Nonfiction Reviews by Award-winning Author Karen S. Wiesner

Award-winning Author of Nonfiction Karen S.

Reviews of Writing Reference/Nonfiction Titles by Karen S. Wiesner

BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity
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5 Stars! "This Book is Must-Have for All Book Writers! You need this book! If you're a novelist, you need this book. If you're a self-published author, you need this book. If you're a memoir writer, you...Well, you get the point. WRITING BLURBS THAT SIZZLE--AND SELL! by Karen S. Wiesner will help you write copy for your query letter and your website, for Amazon and a book's back cover, for press releases and marketing emails. The advice in this book will even improve your writing--how you tell your story, how you plot your book, and how you think about your reader. It has plenty of helpful examples and resources, exercises and checklists.

"So let's start at the beginning. Karen explains the term blurb and where it came from; but for this book's purposes, she refers to "the very short summary of the story plot" as a blurb. She says there is a "two-fold truth" when it comes to blurbs, and those are: a) a blurb shouldn't tell the story: it only tells the potential buyer about the story in hopes that he or she will part with hard-earned money to read what's inside, and b) the purpose of a blurb is to sell the book.

"Then she goes on to explain how to write a blurb for many different types of books, including genre books, literary fiction, an entire series (you can have a blurb for each book and then for the entire series--and according to Karen, you should!), nonfiction books such as self-help or humor, anthologies (Karen is very detailed!), and children's books. She ends the how-to section of her book (part one) with a chapter on blurb dos and don'ts, which gives great advice for writing the best blurb you can and practical applications of this advice.

"Did I mention there were plenty of examples? I love examples! This book is like a workshop. The value you will receive for the price of this book feels like you have found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I'm not exaggerating here! (smiles) The appendices (or part two) of the book start on page 211 and go to page 382, and it is packed full of evaluations of blurbs that are already published, exercises for blurb crafting and revision, and worksheets and checklists she mentions during part one of the book.

"So I used Karen's advice to write a blurb for the novel I've been going on about on The Muffin and on Facebook. (Today, I hit over 75,000 words on my WIP!) Since I talk about/overshare, people are often asking me: what's your book about? I didn't have a good answer and tried poorly to describe it, and then I was worried that maybe I didn't know what the novel was about. Maybe it was horrible and rambling, and no one would ever want to read it.

"But Karen's blurb book and her advice saved the day. She says a blurb is made up of two parts: Who and What. For example, here's one she uses for the movie, Spectre: "A cryptic message from M16 spy James Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization." The who is James Bond and the what is he will follow a cryptic message and reveal this evil organization. So I wrote the blurb for my WIP based on Karen's book. I didn't stop there though--I wrote one for each of my already published books, which I plan to use on my website soon!

"The other good thing about this book is you could read the sections that pertain to your writing and then work the exercises that pertain to you. So it's not like a novel where you read cover to cover. Also I forgot to mention, there's a whole section on author branding too-this book is an investment and a big help in your marketing plan!

"I'm so lucky to have received this book in return for a review. I will be recommending this to all of my writer friends. So, check out WRITING BLURBS THAT SIZZLE--AND SELL!. If you need a gift for a writer, this is perfect--or put it on your own holiday list!" ~Margo Dill, writer, editor, and teacher for WOW--WOMEN ON WRITING

5 Stars! “WOW! Once again Wiesner has expertly taken a critical aspect of a writer’s necessary abilities and made it understandable and, even more important, doable. Most of the authors I know cringe at the word ‘blurb’ and even the ones who are capable without extreme stress see them as a necessary evil. This book gives a well-needed tutorial for each potential blurb format.

“The various versions, and the many ways, blurbs are misunderstood or misused has been both startling and encouraging. Knowing what is a wrong approach and why clearly explains why so many authors find them almost terrifying. But after listening to Karen S. Wiesner’s clarity, they now become an interesting and strong resource to complement each individual book. Right now there is so much misuse or misinformation regarding blurbs that the need to have them each stand out is undermined. WRITING BLURBS THAT SIZZLE--AND SELL! takes each detail, explains the purpose, points out the potential pitfalls, differentiates between genres and readers, gives tips, offers clear techniques, and shares multiple examples and exercises to evaluate and ‘to hone effectively good blurb writing skills’.

“One quality I extremely appreciate in all of her writing books are the hands on step-by-step examples and worksheets for every tool she discusses. Here she doesn’t only explain the differences between High-Concept Blurbs, Back Cover Blurbs, and Series Blurbs but shows a wide range of examples—both bad and good—then walks us through the process for our own stories.

“A blurb is meant to be for the reader’, she says, not the many other versions. It is to invite your reader to enter into a compelling story. ‘The purpose of the blurb is a-three fold C for a reader: capture, (to provide) content, (to give a reason to) care’. In WRITING BLURBS THAT SIZZLE--AND SELL!, we can learn to sizzle, too.” ~Marcy Weydemuller, author, creative writing instructor and editor and

5 Stars! "This writing reference is for authors or potential authors who hate trying to write back cover blurbs for their stories. Blurbs are important since they help convince readers to part with their hard earned money and purchase your story. This novel can be your go-to reference guide in how to craft your blurb into potential sells. The great thing (to me) about this book is that the author does not just deliver information to you. She also gives several examples and follows up with worksheets and templates to help you hone your new craft of wring excellent blurbs. For extra information, the author encloses links throughout the novel for you to get even more reference material. This book is a must for new or aspiring authors to have in their library and most well established authors can benefit from it as well." ~Huntress Reviews


BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity

BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity Reviews

5 Stars! “Without a doubt, BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE is one of the most in-depth guides for writing that novel than any I've seen in years! This is a book for the writer with that deep, burning desire to get serious in this profession. Not a gloss-over, and not the stale, routine advice found across the web. This is quality advice that makes you dig down and discover the magic that makes a novel marketable and memorable. Karen Wiesner is a writing how-to guru, and this book shows you why.” ~C. Hope Clark, Author of award-winning The Carolina Slade Mysteries, and The Edisto Island Mysteries. Also Founder of -

5 Stars! “Go deeper. Bring a multi-layered perspective to your writing from the initial spark through to the published launch. At whatever stage you are in your writing career this craft book delivers a solid foundation, clear instruction, several practical suggestions, and expert advice. One of the qualities I most appreciate in Karen S. Wiesner’s books on writing is her intense commitment to share and develop her personal experience. She undergirds each concept with well-founded definitions, gives concrete published examples to amplify them, and then offers high quality understandable applications to follow. Her ongoing feature of her books to include accessible worksheets goes the extra mile here by giving authors readymade templates from which to personalize. And she does not generalize them but gives specific details for each skill set she develops. Personally I found two particular areas I’d like to explore more in my own work immediately. Wiesner points out that our blueprints are ‘just one of many layers of your story’. Her ideas regarding examining them for cohesiveness helps reduce uncertainty and laborious revision by catching the holes early on. For career writers she has insightful suggestions for applying the multilayered approach to all our stages and projects to produce quality consistently. Taking the time to recognize the potential benefit of three-dimensional characters, plots, settings, scenes, marketing, goals, and personal process, is valuable time spent to truly develop stories that readers can’t resist. Enjoy.” ~Marcy Weydemuller, author, creative writing instructor and editor -

5 Stars! "Karen Wiesner’s new book BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE is a completely fresh, innovative take on how to write in ways that truly engage readers and also distinguish the uniqueness that’s in each writer. This new approach takes writers on an enlightening, educational journey on how to create characters, plots, and storylines that have true three-dimensional shape. It’s as if Karen has figured out how to make a 'virtual reality' version of the writing process! Karen’s techniques are laser-focused so writers can delve into the specific writing processes, rather than on just read about generalized, nebulous concepts. I would recommend BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE to any writer, novice or experienced, who’s seeking practical, useful writing techniques that really work and a genuine grasp on how to apply these insights to defining and reflecting their individualities as writers." ~screenwriter/feature filmmaker/director Thomas Mignone

5 Stars! “The worksheets and step-by-step advice in this new writing guide by Karen Wiesner present a solid foundation for anybody writing their first novel or revising a novel—or teaching novel writing in college or at a retreat. This book is filled with valuable charts and exercises. Karen offers sage advice and elegant, simple ways to ironically create more complexity from the get-go. A bonus—unlike some books about novel writing that give only a cursory nod to settings, Wiesner’s book uses a solid chapter to show how to create layers and depth in settings. Throughout the text she illustrates a technique called “Present/Past/Future” which nudges a writer to expand the way he or she thinks about building scenes, characters, plots, and settings. Writing a novel via her method almost seems too easy, however that’s what makes a great writing text. Karen has synthesized things for us. She cites wisdom from several writing experts and coaches, too, which helps the reader discover other worthwhile sources for further study on novel writing. Bring Your Fiction to Life is a stellar new contribution to novel-writing knowledge and instruction.” ~Christine DeSmet, faculty associate in writing and director of the “Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat” at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the author of two mystery series

5 Stars! "An indispensable guide to depth and richness in fiction. Every writer who has read and benefited from this author's previous writing manuals will want this one. That said, BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE stands on its own and doesn't require you to have read the other books such as FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS. (This book, however, does helpfully include what amounts to an overview of the "30 Days" method in the section titled "Writing in Stages.") Wiesner's emphasis on including past, present, and future dimensions in every scene is an approach I'd never seen before and very illuminating. She applies this structure to plot and setting as well as character. The 'multilayered' quality so essential to fully developed stories and characters is explored from several angles. Like her other books, this one analyzes various published novels as well as her own work to demonstrate these methods in practice. The book also includes an abundance of useful charts and worksheets. I especially enjoyed her breakdown of A CHRISTMAS CAROL to show how the elements of three-dimensional writing function in that classic, an excellent choice because almost everybody is familiar with it." ~author Margaret L. Carter

5 Stars! "Are you writing a book? Do you need help creating relatable characters that pop off the page? BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories With Depth and Complexity by Karen S. Wiesner is a fantastic book on how to skillfully create realistic characters and a deep, meaningful story structure. Learn how to build and analyze a comprehensive outline for your book using worksheets. You will develop a story by learning who, what, when, why, and where through the eyes of your characters. As you create the layers of your story using the author's unique formula, you will find that you have constructed strong plots, characters, and settings, just by using the detailed sketches that help you understand your character's past, present, and future. Compare your outline and sketches to the worksheets provided and quickly identify any issues before they complicate your writing. Are you ready to write an elaborate story with fascinating characters? BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE is a brilliant how-to book on writing a novel. The author starts by presenting the reader with the fundamentals of creating three-dimensional characters using her profound PPF system. Then, she takes them through the processes, step-by-step, in a comfortable narrative style. By the time the reader has completed the exercises, they have a comprehensive knowledge of what makes a good fiction story. I am in the process of writing a novel, so I decided to try applying the techniques presented in the book. I downloaded some of the worksheets and implemented the strategies and tools the author teaches. I was impressed with her thoroughness. After reading this book, I am better able to see areas that would cause trouble in my story and promptly correct them. I also have an excellent understanding of my characters now; something I wasn't aware I was struggling with until reading this book. An excellent source of information and writing tools, and a superb how-to book. I would recommend it to novice and seasoned writers alike." ~Alyssa Elmore for Readers' Favorite

