By Jenny Meyerhoff
Book in a Month: The Fool-Proof System for Writing a Novel in 30 Days
By Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D.
(Writer’s Digest Books, 2008)
For many authors, the idea of writing a “fast first draft,” or 50,000 words in a month, sounds incredibly alluring. However, for some, the intense pressure of the NaNoWriMo—five pages a day by the seat of your pants—method makes their fingers freeze. After attempting to fast draft several times, I’d pretty much resigned myself to being, if not a slow drafter, at the very least an average drafter.
But then, a couple of months ago I heard about a new book by the author of one of my favorite books on writing, 45 Master Characters. Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s Book in a Month, subtitled “The Fool-Proof System for Writing a Novel in Thirty Days,” promises to help authors become successful fast drafters.
What I liked about this workbook-style book is the tremendous amount of planning support she gives authors. Writers who enjoy writing without a plan probably won’t be thrilled, but writers who like to have a sense of their characters and plot from the get-go will find much to love.
Broken down in weekly, then daily chunks, Schmidt provides worksheets for outlining the ten key scenes of your novel, fleshing out character details, plot and subplot brainstorming, character arc tracking, and more. She suggests writers plan directly in the book and purchase a new book for each novel, but you could just as easily work in a spiral notebook and reuse Book in a Month multiple times. I found the worksheets incredibly helpful. Many of them challenge your first inclinations by suggesting you consider the opposite of each plot point. The worksheets also follow a traditional three-act structure, so writers who struggle with plot would be greatly supported.
Unfortunately, though, I still wasn’t able to complete a draft in a month. Doing each day’s activity, combined with writing pages, was even more time consuming than simply trying to meet a daily quota. Schmidt does caution readers that some writers might want to consider aiming for an outline in a month or maybe a book in two months. However, even if you don’t finish a “fast draft,” anyone using this book is likely to produce a fairly cohesive first draft. And that’s something!
Jenny Meyerhoff is the author of the chapter book Third Grade Baby and the forthcoming YA Queen of Secrets. She lives in Riverwoods with her husband and three children. Visit her on the web at http://www.jennymeyerhoff.com.