Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days [book review]

If you’re like most writers, you want to write a book.

Fast Fiction book review

Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days by Denise Jaden

Even if you don’t call yourself a writer you might want to write a book. There are so many stories waiting to be told and, who knows, you might be the person to tell it.

What’s great about author Denise Jaden’s latest book Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days is she makes you feel like digging out the story deep inside you is possible. And the 30 days thing? Bonus.

I’ve wanted to write a book for a while now, maybe forever. As a kid I drafted a 100-page Choose Your Own Adventure of twin girls who get lost in Mexico while trying to find an orphanage (scary part—I experienced this trip IRL 10 years later with a friend…) and for the last two years I have felt like it’s time to try for real.

And I have. Tried that is. But I keep getting stuck and I have never known why. Fast Fiction tells me why: I didn’t know how to write a book. I didn’t plan it beforehand, I just sat down at the computer and expected it to come together. After reading Jaden’s book I finally get it. I do have a book in me I just didn’t have the tools to dig it out.

This practical, well-written guide is broken into three manageable parts. Before, during, and after.

Before the Draft

This section is all about preparing to draft—the most important part of writing your book!

I love how Jaden approaches drafting. It’s a time to dream, to think outside the box, and to try new things. After you collect your dreams and ideas you can begin narrowing your story idea into once sentence.

Then, you determine your plot. This is such valuable information. She breaks down the plots of familiar stories and shows you the practical progression a story needs to take in order to work. It makes so much sense and adds much-needed order to an otherwise overwhelming process.

Part one continues and covers characters, theme, setting, symbols, scenes, and story. I found this section not only valuable but inspiring. My notebook overflowed with ideas while reading this section. This likely says more about where I’m at in the writing-a-book process than anything else but I can’t wait to read through this again when I plot my actual book.

During the Draft

I skimmed part two because I am not writing my book right now. However, I came away with the assurance this would be what I needed to help me break up my writing schedule into achievable chunks. Part two also breaks down where you should be after each day of writing, and gives you prompts and questions to think about if you’re stuck.

There’s a handy summary of the progress breakdown at the end of this section so you can have a guide if you don’t require all the explanation and prompts. Jaden thought of everything!

After the Draft

Part three it scheduled to happen after your 30 days of writing in part two. So although the title suggests a 30-day project you’ll have to set aside more time than that to follow the plan laid out in Fast Fiction. What’s great about this is if you follow the plan you will have a first draft in 30 days and you’ll have planned it properly in advance (in part one). So when you reach part three (aka revisions) you will know your characters, plot, story, and purpose inside and out. Revisions might…even…be…fun?

One of the strongest tips in this section is the Why Should I Care? test. You read through your draft and think like your reader. Ask yourself this question and if you can’t answer it, this section or idea needs strengthening. Jaden suggests all sorts of ways to help you revise weaker sections like adding new characters and conflict.

Oooh conflict.

This section also suggests what to look for when reading through your draft. This is helpful because it helps you figure out why something doesn’t work. Once you know why, you can fix it.

I’m happy to give Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days a five-star rating. I think the only thing left to do here is test out the formula for myself. Is there a book in me? We’ll find out soon.

Denise Jaden is the author of Losing Faith (Simon and Schuster, 2010) and Never Enough (Simon and Schuster 2012). She lives in British Columbia with her husband and son, and is currently at work on another young-adult novel, which she fast-drafted during the 2012 NaNoWriMo. A portion of profits will benefit National Novel Writing Month.

This book was provided for review by the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review (or even publish one).