5 Stars! "There is no shortage of “how-to” books for aspiring authors. I should know. I’ve spent hours in Barnes and Noble scouring the shelves, looking for the one book which will not only inspire, but will also unlock the creativity lurking inside me. The one book to which will help me become a successful author. I’ve read my fair share, and while most provided a tidbit or two, none really lit a fire under my...derriere. Therefore, when I picked up BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE by Karen Wiesner, I will admit I was a bit skeptical. After all, I’d been writing several years. I’m an English teacher. Surely she would not have some magic formula to fix my writing problems. Boy, oh boy, was I wrong. Let’s start with the basics. Her book focuses on aspects every novel needs: characters, plot, and setting. She breaks her book into chapters accordingly, but takes these three elements one step further. She asks her reader to consider the three-dimensional aspects of each category. Let’s take characters, for instance. It’s not enough to create their likes and dislikes, their hair and eye color. An author needs to consider the present, past, and future self of their characters. These same elements transfer into the plot and the setting. When you look at your work as a living being – so to speak – you add layers. Just as our lives have a past, a present, and a future, so does the “life” of your book. The result? With Wiesner’s instruction, you’ll have a multi-dimensional book with three-dimensional characters, a solid narrative structure, and rich settings which keep the reader engaged. My favorite part of Wiesner’s book – besides the clear explanations and the logic behind using three-dimensionality in writing, are her templates. She models how to use the templates – both with published novels and with her own work – helping her reader understand both their function and the benefits of using them. There are four worksheets in Appendix A (for characters, scenes, back-cover blurbs, and development), along with cohesion checklists, scene-by-scene outlines, and goal worksheets. Later, in Appendix B, she provides exercises, where her readers can breakdown passages for practice. Not only is Wiesner explaining the process, but she offers practice to teach mastery. As a teacher, I appreciate the scaffolding. She provides sound advice for those in the throes of writing. “Don’t neglect your future dimensions when you sketch physical descriptions,” she writes. She stresses the importance of giving each dimension equal time and attention. Later, she suggests using a publishing service to print a hard copy of your final draft, which serves as the “perfect advanced reading copy” to use as a “final read-through.” Throughout, she suggests distancing oneself from your manuscript at key moments, offering a timeline for those who hope to make writing their career. Wiesner also offers advice for novice, intermediate, and master writers. One can tell that she understands the basic processes of authorship, and she strives to meet her readers at their level. In the interest of full disclosure, I started writing a new novel just before I picked up Wiesner’s book. By the time I finished reading Bring Your Fiction to Life, I stopped writing and started planning, using the worksheets and charts I’d acquired from her book. She helped me see the importance – and the positive benefits – of creating three-dimensional writing. So much so, in fact, that I feel I cannot move forward without first creating a quality outline with multi-dimensional characters, plot, and setting. “Everything that happens at the beginning of the book must be linked to something that happens later on,” she writes, and those words continue to resonate with me, as has much of her book. This is a must-read for beginning and experienced writers." ~Bethany Masone Harar, author, teacher, blogger and book reviewer for WOW! Women On Writing’s blog, The Muffin

5 Stars! "A book for the career novelist! For what some writers seem to do intuitively, others need a little coaching. In Bring Your Fiction to Life, Wiesner teaches objective methods to help you plan out your story, or go back and diagnose what's missing. With ample charts she guides you into the past, present, and future of your characters' lives to help you create a story that comes to life. I've applied these techniques to my own work, and have experienced that lightbulb moment: Ah! So that's what was missing. Not only does Wiesner teach you how to improve your writing, but she also teaches about the business of writing. Filled with her tried and true tips on how to maintain a writing career, this book will leave you with actionable steps to be writing books for years to come. (As a bonus, the book contains a link to free downloads of all her charts.) If you've ever been stuck trying to figure out what's wrong with your book, this might be the book to get you unstuck." ~Shonna Slayton, author and writing teacher

"Detailed, deep, and deft. For anyone who wishes to hone or improve the craft of fiction writing, one can do no better than in Wiesner’s capable hands." ~Colleen Gleason, New York Times bestselling author of the Stoker & Holmes Books

"A fascinating and functional guide from an incredibly prolific author!" ~Jeff Strand, four-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of 30+ books, including Blister, A Bad Day For Voodoo, and Wolf Hunt




“I’ve made it no secret that I’m a fan of the previous two writers’ reference books from Karen Wiesner – FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS and FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL. So I was thrilled when she sent me her most recent release for writers, WRITING THE FICTION SERIES. This was a timely read for me. I’m gearing up to take part in my first NaNoWriMo, when I’ll finish drafting the first novel in a mystery series. Because I’m doing the NaNo “rebel” thing this year, I’m also working on two shorter series — one with horror short stories and the other is a series of children’s picture books. Given that all of my current big writing projects involve writing series, I was looking forward to picking up some tips. The author didn’t disappoint. I wholeheartedly recommend WRITING THE FICTION SERIES: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas to any writer even toying with the idea of writing a series. Actually, I equally recommend it to fiction writers who haven’t considered series before. The author does a good job of pointing out the value in writing fiction series and the fact that series aren’t just a recent trend — they’re the way many people like to read. In this book you’ll learn about how series ideas can make you more marketable if you choose to pursue a publisher. But if you’re an indie author, don’t count them out. They can help you build more loyal readers too. The real meat of the book however is how to go about creating a series. And that’s where it shines. Let’s look at some of the highlights. First, I love the emphasis on planning ahead. One of my biggest pet peeves as a regular reader of series novels is that authors tend to be inconsistent. While a fact might seem insignificant in the first novel of a series, throwing that fact out the window in a later book might completely pull your reader out of the story. For example, in one series I was reading in one book it mentions the lead character’s age. In the start of the next book it says we’ve jumped ahead two years. But shortly after, it mentioned her age again. And she’s five years older! Sure, in this case it probably didn’t affect the overall story. But I had a complete “WTF” moment, stopped reading, and went back to the previous book to verify. I was worried I somehow missed a book in the series and wanted to stop before I got further into it. I hadn’t missed one. But the author and her editor missed the error. Remember, your readers aren’t always following your series as the books are released. If they’re reading an existing series from the beginning, one book right after another, they’re more likely to pick up on those things, and inconsistency pulls them out of the story when you want to immerse them in it. In WRITING THE FICTION SERIES, the author offers tips and tools to help you map out your series in a way that will make you less likely to have these consistency issues. The “series bible” worksheets are a fantastic set of tools to help you stay on top of the basics. They’ll not only serve as reminders of “the little things” like personality quirks of your characters, but they’ll also keep you on track with series story lines so you never neglect a series arc and leave your readers hanging too long. Another high point is the chapter on marketing a series, which poses additional challenges (and benefits) when compared to marketing a standalone book. I found her section on timing your series releases especially interesting. There she shares readers’ views on how often novels in a series should be released. Is there any solid rule? Of course not. But it gives you a lot of good viewpoints to consider when figuring out your own schedule. I thought the author covered everything I’d want to know about writing a series and planning things out effectively. She even includes exercises along the way. All in all, I’d say this is a must-have book for authors considering writing a series of their own. If anything, I’m surprised that this is the first book I’ve seen on the topic. There is no doubt it fills a gap when it comes to writers’ reference books.” ~Jennifer Mattern for AllIndieWriters

“I'm so glad that I have the chance to review Karen Wiesner's new writing guide book, WRITING THE FICTION SERIES: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas, because I am currently writing book one of a middle-grade mystery series. As Karen says in her introduction, "A better question might be who isn't reading, writing, and publishing a series?" which means that many of you are also probably writing a series—for children or seniors or everyone in-between. Readers love series! So, how will Karen's book help you? First off, it's a well-researched study on successful series, and it covers multiple genres. I'm thankful for all the series mentions that Karen lists and explains in her book because she provides concrete examples that I can use when thinking about my own series and what I want it to become. For example, in my imagination, my middle-grade mystery series will have the same main character and his family members/friends in each book, and each story will solve a complete mystery. It's different than the Harry Potter series because readers won't have to read book seven to find out the ending to Patrick's (my main characters) story. However, I will still have to be consistent and have him develop through the books. So when Karen discusses "Recurring Character" series, I made notes because it's important to know what I'm writing and find other examples out there. I'm not creating a premise/plot series or a setting series, but now I have even more ideas brewing for other series after reading this chapter! After you know what you're writing or want to, Karen delves into how to write it. Chapters two, three, and four help with this. If I was to tell you all the useful tips in these chapters, this blog post would go on and on and on. She helps you with your individual story and series arc, develop characters who can stand the test of a series, stay consistent in your series (you will need a series bible!), and how to organize yourself and your series. When I finish the second draft of my book this summer and my critique group gets finished giving me their notes, I plan to use SEVERAL of the tips in chapter four to keep myself organized—believe me, I need it. I'll use tips, such as the series organization worksheets—I'm going to fill one out before I ever start querying this book, ideas for my series bible, and creating maps of my fictional town (and even individual story places such as Grandma's house and Patrick's school). The other thing this book will do for you (and I've mentioned this a bit already) is give you some ideas that you might not have thought of on your own. I love the idea of a "cameo appearance," which is an idea provided by an author Karen interviewed, Linda Varner Palmer. Linda stated, "Give evidence that the happy endings in earlier books are still in effect, i.e., characters show up in later books and are doing well." I'm already thinking about how Abby in my first book can show up in a later book . . . At the end of each chapter, writers will find "build your series muscles exercises," which are call-to-action activities and writing prompts for you to do with your own series. In a nutshell, these should force you to work on your series while you are also using this book. If you already have a series, this book is still useful to you because it can help with marketing your series (chapter 5), including creating your brand, and preparing for the conclusion of a series (chapter 6). Appendix A provides blank worksheets to use on a new or existing series to help with consistency and writing. Appendix B provides case studies of successful series from Twilight to Debbie Macomber's Dakota series to Terry Brooks The Heritage of Shannara. She also takes the seven Harry Potter books and shows authors the overall series arcs, the individual book arcs, and the series plant arcs for each book. This is an incredible resource! I highly recommend it for anyone writing or considering writing a series! (You can also find more details and resources on Karen’s website” ~Children's book author and writing instructor Margo L. Dill for WOW! Women On Writing

