No Plot? No Problem!

| On
Thursday, February 17, 2005
No Plot? No Problem!: A Low Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty

(#4 - I actually read it in January, but just got it back from the library)

I have participated in nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) for the past two Novembers. The concept is simple - 50,000 words in 30 days. Chris Baty is the founder of NaNoWriMo (henceforth nanowrimo or just nano in deference to my shift finger), which just completed its fifth year in 2004.

It's really a genius concept for those who had always wanted to try their hand at writing a novel - because of the time constrictions, you don't have time to make it pretty. You just have time to dash out your 1667 words per day and hope for the best. One gets what Anne Lammott refers to as "The Shitty First Draft" which is necessary in order to get to later, better drafts. You end up with something to work with, at least.

The inner editor is kicked to the curb for 30 days while you feverishly peck away at the computer in search of the finish line. I have to say that 2003 (my first year) was much more thrilling to me than 2004. The first year, I didn't know if I could do it or not. By the second year I knew that it was at least physically possible for me to complete, so I tried something a little trickier and had much less fun. I found out in this book that is a classic second year mistake.I didn't get this book from the library until nano 2004 was completed, but I still learned some things. (and reinforced some things that I had either figured out, or found out the hard way).

The first half of the book is on why any sane person would embark on such a venture. He has some compelling theories, but I am already sold on it anyway, so perhaps I am not the best judge. I found the Two Magna Cartas exercise really helpful. It instructs you to make two lists - Magna Carta I is a list of things you generally like to read in fiction, Magna Carta II is in Baty's words "the Evil Twin of Magna Carta I" - a list of things you do NOT like to read. This is to keep you reminded of things not to put in your story. As demented as it sounds, I think this would really help (it was too late for me by the time I read it). Baty points out that we often include things we don't like because we think they are good for us. If it is unpleasant, it must be healthy. It's messed up, but I think true. The second half of the book is devoted to a week by week "this is what should be happening" break down for nanowrimo. Also helpful, but not so much when you're not in the midst of it. There is also a chapter (or so) on post-nano editing, which is the phase I am in now. After Nano 2004, I chose to give my 04 story a rest and go back to 03, which I had been working on already for about 6 months. I am still in fairly early re-writes, but I think his tips will really help. Most helpful so far for this poor plotter, is to figure out where you want your story to go first. You can always go back and do the fancy writing with the bones of your story in place. I know this advice wouldn't work for everyone, but for me I think it will be good. I know, I know - it sounds so basic. But sometimes a person just needs it spelled out before they believe it. I am that person. (I do know more or less what my story will do, but I still get hung up on certain plot elements. Now I know I need to get them ironed out STAT)

I really like Baty's easygoing writing style. He manages to get across that the main point of this nano exercise is not that one will write 50K words of deathless prose, but that one will gain from the experience of being creative and carving out time for the pursuit of creativity. It is an excuse to let your imagination off the leash for 30 days and let it do what it will without worrying about it being "good" or even making sense. If you have done nano in the past, or plan on doing it in the future, I would recommend reading this!
Be First to Post Comment !
Post a Comment

Klik the button below to show emoticons and the its code
Hide Emoticon
Show Emoticon