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No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days Paperback – September 9, 2004
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Every November, tens of thousands of people sign up for National Novel Writing Month and attempt to write a 50,000-word novel. Baty, the brains behind this competition, has produced an uproariously funny motivational manifesto so readers can get a leg-up in his race or in the larger publishing game. The key is to lower your expectations "from 'best-seller' to 'would not make someone vomit,' " says Baty, who maintains that stress and a deadline are important parts of writing. Aimed at the nonserious, with an emphasis on summoning creativity and having a life-changing experience, this original approach will appeal to anyone up for a challenge. -Library Journal
About the Author
Chris Baty is a freelance writer and writing coach whose work has appeared in such publications as the Washington Post , the SF Weekly , and Lonely Planet guidebooks. He lives in Oakland, California.
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What was this? I was not going to attempt something so ridiculous as writing a complete novel in 30 days. I was a serious writer.
Now, years later, I still haven't written a novel, and National Novel Writing Month -- or NaNoWriMo, as it's more commonly known -- has become a worldwide phenomenon. Even my cousin's wife brags about her NaNoWriMo "wins" in her bizarre Christmas newsletters. Never mind that her books are about gerbil detectives. Why was I not doing this?
Baty's book walks you through the entire NaNoWriMo process and lets you know exactly what to expect. The idea is, by challenging yourself to turn out an insane number of words in a month, you will be forced to turn off your internal editor, and to let your imagination and intuition free to unleash ideas that you wouldn't be able to tap into under normal writing circumstances. You will give yourself permission to write, as Anne Lamott succinctly describes it, the s****y first draft.
It's a valid theory and a noble goal. Some NaNoWriMo winners have gone on to rewrite their novels and actually publish them. Many others are self-published. Others don't write their books with publication as the ultimate goal, but simply enjoy the creative challenge. I plan on making my first attempt this November -- the month when NaNoWriMo officially occurs, although participants are welcome to stage their own NaNoWriMo "Camp" during any month of the year.
If you've ever wanted to write a novel but don't know where to begin, or if you're just curious about his whole NaNoWriMo extravaganza, I recommend Baty's guidebook.
Sometimes, it read more like a memoir of the novel-writing experiences of Chris and his friends. It was fun to read and hear about how NaNo influenced them, but I had gone into it expecting more writing help or advice than was given. It'd be great if there was a chapter or even a page of prompts or scenarios to put your characters in. There's a lot of talk of things you can do (like describe the weather or have a character sing a song) but a chapter dedicated to prompts and challenges would have made this a fuller resource. As someone who has participated in NaNo for years, it was mostly things I heard before. If I was new to the event, it would probably have been a good resource to follow along with. It's definitely not intended for writing advice outside of the event, but for getting down to business and getting that 50k goal written.
I also thought the advice was sometimes a little strange. It was probably meant to be for laughs at times (like the joke about printing your novel on the company printer), but things like calling in sick to finish your novel and contacting an agent every other week on the status of your novel don't seem like sound advice to me. The humor grew a little old for me and while there were gems of insight, I felt like it was lacking some depth.
All-in-all, a fun, easy read that could be a good resource for a WriMo.