Book Review: First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Weisner

Since this is a writing guide, about the only way I can effectively review it is by discussing my personal experience using the book. My disclaimer, then, is Your Mileage May Vary.

I’ve known Karen Weisner for a long time, and have seen her prolific output. Her blog posts and other resources on plotting books and writing them quickly, have intrigued me for a while, so I decided to give the full book a shot.

The book presents a step-by-step method to produce a detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline of a full novel. The result isn’t a fully fleshed out first draft, but it lays out every detail of every scene so that you can go back and fill in the gaps to produce your full first draft. Because of the extensive planning that occurs as you go through Weisner’s process, you can produce the full draft without having to stumble over plot issues, backtracking, or a need for extensive revision and rewrite.


I used the book to plot out a story idea I’d had brewing for quite a while. Going through the layering process helped me work out what I felt was a solid outline. I felt really good about it when it was done, although I took more like 45-60 days rather than 30. Still, it felt like a great start. I had a story bible, research ready to go, character names and backgrounds, worldbuilding, and a step-by-step plot outline just ready to be fleshed out into a full draft.

But when I started into that next step, everything stalled. I found the story drifting from the outline within only about 5 pages. The story stopped feeling fresh and motivated. I only got a few pages into producing that fleshed out novel before I stopped. The joy was gone.

I’m not sure why this happened. I think it had something to do with my process, and that another writer wouldn’t experience the same kind of deflation after going through this process.

I’ve set my draft aside for the moment. I know I’ll come back to it and be able to finish it, but for now it’s on a back burner until I get really excited about it again.

Some aspects of Weisner’s method, though, I’ve integrated into my routine–gathering notes and research in an organized set of files, for example. And I’m sure the extensive outline I constructed with the help of this book will eventually become a full-fledged novel. But I’m not sure I’ll follow the full process through exactly as Weisner has it laid out, because it doesn’t seem to mesh with my personal writing style. For those who thrive on detailed outlines, though, Weisner’s method might be very helpful.

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