which Wiesner claims takes the part of a writer's first draft. Not sure if I buy into it, but I'm giving it a whirl. I had some quibbles over her habit of repeating certain things way too many times (her website, for example - once would have been quite enough; by the 4th/5th time it felt like self-promotion, which was not the point of the book) and there was some clunky bits I skimmed, but ove ...more
Ann Miller
Sep 05, 2013 Ann Miller rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I met First Draft in 30 Days when it came riding into my 40,000-words-too-short first draft on a white charger and delivered the tools to add subplots. I am forever grateful.

First Draft in 30 Days is the book I love to hate. Weisner takes a completely anal/analytical approach to laying out a novel which is diametrically opposed to my personality. However, ditzy, creative people need to impose order on their work or their books will never become cohesive. The story train needs to stay on the trac
Jun 06, 2015 Elena rated it really liked it
This book is your best weapon if you have an idea in your head but no idea how it is going to morph into novel form. It's practical, no nonsense, and forces you to sit down and shape a story. I first tried it with a two characters I loved but for whom I had no story, and after a week, there was a novel planned for them. I now use these steps for every novel I outline.

The second half of the book gets repetitive for me. After two brief outlines my fingers are itching to write, so I only use the fi
Adria Estribou
Oct 02, 2013 Adria Estribou rated it it was amazing
best writer's resource book I've found yet. I plan to use this at the start of every manuscript. note: the title is misleading, it should be "complete outline in 30 days" because what you end up with is a plot summary, plot arc, outline and short blurb about every scene (which is a lot to accomplish in 30 days!) Before reading this book I was worried that plotting things out in advance was uncreative (with disasterous results for a shelved first novel). Wiesner's processess allow for a lot of cr ...more
Mel Anastasiou
Jun 01, 2015 Mel Anastasiou rated it it was amazing
This is the most detailed guide to outlining novels for struggling novelists I have ever come across. Her story evolution guide illuminates structure for my whole book, but works equally well for a section of the book, a chapter, or a scene. First Draft in 30 Days got me over a difficult learning curve for revision a few years back and I continue to use Karen Weisner's ideas every day I write and for developmental editing work for short fiction and novellas.
Jul 15, 2016 Jaibee23 rated it liked it
I did not love or hate this book, but it did leave something to be desired. Her system of completing a first draft, seems to work for her very well, but the method is not universal by any means and would not work for me. However, the rating is based on the fact that the title and the content of the book do not match. At best, an outline of the novel, not a first draft would be completed after 30 days.
Jan 07, 2014 Shannon rated it it was amazing
Oh Karen, thank heavens I found you! I did so want to write a novel before I turned 80. Now it seems I can write 80 before 80. Let's see, if I'm X years old and do 4-5 books a year, then multiply that by the number of years it will take me to reach 80 and, wait - - how many is that? Oh that's right, I'm not tellin'! Let's just say that, with your outlining system, it is theoretically possible.

So, what do you know about skincare? ;)
Jul 16, 2012 Patricia rated it liked it
Recommended to Patricia by: Writer's Digest
This is a great book for writers who need structure or a place to begin. I started reading it while I was already well into my work-in-progress. I am using it as a tool to clarify my writing goals and to tweak my first draft.

The details it makes me explore give me a place from which to begin again when the dreaded blank page is staring me in the face. I enjoyed the idea so much that I have already purchased her next book - From First Draft to Finished Novel.
Stephen Simpson
Sep 07, 2014 Stephen Simpson rated it really liked it
A lot of writers hate outlining, but this book gives a lot of good tips on making it a faster and less painful process.I think some of the assumptions built into the 30-day shtick could be pretty unreasonable (particularly if a book requires a lot of research), but that's more of a quibble than a serious fault.
Jul 30, 2013 Anonymous rated it did not like it
I'm beginning to think that these write-a-book-in-a-month books are all about doing busy work but not doing any writing. This book has even more complicated busy work than the last write-a-book-in-a-month that I read.

I'll agree with the other reviewer who said this book is mid titled. It's First Outline in 30 Days, not draft.

Skimmed through most of it and returned it to the library.
Oct 06, 2016 Izzy rated it liked it
My complaints:

The title is misleading. It is not telling you how to write a first draft in 30 days, it's telling you how to create a detailed outline in 30 days.
The font is tiny! I think it's Times new Roman sized 8/9. I'm short sighted and so the tiny font made it very hard to read.

LoRee Peery
Apr 20, 2012 LoRee Peery rated it really liked it
This looks like a wonderful layout for writers needing lots of ideas for goals, outlining, planning, and scheduling. I had a couple "aha" moments and will try her pointers. I look forward to using her worksheet(s) for revising a couple older manuscripts.
Chelsea Clemmons
I'm very much a type B personality, and this book has helped me SO MUCH in organizing what I'm doing and getting my book ready to go without having to do six or seven drafts of a full manuscript. This book is a lifesaver.
Jessica Aspen
Nov 20, 2012 Jessica Aspen rated it really liked it
I don't actually use this book the way she intends it to be used, I use it in conjunction with Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method to help me flesh out some of my Snowflaking. His system just works better for a reforming pantser like me!
Jan 03, 2011 Laurel rated it it was amazing
Another great book by Karen Wiesner. I bought this while in the throes of National Novel Writing Month and was happy with the systematic methodology Wiesner offered as one way of power-drafting a first draft.
Rick Ludwig
Jul 29, 2011 Rick Ludwig rated it really liked it
I found this book very helpful and applied many of the lessons it taught. The time frame is a bit compressed for me, but the steps make excellent sense. I will keep it in my library and will definitely refer to it each time a start writing a first draft.
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Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 118 titles published in the past 19 years, which have been nominated/won 134 awards, and has 39 more releases contracted for spanning many genres and formats. For more information about Karen’s fiction and series, consult her official companion guide, The World of Author Karen Wiesner: A C
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