Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

In his book, No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty (a founding member of National Novel Writing Month, often known as NaNoWriMo) makes it his entire goal to get the reader excited about writing a book, from a measly idea to an entire 50,000 word first draft, in one month. He uses personal experience, both his own and other NaNoWriMo "winners," to show that this crazy endeavor is entirely possible. And at the end, the reader is going to be so jazzed about this prospect that they're not going to want to wait for November, but are going to want to start the writing month as soon as possible.

At least that was my reaction when I finished the book.

Mr. Baty does an excellent job in both describing why writing a book in 30 days is a hard, labor-intensive process, but is also quite a good way to get the thing done. So many people say they are going to write a novel someday, but they never get around to it. If one takes a 30 or 31-day block (he suggests starting at the beginning of any month) and simply gets started writing, that someday will turn into now. He also explains the benefits of the process itself, and how it can make for better prose. He truly believes that writing a first draft of 50,000 words is the best writing process there is.

Throughout the book, Mr. Baty gives plenty of advice. He goes over what should be done by the writer leading up to the month-long marathon. He gives tips on what each week should entail, as well as outlining the likely moods the writer will feel throughout the process. He talks about what happens when the month is over. He hands out advice on where to find characters, plot, setting, and other basic building blocks of a successful novel. And he gives an abundance of support and enthusiasm, which can be quite catching.

I found myself caught up in this 30-day plan. I've attempted to write books without an outline, and it has never ended well. But Mr. Baty's plan was infectious. I just hadn't tried hard enough, and this time I would not only complete a first draft without an outline, but I'd also do it in a month. That was the plan, but it didn't last a week. I simply couldn't get the words on the page without an outline. So while I abandoned my personal 30-day attempt, I still view this book as a success. I plan to try again, but this time with an outline beforehand. Even if you goal isn't to be a NaNoWriMo winner, there are plenty of tips about motivation and getting words on the page fast to warrant any writer to give this book a look. Give it a read, and I dare you not to be excited about giving a first draft in a month a go yourself.