FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS is a misnomer. Wiesner’s book is not designed to help writers quickly finish a first draft. Following her method step-by-step will only produce a healthy outline. Wiesner insists that a finished outline is as good as a rough draft, but they are not the same thing. At all.
Moreover, Wiesner doesn’t seem to understand that there are two kinds of novelists with very different approaches to writing. “Plotters” love outlines and use them for every story. “Pantsers” prefer to write by the seat of their pants. I have seen pantsers try to become plotters. It’s painful. They feel like they are locking their muses in a cage. Even if pantsers force themselves to produce an outline, they never follow it anyway. I must assume up front that FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS is not for them.
That leaves plotters like me. I love outlines the way Elmo loves his crayons. To me, an outline isn’t a cage. It’s a comfortable house for my muse to live in. You can imagine how excited I was to try out Wiesner’s detailed method.
I lasted about a week before the worksheets and schedules and character studies and scene notes and nitpicky formatting guidelines sucked every bit of creative joy from my work.
So I tried jumping ahead. I wanted to make a solid outline without color-coding or timelines or other tedious stuff. But by modifying Wiesner’s method, I ended up writing the exact outline I would have written anyway. So why was I wasting a month of my writing time on this?
Even a complete outline isn’t complete in Wiesner’s world. Once finished, it has to be broken apart and “tagged.” Plot, subplot, tension, goal all have to be separated out. Then it has to be broken down by character and then chronologically. Why? Unless the book is a complex thriller that depends on the split-second timing of characters’ movements, I can’t imagine how this would be helpful.
I feel for Wiesner. I really do. She found a method that worked for her and wants to share it with everyone. But we’re quirky people. What works for one writer rarely works for another. FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS does a great job of explaining one outlining method in a clear–even inspiring–way. The flaw is not in the execution, but in the concept. Those who are pantsers won’t be converted by this book and those who are plotters already know everything that’s contained in its pages.
rating: 2 stars
pie slices: 8 slices craft
This book is best for: beginning writers