5 Stars! “Not only does this book fill in a long overdue gap in craft skills for novel writers, but it also delivers. Although I knew a preview copy was en route, I couldn’t wait so purchased the kindle copy to get started. And I stayed up very late my first night reading. This does not happen very often with craft books. In fact only a few of the writing books I read make it to my column. Wiesner is also the author of FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS and FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL. One ongoing feature of her books is her inclusion of practical, accessible worksheets and graphs. Organizing one novel can be daunting at times let alone a series. Wiesner skillfully blends the organizational skills together into comprehensive sanity. In WRITING THE FICTION SERIES, she extends her additional resources, first, by including ongoing advice and encouragement from series authors and publishers across multiple genres and, second, by making the full interviews available on her website. There are over one hundred. This is a field that is vibrant and hungry for good writing. And that is the key behind this book: writing a quality series. Wiesner details the definitions, catalyst, styles, focus, organization, and marketing required for any series by showing explicit examples, case studies and stumbling blocks. She thoroughly examines and warns about the importance of characters and consistency when writing across extended novels. On the surface this might seem to be commonsense, but in reality it is a danger that can sink your series, and/or lose future readers. I happened to be doing novella research of my own on three separate series and applied Wiesner’s criteria. Some were written by the same author and some by multiple authors. Each book did a good story individually. Every series tripped up. One I tracked for location ties, one for character and one for premise—an ongoing mystery. The mystery series in particular had all kinds of inconsistencies—the worst being the last book mischaracterized an earlier murder altogether. Not a good way to finalize a series and hope readers will return for the next. WRITING THE FICTION SERIES warns you of the potential landmines and shows you navigable routes to write a sustainable high-concept fiction series and enjoy the process. Advice that is long overdue. Advice that is fun to implement.” ~Marcy Weydemuller, Reviewer for Savvy Authors Learning Center

“I am a fan of Karen Wiesner and the many how-to books she has written. She is great at gathering and assembling information from many sources and putting it into a readable and the most organized form. This book about writing fiction series is no exception. If you are thinking about writing a series, you will get many ideas about how to go about that, what makes or breaks a series, the pitfalls and what to look out for, and just about any other question that you might have concerning the ongoing writing of a series. I highly recommend this book for anyone thinking about writing or in the process of writing a series as [I do] all of Karen's books.” ~Author Marilyn Meredith

"Entertaining and Educational. Informative and inspirational. A must read for anyone considering writing genre fiction. I enjoyed it immensely." ~Author N.J. Walters

“I usually don't write reviews of books so I'm taking a stab here. Writing the Fiction Series by Karen Wiesner is a book not to be read in one swallow but to be read in small bites. The information is interesting and if you've ever contemplated writing a series or are even involved in writing one or even more than one this book will give you a lot of insight into how the process works. Readers enjoy series but there are so many kinds of series and series are written in a variety of genres and for many audiences from children to adults. Writing the Fiction Series gives many hints about constructing the series. A number of series are examined and each type is analyzed. In fact this book is so chock full of information that it will take weeks to read and to enjoy. The chapter on series organization gives a wealth of material to study and is helpful when planning a series. Advice about blurbing the series, and the individual stories, on creating a bible for the series, for creating the ARC plan and creating checklists for the series. These are shown step by step. This book published by Writer's Digest is worth the study and should help any writer who is working on a series or dreaming of writing one. I know I'll be referencing it frequently as I work on any series I'm contemplating.” ~Series Author Janet Lane Walters

“I introduced Karen Wiesner in August (2013) when we reviewed her book From First Draft to Finished Novel in SPAWNews. I committed an unforgivable sin in so doing. I relied on the author information published in the book and it was outdated. Here’s what Karen told me recently. She has just published her 101st book and she has won or has been nominated for 126 awards in the last 15 years. What writer of fiction wouldn’t be interested in reading what this professional has to say on the subject? As the author says, “Writers and readers have caught series fever.” Most fiction authors I know are writing series. Publishers are interested in authors who have more than one excellent book in them. Wiesner says there are some things you should consider before launching out in that direction. For example, you need to have a strong focus for your series and strong, recognizable characters. You must be consistent throughout the series. You need to know how to effectively market a series of books. As every writer of fiction knows, keeping track of the details in your story can be difficult. Multiply that by three or more stories, and an author could become very confused. Wiesner provides downloadable worksheets to help you sort out the details of your stories and keep them straight. I found her section on story arcs versus series arcs fascinating and useful. I’ll definitely use her ideas, and in fact this entire book, as I create the third book in my fiction series. If you’re contemplating a series, I recommend that you reference her book, as well. Not only does Wiesner draw from her own knowledge and experiences, but she has invited other successful authors to provide tips and share their techniques. Included are Marilyn Meredith, Carl Brookins, Rowena Cherry, Joanne Hall, and others. Wiesner also devotes several pages in this book to case studies that any thinking novelist will appreciate. If you have a series in mind or in the works, you really should take a close look at this book.” ~Patricia Fry, President of SPAWN

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“Karen Wiesner's FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS is an excellent approach to helping writers jumpstart their projects. It's well-written and personable--never boring. Most importantly, this straight forward, step-by-step approach succeeds in motivating writers to delve into writing their novels with a cohesive system that takes into account each writer's unique voice. This is not just some boring how-to book. Instead, Karen's book manages to excite writers by showing them they actually can do this! It guides writers through important facets that lay the groundwork for their novels. From the initial brainstorming and sketching out of a story's characters and plots, the writer begins to see the overall structure of their novel suddenly start to take shape. Additional chapters focus on research and the creation of the outline that then becomes the infrastructure for the novel. Karen then guides writers through each specific stage of their novel's beginning, middle, and end storyline arcs. She provides an intelligent approach to setting reasonable goals that can actually be met. FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS does just what it says. It's an inspiring and motivating resource that will exceed the expectations of most writers who may be intimidated at the process or have stalled in their writing projects.” ~screenwriter/feature filmmaker Thomas Mignone

“I’ve always been very suspicious of books or computer programs that offer up a system for writing. The methodologies proposed often claim to have nailed the perfect story structure, or character arc, and guarantee success if the writer sticks to the process described. Admittedly, a lot of these formulaic methodologies are aimed at people trying to write the next Hollywood blockbuster, but I’ve got an innate distrust of any process that claims to reduce the infinite variety of the novel down to a set of archetypes. So it was with some suspicion that I came across Karen Wiesner’s FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS. I was faced with a significant rewrite and scratching my head about how to start. I’d always been a pantser, rather than a planner. I’d have a strong opening, a rough idea of where it was all going, and I’d start writing, hoping that like a walk in the fog, the vague shapes ahead would resolve themselves as I made my way along the path. Then I saw that The Guardian newspaper was running a series called How to Write a Book in 30 Days, as part of NaNoWriMo 2012. So I thought what the heck and decided to give it a go. It turned out that the article was exaggerating a bit. It was based on Karen Wiesner’s FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, and at the end of it you would have a fully-defined outline with all the plot, characters, research and background in place, ready to fill up with the actual words, rather than a finished book. I quickly found that, for me, the approach she was advocating actually worked and I’m now a committed planner following a bastardised/simplified version of the Wiesner method, despite years of standing in the corner and laughing cynically whenever someone ran into the room waving the next copy of ‘Desmond Throckle’s Epic Story Crafter 2.0′. So why am I hooked? To begin with Wiesner doesn’t really advocate a structural methodology – there’s none of this ‘Make sure your Contagonist enhances his feeling of Becoming before the Option Lock’ bollocks. The only approach she suggests is building a plot on a series of crises, failures and re-alignments, i.e. Heroine tries something, Heroine Fails, Heroine Thinks of Something Else, Heroine Tries Again, Heroine Fails - rinse and repeat until Heroine Succeeds in the penultimate chapter. You don’t have to follow this – but it gives you a prompt to keep the tension going if you are writing an action thriller or similar. This helped me tick off one of the cast iron rules of fiction, that there must be clarity and pace at all times. Essentially my version of Wiesner’s approach is as follows: 1) Sort out your characters (I work on about 6 main characters, legacy of when I wrote film scripts and the main driver was keeping costs down – fewer actors to pay) 2) Sort out your locations 3) Decide your main plot 4) Toss in half a dozen subplots (including the romantic tension one) 5) Do your research/world building 6) Write a short outline – in my case if it’s a 120,000 word novel, then I aim for an initial precis of 120 sentences. 7) Rewrite the outline, each time expanding it to encompass plots and subplots, until you’ve turned your 120 or so sentences into a stack of ‘scenes’, each of which will end up roughly 1000 words long in the final book. And that, more or less, is it. It’s actually very simple, but if you stick to this approach you end with your story laid out in synopsis form, with all the plot wrinkles and character interactions sorted out before you start to write the actual words. As Wiesner points out, if you find out something is not working and you only have a synopsis to change it’s a lot easier and less traumatic than having to go back and rewrite massive portions of the actual novel itself. So, for my book, I have a synopsis divided into 120 1000 word scenes, and each scene has its own description (250 – 500 words long) saying exactly what happens, who does what to who and how they feel about it. The beauty of it is that the stress and chances of writer’s block are hugely reduced. If I get stuck on a scene I can skip it and write one further down the list, knowing that because the story is already worked out I’m unlikely to bugger up the continuity or development. Wiesner’s book consists of a load of forms to fill in to achieve a fully formed synopsis, along with a day by day calendar showing what to write and when. In her world you end up with a giant folder full of paper for each book. I just bunged all her templates into Scrivener and used that instead. If you can extract what’s useful (for me, it’s the seven steps above) and combine it with software like Scrivener to handle all the admin, then I can highly recommend her planning methodology.” ~author John Guy Collick

