“There’s a book in you that only you can write.”
Well, it’s not quite right to say I’m reading Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem? In reality, like literally millions of writers out there who are participating in NaNoWriMo, I’m living it.
Baty’s book is an inspiring, practical and accessible guide for anyone who has ever wanted to write a novel but felt overwhelmed at the idea of not just starting but actually completing one. Baty, NaNoWriMo’s founder, offers valuable insights, motivation, and a step-by-step approach to help writers of all levels stop procrastinating and get writing that sh*tty first draft of a novel in just 30 days. His conversational and humorous writing style makes the book an enjoyable and easy read.
The book is divided into four parts, each offering a different perspective and set of tips to keep writers on track during the novel-writing process. In part one, “Orientation,” he introduces NaNoWriMo and the philosophy behind No Plot? No Problem! He encourages you to let go of your perfectionistic inner editor and focus on getting words on the page, no matter how imperfect–or frankly, outright sh*tty, they may be. He underscores the importance of writing with enthusiasm and embracing the creative process.
Part two, “Week One,” delves into the early stages of novel writing. Baty suggests creating a support network (the NaNoWriMo website is a good place to start), setting achievable word count goals, and establishing a writing routine. He shares anecdotes and personal experiences. This guy has been right there in the trenches with us.
Part three, “Week Two,” addresses the challenges and hurdles writers may face in the middle of their novel and offers strategies for overcoming writer’s block and self-doubt and keeping the momentum going. He also offers tips for building believable characters and creating engaging dialogues.
Part four, “Week Three and Beyond,” takes you through the final stages of the novel and the home stretch. Baty reminds writers that the most important thing is to finish the novel and not to be discouraged by the imperfections that come with a first draft. He encourages writers to celebrate their accomplishments and to keep the creative fire alive beyond the 30-day challenge.
What sets No Plot? No Problem” apart from other writing guides is its unabashed emphasis on quantity over quality during the first draft. Baty’s philosophy is that writing is a creative journey, and the first draft is just one step in the process. By focusing on reaching a word count goal (typically 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo), writers can let go of their inner critic and produce a rough draft they can later revise and refine. As Baty says:
“In the context of novel writing, this means you should lower the bar from “best-seller” to “would not make someone vomit.” Exuberant imperfection encourages you to write uncritically, to experiment, to break your time-honored rules of writing just to see what happens. In a first draft, nothing is permanent, and everything is fixable. So stay loose and flexible, and keep your expectations very, very low.”
The great thing about this book is its usefulness beyond the world of aspiring novelists. It’s a motivational guide for anyone who wants to embrace their creative side, overcome procrastination, and conquer the fear of the blank page. Whether you’re a seasoned writer looking to break through writer’s block or a newbie hoping to take on the challenge of writing a novel, No Plot? No Problem! is an engaging and motivating read that will encourage you to put pen to paper and just write. It’s a reminder that writing is about the journey, not the destination, and that with dedication, enthusiasm, and a little bit of humor, you can achieve your writing goals.