No Plot? No Problem! By Chris Baty

Chris Baty founded National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo, in 1999 with a total of 21 participants. It’s since grown to the hundreds of thousands, and some people participate year after year. The goal is simple–produce a 50,000 word novel, of any quality, in the month of November. Baty conceived NaNoWriMo as a fun lark, rather like a dare. It was never intended to produce publishable work, although some writers use it as a shortcut to getting their first draft finished. NaNoWriMo participants are meant to write with wild abandon, not worrying about things like accuracy, consistency, or even a plot. It’s also a celebration of novels, and the people who write them. So many participate every year because it’s fun.

As such, NO PLOT? NO PROBLEM! is an excellent guide to NaNoWriMo. It’s written with the same exuberance Baty expects from NaNoWriMo participants. He flits from topic to topic, using plenty of sidebars and lists, never getting bogged down in the details.

This book is basically a pep talk between covers. Baty is a relentlessly positive cheerleader, constantly reminding his readers that they are “badass novelists.” He covers everything from how to set a schedule to how to figure out what kind of novel to write. He even tells writers what to wear and what to eat. (Baty recommends sweatpants and junk food.)

Baty then tackles the actual writing. Week by week, he reminds writers of their expected word count, and steers them around some of the emotional lows. For those who actually finish their novels in a month, it usually goes like this: week one=exhiliration, week two=doubt, week three=surrender, week four=determination.

NO PLOT? NO PROBLEM! is a very good book for NaNoWriMo participants. I urge every writer who wants to try NaNoWriMo to get a copy. For everyone else, it won’t be as useful, although it’s a neat introduction to the concept of writing fast, without self-censorship.

Of course, having no plot really is a problem. Eventually, a novel is going to need one, along with other good things like characterization, setting, and theme. But that’s for later. During one coffee and candy-fueled month a year, non-writers can try on a new identity and pro writers can try a new way of writing, as everyone dashes as quickly as possible to the 50,000 word finish line.

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rating: 4 stars

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pie slices: 2 slices craft, 6 slices inspiration

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This book is best for: beginning writers

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I recommend this book.

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