“My bookshelves groan when they see me approach with a new craft book. I have so many that I hesitate to buy one in the bookstore for fear that I actually own a copy and it's just hidden behind a mountain of other books. I was given the opportunity to review Karen S. Wiesner's FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS and I think I can probably unburden my bookshelves. Wiesner's book is good with a solid and doable process. And, honestly, the book reads like a friend who is telling you how to write your draft . . . a good friend, not one who will leave you in the lurch. I took the challenge of trying to write a first draft in 30 days following her method. I admit that I did OK keeping to her schedule and worksheets, but that's just because I had a week where I got off kilter (which is not Wiesner's fault, obviously! I blame that on my kids . . . ) But the process was easy to pick up again, even after a brief hiatus. What makes FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS so essential is that even when Wiesner is explaining the basics of structure, you can't help but learn something. With each element that she explains, she illustrates it with excerpts from fiction you've probably read or, if you haven't, it's been on your list to read. Also, even if you are doing some of what Wiesner suggests, such as keeping a project folder, Wiesner illustrated how to organize your system so that it works for—not against—you and your book. Wiesner's days are grouped into six "crucial" areas, so chapter three, for example, includes days 7 to 13, when she suggests you research your idea. By day 30, you are revising the formatted outline that provides your novel with its solid frame helping you to, as Wiesner writes, "lay out the full course of the story as it flows from beginning to end." She recommends using this full outline to set the stage for your second draft. This outline keeps your plot more focused and helps to avoid any pitfalls. What worked for me with Wiesner's approach is that she gives you the steps—even providing the worksheets and schedules in her appendices—and encouragement for setting writing goals. Both are incredible for getting started on a novel or even with revising a novel. Even if you aren't sure that you want to follow an outline method, such as Wiesner proposes, FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS gave me some insight I needed about writing fiction. In fact, I found myself making notes on how to revise a work-in-progress while drafting another manuscript! A WOW! colleague told me she hoped Wiesner's book got my pen really moving. It did and much more. It's not surprising; Wiesner is an accomplished author who has penned over 98 books in the past 15 years, which have been nominated and/or won 125 awards. She currently has 38 more under contract, spanning a variety of genres. Talk about prolific! In a couple weeks, I'll review Wiesner's FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL. I can't wait!” ~Elizabeth King Humphrey for WOW! Women On Writing

“Last month we reviewed Karen S. Wiesner’s From First Draft to Finished Novel. This book, First Draft in 30 Days, is actually an earlier book and the focus is on helping you to create a system of creating an outline so detailed and complete that it is actually your first draft. The beauty is that Wiesner can teach you how to do this in just 30 days. With this book, she hopes to save authors time and the heartache of having to toss out draft after draft of unfinished, not-quite-adequate fiction works. Here’s what she hopes readers will accomplish by using the wisdom in this book: a preliminary outline completed within six days; research completed by day 13; your beginning, middle, and end established by day 15; your outline formatted during days 16-24; and your formatted outline completed by day 30. This book includes several worksheets and an enormous amount of information and instruction. She also offers examples, which I always find useful in the how-to books I study. If you write novels or are thinking about writing one, consider purchasing both First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel. I’m writing a series of mysteries and I’m using both of these books in the process. Thank you, Karen.” ~Patricia Fry, President of SPAWN

“Novels are daunting, complicated, intimidating projects. FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS is a smart, sharp, tight step-by-step guide to outlining and wrapping our arms around the process. The guides, examples and worksheets give a writer no excuse to feel lost since Karen S. Wiesner holds your hand and leads you into the fear and out the other side with a solid first draft in hand. Remarkably sound textbook on how to get a novel out of your head and onto paper.” ~C. Hope Clark, editor and author The Carolina Slade Mystery Series,

“I'm ready to start outlining my story. Since I have past experience to help me judge whether I'm the kind of writer who works better from an outline or just keeping it all in his head and "exploring" as he goes, I know that a mix of the two, about 80%/20% is ideal. Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo wrote a book that I mean to read every year, called NO PLOT, NO PROBLEM that is both about the NaNoWriMo experience and how to fix up stories that are, shall we say, lacking in some areas. This was going to be the year that I read it, I was so on top of the game, but it was not to be. I was thwarted by some jerk that stole the library's copy. Undaunted, I went to book number two, which had not been stolen, but I'm still reading it, so you'll hear about it later. Book number three on my list is the actual topic of this review, FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS by Karen S. Wiesner. Knowing nothing about the book except the summary on Amazon, I expected a book much in the same vein as Chris Baty's book. What a surprise upon reading Ms. Wiesner's book to find it was nothing at all like I was expecting, and a pleasant surprise at that. What I thought I was going to be reading would be an upbeat attempt to guide a budding writer into creating a plot from an idea and following a complete story arc--in a month. It's not really what I need, and it's not what Wiesner had to offer.

“The "first draft" referred to in the title of the book is not what I think of as a draft at all, but is instead a very thorough formatted outline, that while being created ends up generating a lot of documents to support the story. Wiesner's book turned out to be about workflow and creating a set of habits that will allow a writer to get from an idea in her head to a book in a very short amount of time. The length of time came as a bit of surprise to me, until I realize that this book is not really intended for the faint of heart, or hobbyist writer, but for a full-time would-be author that is willing to spend four or five hours minimum every day on the writing process, with no weekends off. Ms. Wiesner is a published author, though I've never read any of her books. But, the fact that she is an author is important in how she wrote this book. This was not an intellectual proposal for how someone should write a book, based upon potentially outlandish notions of the importance, and thus how long should be spent, various parts of the story. It's written matter-of-factly, with a "this is what I do" attitude, that upon completion of the book makes it seem completely reasonable and more importantly something I am capable of doing.

“Each of the chapters of the book is straight-forward and a bit formulaic, but I think that is a boon in this type of book. We're given an introductory thought, an outline of the goal for specific days in the process, and then explanations of each part with examples from famous modern fiction, almost none of it her books, though apparently she has written quite a few. I take this for modesty as much as for the fact that this process is not terribly hard to reverse engineer for already written books, that were not only good enough to be published, but good enough to be famous--I may not have read half of them, but I had heard of all them.

“Wiesner start you off knowing that there are six parts to her program, which break down into: sketch out characters, setting and plot; research; evolve your story (she provides worksheets); write a formatted outline; evaluate your formatted outline; and revise your formatted outline. It all sounds very rational and dare I say, "doable". I quite liked how straight-forward and unmystical her writing was. I felt FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS was one writer talking to another, albeit an experienced, successful writer talking to someone yet to attain those goals. It's funny how sometimes in life you end up getting exactly what you need by accident. Just as I am getting ready to write a comprehensive outline for a writing project, I read a book that tells me how to do this.” ~Unpublished author Eric on the sweaty bloggopotamus blog

“FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS gives a well-detailed, practical system of how to write a novel in a month. It can be personalized to work for anyone. Attempting to write a novel in thirty days is a tremendous undertaking. Award-winning author Karen Wiesner insists that anyone can do this by using her system. In her book, FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS: A Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript, she reveals how she keeps ahead of her writing deadlines and continues to write prolifically. According to her website, she is the author of 68 novels written in 11 years. Her books have been nominated for and/or won 92 awards. She is contracted for several multi-book series and novels with her publishers. She writes in many genres, including mystery, police procedural, romantic suspense, and nonfiction. Ms. Wiesner is a member of many writing organizations. She is also a talented artist and designs many of her own covers. For a writer looking for a method to write a novel quickly, this book is one to consider. It's an essential tool for succeeding at NanoWrimo, National Novel Writing Month. Even if it is not used strictly on a thirty-day schedule, the method, charts, and forms will benefit writers looking for a way to write a novel in an organized manner. For more support on the second half of the process, Karen wrote FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL. This book goes even deeper into her method and shows the writer how to turn the formatted outline into a well-written manuscript.” ~Suzanne Pitner for

"At this letter's writing, I have completed the third draft to a book I had been working on for years. The plot was very complex and I didn't have the tools to put it together. I came across FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS in my desperate search for an outlining system. Up to then I worked with very little structure, believing that it would stymie my creativity. I wrote a book before on this principal and, all told, it took me years and dozens and dozens of rewrites to finally get the book in shape. Needless to say I didn't sell a "million" copies as so many fresh writers are prone to think. I could only afford to promote it locally, but when venues to do this ran out I was faced with two dilemnas: come up with more money to promote it and writing another book. Then reality set in--it had taken six years to write that book!

"You can't make any money writing at that rate. Let's face it, everyone wants to be Stephen King or J.K Rowling, or Grisham or Sheldon but most of us aren't. But with a system like Mrs. Wiesner's it is possible to be more productive and that's what I was looking for, got, and all I expect from it. My book may not be a million-dollar nuclear bomb, but I can write a string of firecrackers, or maybe even a stick of dynamite here and there. The key here is PRODUCTIVITY. I wanted to be prolific and that's all anyone could ask for. By the way, when I got her system it took a while to clean up my WIP (work in progress) because of how messy it was. But her system enabled me to see all that I had done wrong. It had guts and a soul, but it was just too fat and we started there, trimming it down and laying everything out on the table. We took out all the defective parts and fixed the ones that were absolutely essential, built a skeleton and slowly put them back in. Now it wasn't easy by a long-shot but after a while I could see how this baby, the one I'd been feeding and carrying for so many years would look like. When I finished it I allowed it to sit, as she recommended, and started another Idea, this time using her system from scratch. I couldn't believe it, I finished this Idea completely, from brainstorming, through research, preliminary and finally, the formatted outline in FOUR WEEKS! Two weeks following this I went back to my previous project and as suggested in her book, looked it over again and the perspective of six weeks away showed me even more than I saw when I left it.

"The moment of truth came and I started writing from her FORMATTED OUTLINE format. It was baby steps at first but soon I discovered that this system of ORGANIZATION didn't stymie creativity, in fact I felt liberated. Free from worrying about what to say or how to describe scenes, point-of-views, all those little things that can obscure the real truth of the story itself. Really it was like fitting puzzle pieces together, each scene locking perfectly and tightly with the next. I couldn't believe it, my wife couldn't believe it. Things in my life had gone from being impossible to 'here and now'. My biggest regret in life is that I didn't come across this system sooner. There are some good books on writing out there, from THE FICTION WRITER'S HANDBOOK by Hallie and Whit Burnett, THE WRITING HABIT by David Huddle and even Stephen King's ON WRITING. FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS is far, far superior in the same way as the computer is over the old IBM typewriters I used in school years ago. Stephen King's a great writer, some would argue a genius, but try to write as he suggested in his book and you'll find yourself rewriting every draft and ultimately discouraged altogether. ON WRITING is a great book with a lot of invaluable insight and info but if you want to survive in this game and write more than one book every ten years and write something you can be proud of, get Mrs. Wiesner's system." ~Unpublished Author

"As a perpetual dieter and unorganized fiction writer, there are two things of which I am most skeptical: quick weight-loss schemes and programs that claim to help scattered writing souls like myself compose fiction from an outline. While I still haven't found anything to help my waistline more than following the good, old-fashioned adage of eat-less-exercise-more, I dare say Karen Wiesner's FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS has me reconsidering--and almost excited about--the value of outlining prior to writing.

Like diet programs, I've tried every plotting/structure/organizing plan for writers known to mankind. From books to index cards to computer programs and everything in between, I accepted long ago that I'm a pantser (as opposed to the neat and orderly plotter) and that to try and organize my fiction writing process was an exercise in futility. While I write from outline in my nonfiction pieces, the impulsive, dynamic nature of fiction made me believe it almost impossible to reign in on the direction of my stories in advance.

