Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

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The title of BOOK IN A MONTH reminds me of late-night infomercials that promise magical wealth or weight loss or beauty with no effort. Of course, there are people who write complete books in thirty days, some of them quite good, but that’s a lot to ask of beginners. However, Schmidt isn’t expecting her readers to write polished prose. She anticipates messy first drafts that ignore things like subplots and subtlety and consistency. Following Schmidt’s method won’t produce a book, but more of an outline/first draft hybrid.

Schmidt teaches writers how to plot the most straightforward type of novel with a three-act structure and a well-defined hero and villain. The plot points will come at predictable intervals, building to a crashing climax. Nothing wrong with that. Even better, the thirty-day method offers no time to procrastinate, second-guess, or get caught in loops of self-editing. The idea is to go in one direction only: forward.

While butt-in-chair is always good, the real danger is that a writer can spend all her time on Schmidt’s worksheets and pre-writing exercises and never write a word of the novel. Being busy doesn’t equal producing solid work. Schmidt suggests hand-writing notes directly in BOOK IN A MONTH, and the book is spiral-bound for that purpose. However, the space for writing is too small and the use of reward stickers seems juvenile. Naturally, Schmidt suggests that writers buy a new copy of BOOK IN A MONTH for each novel they write, as if they will never progress to writing on their own and will need her worksheets forever.

I admit to skipping the assignments, but just reading through BOOK IN A MONTH gave me some good tips and was great for motivation. I can see how this book would be absolutely perfect for a certain kind of writer. Someone with a burning passion, a strong concept, and no idea where to start would love this book, especially if they like lots of structure. And if a writer sees it through to the end, she’ll end up with a finished draft robust enough to stand up to the vigorous editing it will need.

Not bad for thirty day’s work.

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BOOK IN A MONTH can be found here.

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rating: 3 stars

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This book is best for: beginning writers

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I recommend this book or 2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron or Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

 

 

4 thoughts on “Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

  1. I bought this book quite awhile ago hoping to help myself get motivated to write. I would agree with what you said about spending so much time on the worksheets. However, it has helpful suggestions to sort out ideas while developing a story. I think you just have to be selective in what is useful to each writer. All in all, it isn’t too bad of a book.

  2. Each writing book you read must be taken with a great of salt. Learn something from each, and adapt what you like. In the end, I think you’ll wind up with your own writing method that will, subconsciously, incorporate what you’ve learned.

    At present I’m reading FAST FICTION, A GUIDE TO OUTLINING AND WRITING A FIRST-DRAFT NOVEL IN THIRTY DAYS, by Denise Jaden. One of the things she recommends is making a list of scenes. That is fine, but then she has put your characters in different locations to see their reactions or, at least, to see how it feels.

    I’ve always made a list of scenes, title them, number them, and then write a five sentence description of the scene. Then I work from there, moving the scenes around to see whether my “scene outline” has to be change.

    However, I’ve tried the method Ms. Jaden suggests. It is counter-productive to put the characters in different locations to see their reactions or, at least, to see how they feel. I prefer writing the story and letting the character take the lead in these situations, In fact, most times your characters change from one draft to another as you get to know them. Sometimes you don’t have to wait until you’ve done a specific draft. You’ll see the changes as you write. Most of the time, the character is right.

    The creative mind is amazing! Read, study, and above else, write.

    Aida L. Irizarry

  3. Hi! I’m the one who originally emailed to ask about this book, and I’ve been meaning to come by to leave a proper comment but life got away with me. Thank you so much for taking the time to read/review the book!

    It sounds like (and please correct me if I’m wrong) this book is a bit similar to Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days in that we’d likely end up with an in-depth outline as opposed to an actual first draft. The main difference seems to be their approach, with worksheets and exercises vs what appears to be a very detailed and tedious outlining method?

    Book in a Month seems to be more open to a writer’s individual process though, so that part is encouraging. The danger of spending too much time filling out the worksheets and never writing a word of the novel is indeed something I need to be wary of as I’m already prone to that all on my own, so thank you for the warning!

    • Book in a Month seems to be more open to a writer’s individual process though, so that part is encouraging…

      I think you’ve nailed the main difference between the two books. Although both First Draft in 30 Days and Book In a Month will give you no more than a good outline in a month, Book In a Month is more flexible and intuitive.

      Thanks for recommending this book!

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