First Draft in 30 Days – The Wiesner method

The cover of First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner
That’s one seductive title.

When a book has a title like First Draft in 30 Days, it can be hard to pass up. If it’s sitting on the shelf at your local library, passing it up is practically impossible, which is why I picked Karen Wiesner’s attractively title book.

The idea that I could write a first draft, or in Wiesner’s case, an incredibly detailed outline (which she equates to a first draft), is seductive. So far, it hasn’t happened yet (mostly, because I’m currently writing the second draft of another work) but the dream remains.


Good for the plotters of plotters.

What’s awesome about it?

  • Research list
  • Location and character sketches

What’s not-so-awesome about it?

  • Lots of nitty gritty
  • The draft/outline format is a little too unwieldy for me

The awesome

Researching 17th-century farming practices and then getting lost on Google can be a common occurrence, which is why I love the research list. The idea behind the research list is that you jot down the things you need to research while you go through the initial stages of outling and then research them later, on days set aside for the task.

This is great, because it allows you to stay focused on the task at hand without worrying about forgetting all of the things you still need to look up.

At some point most of us fill out character bios, but Wiesner has turned this into an step in her 30-day plan, calling them sketches. What I like most about this is that they’re steps in the process and filling them out, at least partially, forces you to think about not just your characters, but your locations, and how they fit into the story. In addition to character and location sketches, I added important items.

Wiesner’s template for a location sketch is also quite good.

The not-so-awesome

Weisner’s 30-day plan strikes me as incredibly intricate, with steps such tagging the tension in a scene. If you’re the plotter of plotters, this level of detail may work for you, but there’s still a little pantsing in my process, and this feels like hard work.

At the end of the 30 days, you should have an incredibly detailed, scene-by-scene outline. Unfortunately, the outline’s suggested format feels unwieldy, even in Scrivener. For me, it includes too much information, most of which I either won’t use, will change or will just get in my way, leading to all sorts of frustrations.

Interesting links

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