Until Wiesner's book. Though I read with an open mind, the skeptic in the back of my mind continued reminding me of the similarities between the first few worksheets in the book and other methods that haven't worked for me. I've done the character, setting and plot sketches before only to leave them behind (Days 1-6). I've composed lengthy lists of information I need to research for inclusion in my second drafts (Days 7-13). I've even tried writing fiction from an elaborately created outline nearly half the length of the final book (Days 16-30). What I hadn't done is consider my story sections (beginning, middle and end) with the 30 Days' Story Evolution Worksheet and information (Days 14-15).

Part Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey, part your own application, the Story Evolution information was just what my non-structured brain needed to take those necessary baby steps to get me from the point of idea/concept/writing to a solid, workable, sensible outline I could use to get me to my final draft. In fact, after reading the story evolution chapters, I proceeded to head to bed after a long day of teaching, but the impact of those chapters, the possibilities of their being able to truly change the way I approached my writing excited me so much I had to get up and try for myself. In a matter of minutes, I recreated the worksheets on my laptop, printed them off and in an hour had the entire first third of my story outlined. I don't recall being so excited by brainstorming and outlining in a long time. Ok, quite possibly never--which illustrates my point.

In addition to the schedules, worksheets and goal sheets in the book, there are also sections on how to use the 30 Day Method if you have a work in progress, how to keep track of romance, mystery and suspense/thriller plotlines if that's your genre and even suggestions and plans on how to outline your career path as a writer.

While it's true each writer approaches their craft in a unique way, there is a great deal of information to be learned from Karen Wiesner's FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS. Even if you don't use her structure, thinking of the elements of story before you're knee-deep in plot, scene and structure couldn't hurt. Then again, neither would an extra jog on the treadmill…." ~Beth Morrow for

5 stars! "Nicely laid out plan! Definition of First Draft = extended outline of your novel
1) I love lists and templates and this has 'em readily available.
2) Chapters aren't too long or filled with unnecessary examples. She states her points, gives an example then tells you what page the template is on so you can fill in your own. Efficient and not a waste of my time.
3) Like any novel writing program, if you stick with it you'll get it done. So if you go this route, do it from beginning to end and supplment the sections that you feel need extra help. For instance, in handling the character sub-plots I would combine her section with the Marshall Plan of Novel Writing's discussion and format for sub-plots.
A very good book. Another plan that makes it look doable if one simply commits to writing." ~Spartan Soul on

4 stars! "Don't let Karen Wiesner's romance background scare you away. This woman is a professional, and she's got some sensible suggestions. According to her bio, she's written over twenty books, including such diverse genres as romance, mystery/police procedural, suspense, thriller, paranormal, and action/ adventure. Perhaps even more impressive is her planning acumen. Wiesner is always two, three novels ahead of the game, thanks to her formatted outline. Many writers either can't or don't want to outline their novels in advance (See Tony Hillerman, for instance). Wiesner couldn't either at first until she developed the formatted outline. Wiesner refers to the formatted outline as the first draft of the book. When she revises, she revises the outline rather than suffer through countless drafts of the manuscript. This woman is a real left-brainer. She plans virtually everything, including time to let the manuscript marinate. The appendices include character, setting, plot, and research outlines as well as a place to write potential interview questions for possible experts and your characters. Her story evolution worksheet is almost as helpful as the formatted outline. And--oh,yes--I almost forgot Chapter eight. It's for us poor shleps who already have a completed manuscript with all kinds of holes. She shows us how to use her system to salvage the mess. As one who has endured twenty-three drafts on his first effort, Wiesner's FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS is a godsend." ~Dave Schwinghammer on

5 stars! "This is a great book if you're the type of writer who is organized and needs to have structure. The book is very detailed and thorough. Series writers might enjoy this. I've used a plot outline before that was about 14 pages, this method builds a 60-paged or over outline! You'd include every detail so that you can sit down and do the creative work on your novel. I'd highly recommend this for the writer who needs lots and lots of structure to do the creative work. I never realized that I was missing so much until I began to use this method." ~Comfortably Sisterlocked on

"I have been at this for a number of years but frustration and disorganization almost did me in. I needed a system and [FIRST DRAFT] is it! I have made a commitment and have submitted to it entirely. [FIRST DRAFT] clarifies that working hard isn't the only thing; working smart is the edge and [this] system is that. I admire what [Karen Wiesner] is doing for writers like me and--I'm not religious--but I believe this book is very significant in my development. Disorganization has been like a disease in my life, and this book has enabled me to see a lot of things more clearly. Putting everything in a format (like [Karen] points out) demystifies the process. I wish a lot more writers were as unselfish as [Karen is] in passing along concrete advice. I've scanned a lot of books proposing what [FIRST DRAFT] delivers and none of them comes close. Going in, I had no illusions that I would actually complete my book in 30 days right off, but I can see measurable progress and, with practice, I can see myself actually reaching goals I could only dream of. Now I understand how the seasoned writers can be so productive. It's all in the outline, which I've never respected up until this time, until [FIRST DRAFT] opened my eyes. Underachievers like me are going to benefit tremendously off [this] book ,and some of us will actually realize our dreams. Thank you." ~Unpublished Author Johnny Booker

"I have officially put two novels through [the FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS] process. The first was already in progress, the second was comprised of just a few random scene cards. Normally, I'm an obsessive organizer. My first novel has been hindered by my habit of trying to get things in some order. I was almost to a point of good organization having adopted yWriter, Keynote and Autorelm to help me out. FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS finally got me situated.

"FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS is a method of outlining. I can hear the shrieks from the anti-outliners out there, but if you need organization focused on the elements that make a good novel then this is for you. This book will not write a novel for you. If you cannot write, it will not help. There are three major parts: The method itself, applying the method to a work in progress and organizing career goals. I did not feel a need for the last part as I follow my own goal system already, but this could come in handy for someone who has not thought this through. Though one of my novels was a work in progress, I did not use the second part.... I found it easier and much more worthwhile just to go through the whole method regardless of what I had already accomplished.

"The method itself is a layering of elements. There are six stages, which are spread out over 30 days. Wiesner includes the worksheets in the back of the book for each part of her method. I found it easier to get them into the computer as Wiesner suggests, then work from them there. Using Keynote, I created a template, which put the whole method and associated worksheets in a treepad-like file that I can check off as I do each step. The first stage is the Preliminary Outline, which consists of the most important steps in, in my opinion, of creating a novel.... Again, in Keynote, I created a treepad to list all my characters, and important things I need to know about them. Wiesner's worksheet is very broad on this. You can get much more detailed if you need to. For the setting sketches, you outline your novel based on location. For a fantasy novelist this was a godsend method. You can get down to the exact times if it is required. However, I found listing the town or area, then using Wiesner's worksheets to list what should happen here very useful. Again, I used the treepad function of Keynote, which allowed me to nest setting sketches that were happening at the same time to other characters. This is necessary for working with multiple POVs. I did preliminary maps at this stage as well to give me a visually representation of location. The plot sketch is a single worksheet where you lay out motives, plots and subplots. This was handy and something I would constantly refer to in my novels. Here I used the plain note function of Keynote, as I just needed one page.

"Days 4 through 6 solidified my novels for me. This is where I switched to yWriter. For these three days, you are to lay out your novel scene by scene. Since yWriter lets you create chapters (I created the number chapters based on my estimate in the setting sketches) then create scenes with notes within each of the chapters, I was able to lay out the entire novel within yWriter with all my scenes in the appropriate places. I did a lot of editing at this stage. I moved scenes around when I realized that they would suit better other places, and then edited my setting sketches to match. I added chapters as I realized what I needed to add and again revised my sketches. By the end, I had a good set of estimated chapters.

"Stage 2 is the Research Stage, which comprise days 7-13. This is the time for interviews, reading and anything else you might need to research. This might take some more time for some novels. In the case I fantasy I would also recommend this time to be used for timelining, mapping and any extra world building. Stage 3 is for the Story Evolution Worksheet. For this I templated the worksheet in yWriter. I found that if part of the work sheet does not apply, say so and move on, don't dwell on it. In yWriter I created a chapter called story evolution. I put the worksheet elements in a scene note for each element. I filled out the worksheet in the section where I would normally write the scene. Then I printed it out for the next stage. At this point, I compared what I had done in my scene, setting and plot sketches. I then fixed any variances.

"Stage 4 is the Formatted Outline stage. You take everything you have done so far and put it in a single form. For me, I could not fathom why. This part seemed redundant to me. I liked having things separated out. I did not do this for any of my novels. I probably never will. If you need to have everything in one place then I suggest using this stage, but for myself, I skipped it. Stages 5 was the time trace out your plots, subplots and fix any weak elements. I had covered this as I compared each stage. Stage 6 is a revision stages. You fill in holes and add anything you feel is needed. I did this already as I compared each stage. I did go through the questions asked for day 30, in re-evaluation.

"Overall I was a very pleased with the product. Thanks to Wiesner I finally have an organizational method that works for me. The parts that I felt were overkill I had no problem stripping away. I've begun applying this to short stories and other fiction that I write as well. I've recommend this book to all my writer friends. It has truly been helpful.

