I recently read the book “No Plot? No Problem!” by Chris Baty. I have started writing novels a dozen times, only to have my progress interrupted by life or lack of enthusiasm for the story. “No Plot? No Problem!” gives guidelines and motivation for writing a novel in 30 days. One month from title to the end. Knowing the trouble I have had finishing the writing of a novel, I thought this might motivate me.
The author, Chris Baty, started NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. It is now an organization that encourages people to spend the month of November writing 1,667 words a day so that at the end of the month they will have a finished, if rough, first draft of a novel which they can then spend the next year polishing. 1,667 x 30 = 50,000 words which will be expanded to novel length in the editing process.
“No Plot? No Problem!” has some useful and motivational ideas if you want to write a book. Baty suggests silencing your inner editor until you get done with the first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just write! I’ve heard other authors who recommend writing a minimum of 1,000 words a day whether you feel inspired or not. The discipline of writing every day means that something good will come along eventually, even if most of it gets put in the recycle bin.
Making writing a priority for a limited time also helps do away with excuses. One of the reasons November was selected for NaNoWriMo was because it is a dreary month. Family obligations, cleaning the house, even grocery shopping, can be put off for a month. It takes most people 90 minutes to three hours to write 1,667 words. If you really want to be a writer, you should be able to squeeze that into most days for a month, even if you work full-time or have a family. “No Plot? No Problem!” contains anecdotes from people who tell how they found the time, how they kept with it, and how they felt at the end.
Baty begins the book with the premise, “The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It’s the lack of a deadline.” Maybe that is my problem with finishing the writing of a novel. I manage to write 500 words a day five days a week for my blog. When I was working, I wrote at least one sermon every week (waaay more than 500 words!). This is why Baty encourages people to join NaNoWriMo and get a group of other people to commit to writing with you. It makes you stick to the deadline and motivates you to complete your commitment.
I loved some of the ideas in “No Plot? No Problem!” For instance: with newspaper in hand sit in a busy area with lots of people going by. Pick one person and write down their description, being as exact as possible. Then, open the newspaper and pick out a story to go with the person. This process helps with character development and imaging and sounds like a good way to get the creative juices flowing.
One thing I found interesting is, although Chris Baty is the founder of NaNoWriMo, he has not actually published a novel. He has, however published several non-fiction books, so he must know something about sticking with a book until it is finished and published. Will I commit to NaNoWriMo and take the time to work on a novel every day in November? Probably not. But the book was a fun, easy read and it motivated me to put away my inner editor and just write. I have been more intentional about making writing time every day. I may not ever get a book published, but maybe I’ll eventually finish one!