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Book Review: First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner

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With such the seductive title First Draft in 30 Days, I was eager to get my hands into this book. Unfortunately, the title is misleading and I was disappointed.

This book is useful, well-structured, and well-written, but it is about how to write an outline, not a draft, in 30 days. An outline, however complete, isn't the first draft of a novel, no matter what the back cover of the book says.

Now that I've made this clarification, and keeping in mind the true aim of the book, Wiesner's work is the most complete, detailed book on writing outlines I've ever encountered.

If you're the organized, methodical-type writer who plans ahead and likes using outlines, you'll get a lot out of this book. For those of you who would like to write a complete outline but aren't sure how to go about it, Wiesner's book will serve as a helpful guide.

If you enjoy the more flexible type of writing, however, you'll feel smothered and restricted by this book.

In the end, outlines don't work for every type of writer. Some writers love them, some hate them.

Topics in the book include: brainstorming, the preliminary outline, researching your idea, the evolution of your story, revising, getting the most from your formatted outline, and outlining your career, among others. There's also an appendix and a glossary, as well as worksheets for schedules.

The book will help in preparing multiple character sketches and contructing the plot and its twists, especially when writing mysteries and historical novels where lots of data and information on people and places are needed.  

Wiesner presents the information clearly and her writing style is engaging, making the book an entertaining, insightful read. Even if you don't like working with outlines, First Draft in 30 Days is a worthy addition to any serious writer's bookshelf.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.