"A note on FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS and Nanowrimo: I would fully recommend using this method to outline for Nanowrimo. It does depend on what your goal for Nano is but if you want a working draft, I believe this is a solid way to start. My second novel is a Nano novel, and I used this method to outline. So far, my output is much better than the previous 4 years that I have participated." ~Author Michelle Norton

"Writers are always at their most productive when their work has gathered momentum, when they know where they are going and are able to drive their material forward to achieve the end result they want. Giving your novel the desired momentum is what Karen Wiesner’s book is all about. She sets up a 30-day programme which takes you from starting your story through to having the first draft completed. They are 30 full working days: by the end of day six you should have completed your character sketches, your setting sketches and your plot sketches and should have brought all these together into a preliminary outline. However, you don’t even get to day one until you have brainstormed your story, which means until you have a good idea in your mind of the story you want to write. For the Karen Wiesner programme to work, you need to have thoughts and ideas in your brain that you are simply bursting to get down on paper. The preliminary outline you should have by end of day six gets driven towards what Karen Wiesner calls a formatted outline by the end of day 24. The last six days are spent fleshing out the formatted outline into a first draft" ~Writers' News Writing Magazine

"That's one seductive title. When a book has a title like FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, it can be hard to pass up. If it's sitting on the shelf at your local library, passing it up is practically impossible, which is why I picked Karen Wiesner's book. The idea that I could write a first draft, or in Wiesner's case, an incredibly detailed outline (which she equates to a first draft), is seductive. So far, it hasn't happened yet (mostly, because I'm currently writing the second draft of another work) but the dream remains. Summary: Good for the plotter of plotters. What's awesome about it? 1) Research list, and 2) Location and character sketches. What's not-so-awesome about it? 1) Lots of nitty gritty, and 2) The draft/outline format is a little unwieldy. The awesome: Researching 17th-century farming practices and then getting lost on Google can be a common occurrence, which is why I love the research list. The idea behind the research list is that you jot down things you need to research while you outline and then research them on days set aside for the task. This is great because it allows you to stay focused on the task at hand without worrying about forgetting all of the things you still need to look up. At some point most of us fill out character bios, but Wiesner has turned this into a step in her 30-day plan, calling them sketches. What I like most about this is that they're steps in the process and filling them out forces you to think not just about your character, but your locations and how both fit into the story. Wiesner's template for a location sketch is also quite good. Conclusion: If you're the kind of person who likes to plan everything to the nth degree you're going to love FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS. Track down a copy now and devour it. If you're even a little bit on the pantser side of the scale you'll still find things to love. Take what you like and add it to your own writing method." ~author Belinda Crawford

"Writers need a productive way to funnel ideas and Karen Wiesner's FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS offers novices and veterans such a program. Many books about writing present inept opinions or convoluted theories. A prolific novelist, Wiesner focuses on the nuts-and-bolts system for outlining works in progress [as well as for brand-new projects--Karen Wiesner]. Her method simplifies complex steps into achievable daily goals. For instance, on Day 1, you discover your characters. By Day 28, you strengthen weak elements in an outline extensive enough to count as a first draft. Worksheets included in the book make accomplishing these goals a joy. Sourpusses may bear stiff upper lips sneering at what they see as factory fiction. Let them! Wiesner never tells anyone what to write. She simply explains one way to marshal yours ideas. That's all, but that's everything. Her systems organizes the chaos of creation. Order clarifies, and clarity removes self-doubt. Confidence--the trait every writer needs--flowers in just a month's time with FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS." ~Writer's Digest Book Club Member Lawrence McGuire

5 stars! "A must-have for any writer's book shelf! Karen S. Wiesner's book gives you the tools you'll need to successfully organize and outline your novel in a month. Rendered in an easy-to-read style, the author provides readers with instructions on how to finally get the book idea that's stuck in their heads OUT on paper and into a form that assists in efficiently delivering the first-draft of a manuscript quicker than they ever thought possible. Do yourself a favor: buy this book!" ~B. Walton-Porter, editor of Scribe & Quill Newsletter

"I’m so excited and happy to share this book with everyone at Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. Like many authors I’m a “fly by your seat” writer. I let the characters pull me along. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. Oftimes inconsistencies arise and plot problems overwhelm a writer; this leads to extensive revisions, dismay, and another unfinished manuscript. In today’s fast paced world, time is valuable. What author wants to spend months revising a book? Many of us hope to become a multi-seller like Wiesner. To do that we need a plan that will help us work quickly and more efficiently.

"FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS is crafted to help you build a cohesive story through outlining. The author has provided the reader with worksheets, day pages and goal pages. Wiesner never says it’s easy and on page two, she defines her first draft concept as being a comprehensive outline, the foundation on which your entire book will rest. She also states plainly that at first it might take you longer to produce that first drafted outline. However, once you’ve done it several times it will become easier, you will be writing faster, and most importantly, have a saleable plot. That statement prompted me to try her method.

"First, I typed out all the worksheets given at the back of the book and saved them in a file on my computer. This way they will be ready for any novel that bursts forth, as Wiesner states, from my “creative coffee pot."

"Next, I started with three stories that have been percolating for years but have not developed into the richly flavored story that I had hoped they would become. I began with Worksheet 1 (The Character Sketch) and found out a lot of interesting things about my characters. I liked the worksheet because it was short but yet it let me envision my characters more clearly. I see changes that I need to incorporate already. (I’m sure glad these are not completed manuscripts.)

"I was pleasantly shocked when I got to the Plot sketch worksheet and ended up writing down ideas that I didn’t even know existed in my head. The research worksheet helped me target important details that I needed for a historical I am working on. The summary sketch painted an entire picture of the beginning of my book. In less than a week, I completed the first basic steps for my three overdue stories and saw them bubble to life.

"This method has worked for her, it’s working for me, and it can work for you too if you are willing to give it a try. Wiesner also has a website, which has a sample work sheets for one of her published novel, SWEET DREAMS, a bonus article on Preparing a Killer Fiction Proposal and much more. Don’t take my word for it though, check out her website and FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS." ~Tamara Fairchild for Celtic Hearts Romance Writers "Call of the Clans" Newsletter

"Saying Karen Wiesner's FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS is about outlining is like saying that 'Titanic' is about a boat! This detailed yet easy-to-follow approach gives me hope that the next time I tackle my long-postponed novel, I might actually manage to finish it!" ~Moira Allen, author of "Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer"

"This book reminds me of an income tax form: It may be a headache to fill out, but it will get you there. If you have no idea how to write your novel, this will practically do it for you, with a good deal of good advice along the way." ~Piers Anthony, best-selling author of CUBE ROUTE and SKELETON KEY

"An outstanding resource! As both a fiction author and a writing instructor, I’ve pored through more than my fair share of “how to” books, many of which deal with the problems of organizing and outlining. Most are not only boring, but prove exceptionally unhelpful. FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS is different. Author Karen S. Wiesner–an outstanding fiction writer, herself–provides an easy to follow method that not only guides any writer through the novel-creation maze, but does so in a compelling, fun-to-read manner. Wiesner covers all the bases, from scheduling writing time to researching to making (through the use of superbly crafted worksheets) the dreaded outlining process a breeze. Highly recommended for beginners and pros alike!" ~Elizabeth Dearl, author of the Taylor Madison mystery series

"All the Tools -- A Swiss Army Knife for First Drafts: I pre-ordered Karen Wiesner's FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS and it showed up last week. I've read about half of it, and find a lot to like in the book -- the 30 day schedule seems a bit daunting, but there is so much organizational stuff in her book that I know I'll find ways to adapt many of her strategies to the way I research, outline, write, procrastinate (oops, strike that one!) and rewrite. The author clearly invested a lot of herself in making the book a highly-usable tool. The book is head-and-shoulders above the typical craft how-to guide." ~Charles Entwistle, author of THE PROMISE

"Plotting Simplified!: If you've ever had trouble plotting a book, then FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS will definitely give you the boost you need. The day by day instructions lead you through every step of the process, from character sketches on Day 1 to creating a formatted outline on the last two days.

"I've never done much plotting before. I'd just get a vague idea in my head and sit down to write. No wonder most of my stories fizzled out somewhere in the middle. Karen Wiesner's book has shown me the way. I've been following her plan and I'm amazed at how smoothly everything's going. I'm working on a story I've started before, but never finished because I'd become lost in the middle. I didn't know my characters or my setting well enough. I had no subplots so the one plot had to carry the entire story.

"This time I know the people much better. I can see my settings. And things are already happening that I hadn't planned, like a heart attack I hadn't known about before. If plotting's always been difficult, or if you thought you didn't need to plot, give Karen's book a try. It's easier than you thought, and gives you a formatted outline that takes you by the hand and leads you from chapter to chapter as you write your story." ~Florence Cardinal

"The review should never be about the reviewer, but it’s only fair to issue a caveat before I start. I have just taken three years to write a novel. That’s approximately 1100 days, which is about 980 more days than Karen promises to get you through a novel. (I did construct an outline—about halfway through the rough draft—and then promptly departed from it.)

"This is the guy reviewing a book on outlining and organizing to such an extent, you can actually create a first draft novel in a month. And even a congenitally untidy novelist such as myself can appreciate this marvelous guide.

"Karen’s book is as much about structuring your writing life as structuring your novel. Here you’ll fine timelines, worksheets, and formats, all designed to help you put the creative coffeepot on to perk (brewing is 75% of the process, Karen says), get your research done, organize your plot and keep it moving forward, and—perhaps most importantly, to finish the darn thing!

"Here’s a bonus: whether you want to buy into Karen’s superstructure or not, reading this book will help you understand and appreciate the anatomy of a novel—yours or anybody else’s—no matter how long it takes you to write it.

"When she gets you through your novel, Karen goes ahead and helps you outline your entire career! For the organizationally impaired, this is a must!

"Karen obviously practices what’s she’s preaching here, by the way. She’s published more than 20 books, including her Wounded Warrior Series and novels in virtually all genres. For more info on Karen and 30 Days, visit her website at" ~Marshall J. Cook, author of YOUR NOVEL PROPOSAL FROM CREATION TO CONTRACT

"A wonderful resource for writers! This book guides fiction writers through a method for building a detailed outline of a manuscript. Ms. Wiesner makes it clear in her introduction that the outline itself is NOT a first draft, but that if her method has been followed, the resulting first draft will be more polished than one written without it.

"Beginning with brainstorming, Ms Wiesner leads the novelist through the various components required to create a work of fiction--from characters and research to plot and setting, she covers it all. Detailed worksheets are provided to record the results of the brainstorming and questions posed throughout the chapters.

For those who have completed an ms., but are a little stuck, she includes a chapter adapting her method that will help jumpstart the ms. By analysing what you've done, what works and what doesn't, you can move forward.

"So far what has impressed me the most about the book is the emphasis by the author on the fact this is a method that can be adapted to an individual writer's needs. NOTHING is set in stone. She's giving you tools to work with, not a set of iron-clad rules on how to write a first draft. Its very flexibility is what makes it so appealing.

"I can see myself using it and making it work. Once I've had a chance to apply it to my upcoming new ms, I'll update my review. But overall, I'm EXTREMELY impressed. This book has inspired and energized me like no other how-to book for writers I've read before." ~Teresa Basinski Eckford

"I wish I’d read a book like [FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS] when I started out. Karen Wiesner reveals step-by-step in a friendly yet authoritative style how to save time and brain “explosions” when writing a novel from scratch.

"Both eager beginning writers who want sure-fire advice and more advanced published writers who work against deadlines can learn valuable insights by studying this author’s personal methods.

"Karen Wiesner shows how the “plan” for a book goes way beyond pounding out a static outline. For Wiesner, the outline is a flexible, creative extension to the way we set goals for every part of our productive lives. Her method brings a sense of “can do” mastery to writers, making them so eager to fill in the blanks of their story that the actual novel evolves almost magically, completing itself before we realize all the work writing entails.

"The only problem with this book on writing? You have no excuse any more for not finishing your novel in a timely fashion." ~Christine DeSmet, author of SPIRIT LAKE and writing teacher and director at the Writers Institute at University of Wisconsin-Madison

"The adjective “productive” has many synonyms: creative, prolific, fruitful, dynamic—isn’t that exactly what every writer wants to be?

