First Draft in 30 Days

I picked up the Guardian (UK newspaper) on Saturday and it had, as a supplement, a condensed version of Karen S. Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days. I’m usually a bit suspicious of anything that smacks of programmed writing, but this looks interesting. It seems to be more of a project schedule for planning a book, rather than a special ‘methodology’ for writing like Dramatica Pro. Has anyone tried her method, and how did you get on? I’m using it to rejig a book I’m editing into a second draft and it seems useful so far, it’s pointing out gaps in the story/plot that need sorting. The link to the Guardian website is here, though the title is misleading as the system is designed to create an outline, not a full draft: … in-30-days

I read this book some time ago. As you say, it might more usefully be entitled Final Outline in 30 Days. But from what I remember, it’s still worth reading and in my view emphasises many useful points, the most important being the most fundamental - if you want to use your writing time efficiently, don’t wing it by the seat of your pants, make a plan.

However, for me, having accumulated a shelf-full of such books over the years, I reckon the best advice of all is - pick a system, could be your own system, could be someone else’s, almost any system will do, but whatever you pick - stick to it.

I’m working my way through the articles at the moment.

The first thing that strikes me is that Scrivener makes the author’s method so much simpler. She relies on filling in detailed worksheets on every single aspect of the outline: for example, detailed notes on each scene plus a summary 'day sheet to record them in order, noting location, POV, high-concept blurb etc.

Much of what she wants you to record can be replicated simply in Scrivener with keywords, synopses, document links etc. I suspect that Scrivener will reduce significantly the ‘admin’ time inherent in the method….

Note I’m not criticising the method itself and I shall probably try to use it in anger: I’m merely suggesting that many of the articles could have a strap line “Buying Scrivener will make bit this a lot easier.”

Perhaps a marketing opportunity….

That’s exactly what I was thinking. I bought the book on the basis of the Guardian article and I’m now putting the draft of my own novel through her process, using Scrivener. You’re right that all of the fields and tags she has in her worksheets can be set up as metadata and tags in the program, so it lends itself really well to the system. The thing I like about Wiesner’s approach is that it’s methodology neutral, none of this ‘who’s your Donor/Guardian/Emotional Protagonist?’ stuff you get in other guides, and you can take or leave bits that don’t apply. All it’s getting you to do is plan in detail where your story is going before you write, which after years of pantsing it is maybe what I need.

Thanks for this…

Is there a lot in the book that’s not in the articles? It’s a bit difficult to tell from her website.

I haven’t come across a massive amount of extra material, mainly examples of famous books inserted into her worksheets. You can probably get by with the Guardian supplement. The links to the worksheets on the paper’s site didn’t work for me but someone at the Guardian sent me this alternate link:

Thanks! I’ve downloaded the worksheets now.

It’s very clear that much of the information in many of them can easily be replaced by standard Scrivener functions.

Thanks again.

I’ve got a similar book “Book In A Month” by Victoria Lynn Schmidt that I’m trying to convert into a Scrivener Template. I don’t know how it will turn out but it’s an interesting project anyway. :slight_smile:

I picked up a copy of the book through Amazon out of curiosity as to what was what and it does look interesting. Since someone beat me to a template for BIAM I’m working up my own template for FDI30D instead. Don’t know how well it will turn out but nothing ventured, nothing gained. :slight_smile:

The problem I have with this method is that the story she developes as an example is so incredibly absurd it simply derails me: What can somebody teach me who does not see how immoral, illogic and pointless her story is?

I haven’t read BIAM, but as I say above I’ve read FDI30D. Apart from mis-titling, I think it has one flaw and one virtue. Its virtue is that it stresses that a book of fiction is best built up layer upon layer, and I expect that its worksheets can help with that. Its flaw is that it doesn’t stress the primacy of the story idea; for example as far as I remember its first worksheets deal with character.

For this reason, if I were going to follow such a working system, it would be the snowflake method, which does emphasise the importance of having a simple idea as the DNA of your tale (and which you could also turn into Scrivener templates if you were minded to - in fact I’m willing to bet someone already has).

I don’t know about a Snowflake Template but there is Snowflake Pro which is a program based on the method. I’ve got a copy. It has some interesting points but not everyone I imagine will find such of use, and even if someone has a well established routine for writing I can imagine that a given ms may not evolve in the same way. I mean say someone normally starts with a story idea like “A young man must avenge his murdered father” for example. That doesn’t mean that the idea must necessarily come 1st. Maybe the author would first see the indecision of the son as to if what he believes to be the truth is in fact what really happened. At that point the author wouldn’t know what the given truth was, or why the young man doubts it, just that he has doubts. The main story idea could come after that. And with the right mix of characters and setting from either the story idea or the indecisiveness of the character you get Hamlet. I don’t know how Shakespeare actually came up with the play itself, but he could have gone down either of those paths just as well as another. Writing is a fluid thing I think. I don’t imagine there is a single work of fiction extant today that went exactly like the author thought it would. In the end I think all books that show a method of writing are no more than ‘suggestions’ of what works for some. We each have to go down our own unique paths. Probably just as well too because otherwise we might all end up telling exactly the same story, and that would be rather dull I think. :slight_smile:

While I agree entirely with the general gist of what you say, Crich70, it appears that Shakespeare actually pinched the Hamlet story (insanity and all), basing his version on existing stories of a Danish prince called Amleth. Plotting is so much easier if you just reinterpret someone else’s outline, without having to worry about plagiarism! Sometimes the reinvention is more long-lasting and better crafted than its precursors.

I have recently tried to use First Draft in 30 Days, and found myself bored and demotivated by having to think about locations and detailed character descriptions so early in the process. And I have tried the Snowflake method (and corresponding software) as well. I can’t say I got on terribly well with either of them, because I don’t work in such a rigidly linear fashion, but at least the Snowflake method doesn’t actively put me off writing.

My TV days, when everything had to be completed two hours ago, drove home to me the desirability of thinking through one’s options before one started writing, simply for efficiency’s sake.

But not of making unchangeable plans. As someone famous once said, or almost said: “The important point about making a plan is the planning process, not executing the plan to the letter.” 8)

As with anything creative, the ideal approach is probably a pick and mix of elements that suit the individual.

But I see these writing/planning systems as being a bit like a diet plan – not something you do all the time (or even, in an ideal world, at all) but a framework that you call on every now and then when your own efforts aren’t having the desired effect and you need some fast results and a bit of a kick in the right direction. In such a situation, deviating from the diet guidelines is fine if you’re self-disciplined and on the right track anyway, but probably not so fine if your idea of a legitimate healthy eating plan is based entirely on the four essential food groups of fat, sugar, caffeine and alcohol :smiley:



Has anybody put together a template for this (that they wouldn’t mind sharing)? After reading through the articles, it seems it would be quite easy to adapt to a Scrivener template, but I’m only a third of the way through the tutorial, so what the hell would I know LOL

I’ll probably give the routine a go either way, but if somebody has already created a template, it would make my life easier ;^>