"Karen Wiesner’s offer that I read and test [FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS] was a godsend. I had roughly outlined my third Inspector Terry Mystery and had drafted only a quarter of it—-in five months. Not exactly something to write home about. I was procrastinating extensively, I allowed myself to get side-tracked by other projects, and—-worst of all—-I was totally disorganized. Now that I use her method, I write at a steady pace and enjoy it more than ever. Can her book do the same for other writers? I am convinced that it can.

"Karen speaks to you directly, frankly, cheerfully. She shares all her secrets and lets you look over her shoulder as she plots, outlines and edits a novel from start to finish at breakneck speed. She never sounds patronizing. Instead, she points out that there is no wrong way to write a book, but that some ways are too ineffective for a writer who wants to write salable books on a regular basis. She doesn’t bore you with theories. This how-to book is a wonderful proof that every fiction writer’s prime directive, “show, don’t tell”, applies to non-fiction as well. Karen is like a dance instructor who knows how to make people tango with grace even when they have two left feet.

"With the help of her worksheets I found it easy and satisfying to put her method into practice. I profited immensely from reading this book, and I highly recommend it to every writer who is tired of doing endless rewrites. After testing Karen’s method once, you’ll never suffer from writers’ block again." ~award-winning mystery author Christine Spindler

"Fiction Writing Demystified: Unpublished? Suffering from sagging middles and burn out? Losing track of parallel plots? Overwhelmed?

"Karen Wiesner gives wonderfully specific tips and examples to help any novelist become [a productive writer]. This is a user-friendly how-to book. While muses are scintillating, Wiesner assures us that goals, timelines, and an outline, which keeps track of plot threads, are the tools that ensure success.

"Her outlining technique demonstrates how to “tag and trace” plot threads which will cut the need for rewrites. She explains [her] technique, then demonstrates it with examples from her own writing.

"In specific, direct prose she shares her process. She demystifies the process of keeping track of several plots at once. When she looks at her outline, she knows exactly what she will be writing on any given day. Wiesner’s career is living proof that her method works, and her specific tools give hope to those of us who have not published a novel.

"If you rely on the muse for inspiration and get bogged down in the midst of projects, find practical tips for organization and outlining in [FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS]. Use the techniques described here to keep writer’s block at bay." ~unpublished fiction author B. Lynn Goodwin, editor of WriterAdvice Newsletter

"...objective analysis of Karen Wiesner's First Draft In 30 Days from the standpoint of content--it is first rate. There is nothing arbitrary or random about her call for a tightly-disciplined approach to book creation. Dispersing learned counsel in rapid-fire bursts, she lays out a good sequence for outlining your book. Preliminary thoughts, research, story evolution, formatted outline, evaluate strength, a revistation, and, importantly, putting it on a shelf for a quiet period of rest and final reflection before proceeding into the first draft. A good pecking order." ~author Jack Payne on

"Bringing order to the process... First Draft in 30 Days, by Karen Wiesner, presents an orderly approach to the potentially messy process of creating a novel. Whether or not you ever actually write an entire first draft within thirty days, Wiesner's format provides a track to run on, to help get organized. It's an opportunity to satisfy the left brain's need for structure and organization, so the right brain can romp and play. No doubt, some readers will cringe at the 30-day approach. As novelists, we often lack deadlines, self-imposed or not. This is a potential pitfall, as the time absorbed in the completion of any task tends to expand to the time available. Some writers may worry that the resulting formatted outline may not really qualify as a first draft. Rather than be turned off by the whole concept of outlining and organization, use the portions that work for you and ignore the rest. And if you're like me, you occasionally end up with a manuscript that "needs something." Wiesner outlines a process for using First Draft in 30 Days to troubleshoot a manuscript and get back on track. This by itself is worth the price of the book." ~ Mike Klaassen for Helium

“Writers seeking concrete a path for improvement could not go wrong with a new Writer's Digest guide which provides rules and guidelines for improved writing. Karen S. Wiesner's FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS doesn't just admonish that rewrites are necessary: it shows how to avoid rewrites by producing an outline so detailed that it can double as a first draft. Character sketches, plots, scenes: all can be condensed into a draft outline which works, and Wiesner's chapters set the foundation for producing outlines for all aspects of plots, subplots and more.” ~Midwest Book Review


From First Draft to Finished Novel
COHESIVE STORY BUILDING (formerly titled FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building}) Reviews

“I was fortunate to get to review Karen Wiesner's FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS before diving into FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building}. In this book on crafting a novel, Wiesner continues to carefully lead you through different layers of the process of writing—and finishing—a novel. Peeling back the layers, Wiesner helps you to set the stage for building a strong and cohesive story. As she does in FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, she provides real-life examples from drafts and published novels. Wiesner puts together a blueprint to follow that starts with setting forth and laying a strong foundation. She encourages brainstorming and then researching. Along the way, Wiesner gives writers the tools to understand how to write their stories. Her appendices include a glossary that helps to explain some of the elements of fiction writing. Wiesner also gives writers the easy-to-follow checklists and exercises to keep on track. After laying the solid foundation, Wiesner spends two parts putting up the walls of your story. She helps to guide writers through evaluating their own stories, which is essential if you are going to make the story work. Then, thinking in layers, Wiesner suggests how to improve on the foundation and walls of your story. In the third part, Wiesner helps guide writers in the revision process—giving ideas on how to involve critique groups or partners—through to the final polishing. Want to sell the novel? Then Wiesner helps you put your proposal together. (I'm not there quite yet!) Wiesner's style is approachable and friendly. Her advice seems to be vested in you developing the best novel you can. Her examples are contemporary and work to help demonstrate the concepts she's exploring. Her precision focus and guidance should easily help you get from your first draft to a completed novel. Her preparations helped me to look at my work more objectively. She's the writers' coach you wished lived next door to you.” ~Elizabeth King Humphrey for WOW! Women On Writing

“Have you ever wished for a blueprint for your novel—one that would ensure that your story was strong, your characters interesting and your pace perfect? Karen Wiesner, author 99 books, which have won a total of 125 awards, has created the book you’ve been waiting for. I'm telling you this so you'll understand this author's credibility when it comes to novel-writing. And according to her bio, her work has garnered dozens and dozens of awards. It's unusual for a novelist to write a cohesive nonfiction book. Obviously Wiesner is an exception. I found this book to be extremely informative, well laid-out, and easy to follow. She says that writing a story isn't much different from building a house and she provides clear instructions along with many relevant and useful examples. She uses examples from authors such as Dan Brown, Sandra Brown, J.K. Rowlings, Stephen King, Larry McMurtry, and many others. I got a kick out of how she uses the process of building a house throughout her chapters to help writers understand the importance of taking each step in sequence. Works for me! I especially appreciate her checklists. She provides a story-plan checklist, a cohesion checklist, revision checklist, punch checklist, as well as exercises and worksheets to help the reader put into action the valuable information she offers throughout this book. Are you having trouble organizing or expanding on your story idea, your plot, the editing, or your submission package? Are you confused about point-of-view, character development or even how to conduct research for your novel? Take a look at this book. It is very well-designed and jam-packed with excellent information and instruction. In fact, it should be required reading for fiction writers. She likens the process of building a story to that of building a house. First there’s the idea, then you have to lay the foundation. Next comes the actual building of the house (or writing of the story) and the decorating (revising). And she offers detailed chapters reflecting this theme throughout. She starts with the Principles of Building a Cohesive Story, goes into brainstorming and researching as well as revising and how to utilize critique partners. I especially like her Story Plan Checklist Exercises. And she uses some familiar books to show you how it’s done. Do you like workbook pages and exercises? Then you’ll enjoy working your way through this book. Read Wiesner’s wise words, follow her instructions and you may complete a more cohesive, entertaining story, and in record time. In her book, Wiesner also teaches you a lot about self-editing—something that all writers and authors should understand. I love her examples, most of them taken from published books. One thing she suggests is that you write effectively enough that the reader has the same reaction as the POV character. She gives this example: “Jacqueline felt a scream rise in her throat, begging for release, but she clamped her lips shut to imprison it.” Here’s another version of that sentences. “A scream clawed in Jacqueline’s throat, begging for release, but her clamped lips imprisoned it.” She says that she believes both work well, but in the first version, the word “felt” separates the reader from the character. Can you see and feel the difference? This book is full of this sort of assistance and enlightenment. If you are struggling through the writing of a novel, if your critique group tells you that your characters need depth or your scenes could use more pizzazz, take a look at Wiesner’s book. And I am happy to report that she has devised a complete and meaningful subject index. This is a book that you can read from cover to cover, but keep it nearby because you’ll want to reference it often throughout the process of writing your novel.” ~Patricia Fry, President of SPAWN

“Finally, a book that isn't just theory when it comes to writing a novel. Karen S. Wiesner takes your first draft and shows you how to mold it into a novel, to include query and synopsis stages. Half the book consists of an abundance of checklists, exercises and worksheets, making this book a hard-core practical, useful tool for the novelist. FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL is the best hands-on, common sense guidebook to getting a novel into the world that I've seen in years. No fluff...just how to make it happen.” ~C. Hope Clark, editor and author The Carolina Slade Mystery Series,

“Books I Can’t Write Without: Like many aspiring writers, my bookshelf is loaded with various books related to the craft of writing. Along with the standard dictionaries, thesauri, and grammar guides, I have books that cover everything from how to write a novel to college textbooks that pick apart short stories. What I can’t figure out is why I have so many of them! If I’ve discovered anything over the last few years, it’s that the most valuable writing books are the ones which actually inspire the act of writing. My Favorite “How To” Books: #1 FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL by Karen S. Wiesner. When I decided to start writing a novel, it became glaringly obvious that I had no idea what I was doing. Wiesner’s book gave me a wonderful place to start in plain, simple language that gave me some hope of actually achieving my goal. She uses a wonderful analogy of how building a house is similar to the process of writing a novel. For example, the first phase of building a house is laying the foundation just as brainstorming is the first step to writing just about anything. As an added bonus, the back of the book is filled with appendices that include checklists, graphic organizers, real world examples, and outline layouts.” ~C.B. Wentworth

“Have you ever wished for a blueprint for your novel—one that would ensure that your story was strong, your characters interesting and your pace perfect? Karen Wiesner, author of 56 books, which have won a total of 68 awards, has created the book you’ve been waiting for. She likens the process of building a story to that of building a house. First there’s the idea, then you have to lay the foundation. Next comes the actual building of the house (or writing of the story) and the decorating (revising). And she offers detailed chapters reflecting this theme throughout. She starts with the Principles of Building a Cohesive Story, goes into brainstorming and researching as well as revising and how to utilize critique partners. I especially like her Story Plan Checklist Exercises. And she uses some familiar books to show you how it’s done.

“Do you like workbook pages and exercises? Then you’ll enjoy working your way through this book. Read Wiesner’s wise words, follow her instructions and you may complete a more cohesive, entertaining story, and in record time.

“In her book, Wiesner also teaches you a lot about self-editing—something that all writers and authors should understand. I love her examples, most of them taken from published books. One thing she suggests is that you write effectively enough that the reader has the same reaction as the POV character. She gives this example:

Jacqueline felt a scream rise in her throat, begging for release, but she clamped her lips shut to imprison it.

“Here’s another version of that sentence:

A scream clawed in Jacqueline’s throat, begging for release, but her clamped lips imprisoned it.

“She says that she believes both work well, but in the first version, the word “felt” separates the reader from the character. Can you see and feel the difference?

"This book is full of this sort of assistance and enlightenment. If you are struggling through the writing of a novel, if your critique group tells you that your characters need depth or your scenes could use more pizzazz, take a look at Wiesner’s book.

“And I am happy to report that she has devised a complete and meaningful subject index. This is a book that you can read from cover to cover, but keep it nearby because you’ll want to reference it often throughout the process of writing your novel.” ~Patricia Fry, President of SPAWN and author of The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell your Book

"From that first idea to the finished product, Karen Wiesner helps writers write the novel they’ve always wanted to write. Wiesner believes writing a novel is much like building a house and uses the analogy to help the reader visualize the process.Wiesner delves into the workings of writing the novel and also helps with the necessary and often dreaded query letter, synopsis, cover letter and partial manuscript to be sent to the agent or editor. From First Draft to Finished Novel is a wonderful addition to the writer’s reference library. Wiesner makes things as easy as possible for the reader. She includes a glossary of terms, story plan checklist exercises, editing and polishing exercises and various worksheets. Her writing is concise and easily understood, even for the novice writer. The book is laid out in a readable manner and includes information and directions to help move along the writing process. Not everyone will use everything Wiesner puts forth, but that’s not the idea. The information is offered and can be used if it’s wanted or needed. Armchair Interviews says: Want to write a novel? From First Draft to Finished Novel would be a good reference source in helping you with that dream." ~Andrea Sisco for Armchair Interviews

"COHESIVE STORY BUILDING by Karen Wiesner uses an interesting analogy for creating your novel. The idea of looking at your novel as building a house is different than anything I’ve read and a unique approach for the writer who likes a strict format. Ms. Wiesner’s approach is refreshing. Each section is considered one layer of the process with four stages. There are lots of good ideas that can be used by anyone at any time during writing. There are also several appendices containing worksheets, exercises and examples of how to use everything. I found her examples showing how other authors’ novels could be broken down in this format. Overall a very helpful tool for a writer to have on their bookshelf or their e-reader." ~The Readers Roundtable

"Although this writing manual is a companion book to FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, one can work with it independently of the earlier book. FROM FIRST DRAFT... begins with a lucid summary of the method in FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS so that a writer can adopt that method and go on to integrate it with the techniques recommended in the new book. Using the metaphor of building a house from a blueprint and a solid foundation, Wiesner lays out a step-by-step plan for developing a polished novel from the "formatted outline" produced by the FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS method. She gives an abundance of examples from published novels so that the reader has no trouble grasping exactly what she means by each of her recommendations. This book introduces two very helpful concepts new to me, "story sparks" and the "punch list." It also includes a large quantity of useful checklists and worksheets. For writers like me, to whom outlining and pre-planning come naturally, FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL will definitely be of great value. Many of its suggestions are bound to benefit "pantsers," too, however. If you already have FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, be sure to add this "sequel" to your collection. If not, consider buying it anyway; the new book, as I mentioned, can stand on its own." ~author Margaret L. Carter

“FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS gives a well-detailed, practical system of how to write a novel in a month. It can be personalized to work for anyone. Attempting to write a novel in thirty days is a tremendous undertaking. Award-winning author Karen Wiesner insists that anyone can do this by using her system. In her book, FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS: A Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript, she reveals how she keeps ahead of her writing deadlines and continues to write prolifically. According to her website, she is the author of 68 novels written in 11 years. Her books have been nominated for and/or won 92 awards. She is contracted for several multi-book series and novels with her publishers. She writes in many genres, including mystery, police procedural, romantic suspense, and nonfiction. Ms. Wiesner is a member of many writing organizations. She is also a talented artist and designs many of her own covers. For a writer looking for a method to write a novel quickly, this book is one to consider. It's an essential tool for succeeding at NanoWrimo, National Novel Writing Month. Even if it is not used strictly on a thirty-day schedule, the method, charts, and forms will benefit writers looking for a way to write a novel in an organized manner. For more support on the second half of the process, Karen wrote FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL. This book goes even deeper into her method and shows the writer how to turn the formatted outline into a well-written manuscript.” ~Suzanne Pitner for


The Power of Promotional Groups cover


"As a rather shy individual, I read THE POWER OF PROMOTIONAL GROUPS with reservation how it would affect me--a loner. Before I was done, I'd dog-earred pages, highlighted links and underlined whole paragraphs. I'd heard of writers coordinating together for promotion, but never had I realized how serious these groups can be...and how much promotion they garner for the members. From identifying writers that click together to coordinating shared advertising--even how to publish an anthology or join venture, this publication covers every possible question you'd have in originating a promotional group of writers. Whether you need to share financial expenses, crave a promotional partner to dull the stress of public appearance or wish to ride on the coattails of others to increase attention for your work, this is a book that teaches you how there's "strength in numbers" in a big way when it comes to being a writer and selling your wares." ~C. Hope Clark, Editor, FundsforWriters, Writer's Digest 101 Best Web Sites for Writers - 2001 through 2007

"Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 42 titles published in the past nine years, which have been nominated for or won 55 awards. Now she has shared with us some of the things she’s learned about promotion, especially how to promote your works, in her latest book THE POWER OF PROMOTIONAL GROUPS. THE POWER OF PROMOTIONAL GROUPS is jam-packed with everything you could possibly need or want on how to promote one or more stories either by yourself or with others: Promotional groups, websites, press releases, giveaways, and a zillion informational links. As a matter of fact, there is so much information here it makes my head spin! Ms. Wiesner starts with the basics of promotion, but then focuses on the benefits of promoting with a group. She points out that groups can have similar styles of writing, the same publisher, close proximity, or some other bond holding them together. The most important part of group promoting, though, is a plan and clear agreements between the members of the group how the group promotions are going to work. To this end, she includes wonderful resources and guidelines in the appendix, as well as instructions and suggestions on how to start and develop such a group. This book is invaluable not only to authors interested in working with a group in promotion, but also to the individual author just starting out in promoting their works. We happily recommend this book!" ~The Long and Short Of It Reviews Newsletter

"The internet is full of opportunities for authors to promote their books. From online review sites, to blogging, to virtual book tours, the internet offers inexpensive book publicity. One of the ways authors can publicize their books is through promotional groups. In her latest ebook, award-winning author Karen Wiesner demystifes these groups and explains everything you'll ever need to know about them. What are the basics of group promotion? Who should promote? How many hours a week? What are the different types of groups? How do you find the group that's right for you? How do you join? What are some of the most successful groups out there? Should you start your own promotional group? If so, how? Wiesner answers these questions, and a lot more. The author examines the advantages and disadvantages of promotional groups in detail and includes hundreds of resources and sites with their appropriate links. In this sense, the book is an amalgam of resources for authors who are interested in spreading the word about their books, even if outside of promotional groups. There's a checklist at the end of the book and various appendices--one of them offering a list of about 700 websites where you can promote your group. The author writes in a clear, concise style that is also engaging and interesting. THE POWER OF PROMOTIONAL GROUPS is an essential and informative addition to any author's virtual bookshelf." -reviewed by Mayra Calvani for Blogcritics Magazine

“Here is an ebook that all of our author followers should read. The book is called THE POWER OF PROMOTIONAL GROUPS and it is written by Karen Wiesner. As the title suggests, the book covers how to promote an ebook using various types of group efforts. THE POWER OF PROMOTIONAL GROUPS is well written, easy to follow and highly recommended to anyone who is new to the world of ebook publishing. With this book a new author can expect to learn:

  • All about four different types of promotional groups that can take your ebook sales to the next level.
  • Elements you should have in your own toolbox to promote your work yourself.
  • How to target your promotions inexpensively over the long term.
  • Places where you can get inexpensive paid advertising to help with your promotions.
  • How group anthologies can help to bring your own work to a wider audience.

The ebook also lists hundreds of organizations and other tools to help you along the way. My personal feeling after reading this one is that anyone who is new to the world of ebook promotion should read this book. It will help you take your fiction (or likely non-fiction) work to a new level of readership.” ~eBookGuru

"This past year, I formed yet another writing group. This one wasn't for critiquing, or even getting together at coffee shops to write. This one was for networking. Some of my local writing friends decided we were all getting close enough to the serious possibility of being published (a couple were already there!), and that we should start talking about the business aspect of writing. So we've been talking and reading and swapping ideas. It's been good. Eye-opening, to say the least! One of the interesting things I found is an e-book by Karen Wiesner. Karen is the author of THE POWER OF PROMOTIONAL GROUPS, a book I've mentioned here before, the one I'm using to plot my current WIP. I love the FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS book, not just for the organization ideas, but for Karen's wonderful understanding and explanation of plot structure. So, when I had a chance to read Karen's new e-book, THE POWER OF PROMOTIONAL GROUPS, I went for it. And I'm glad I did. The e-book presents ideas for anyone starting a promotional group. Karen talks about both the pluses and minuses of these groups, and gives writers plenty of ideas about why and how to set one up. She discusses the money aspect of promotion, which we all worry about, and shows how a group can make that part a lot less painful! The other thing I like about the book is Karen's emphasis on professionalism. Writers, in general, are very nice people. Karen reminds us that even nice people disagree, and the best way to run a group like this is with some basic guidelines and rules...on paper! And she provides excellent examples for anyone not sure how to get started. If you're thinking about building a promotional group, or even joining one that's already set up, check out the info at Karen's website: It's a good place to start." ~Becky Levine on Becky's Levine's Blog

"THE POWER OF PROMOTIONAL GROUPS by Karen Wiesner is an incredible how-to book for any author interested in banding with other authors for promotion purposes. The beginning presents a persuasive and well-documented argument for the usefulness of author promotion groups. Her comprehensive research and hands-on knowledge of the subject is not only amazing, but presented clearly and concisely. She continues with a detailed discussion of the benefits and pitfalls in forming such groups, creating an excellent template for every author seeking to promote books through group efforts. As an added bonus, the extensive lists of URLS for various types of promotion are priceless." ~reviewed by award-winning author Jane Toombs


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