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November 1

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Review: No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty

by Ann-Katrina

Since today is the first day of and No Plot? No Problem! is the official handbook, I figured today would be a good day to review it.

no-plot-no-problem-cover

Back Cover of No Plot? No Problem!

You’ve always wanted to write, but…just haven’t gotten around to it. No Plot? No Problem! is the kick in the pants you’ve been waiting for.

Let Chris Baty, founder of the rockin’ literary marathon National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo), guide you through four exciting weeks of hard-core noveling. Baty’s pep talks and essential survival strategies cover the initial momentum and energy of Week One, the critical “plot flashes” of Week Two, the “Can I quit now?” impulses of Week Three, and the champagne and roar of the crowd during Week Four. Whether you’re a first-time novelist who just can’t seem to get pen to paper or a results-oriented writer seeking a creative on-ramp into the world of publishing, this is the adventure for you.

So what are you waiting for? The No Plot? approach worked for the thousands of people who’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, and it can work for you! Let No Plot? No Problem! help you get fired up and on the right track.

Three Quick Points About No Plot? No Problem!

  • Point 1: This book is hilarious. The advice is laced with fantastic, sometimes sarcastic wit which makes the reading a lot easier, smoother, and more fun.
  • Point 2: It’s an excellent distillation of what you need to know to get a novel written in a limited amount of time. Not being a step by step, this is how you do it manual, it makes it very easy to be a quick reference when you need a nudge in the right direction or bit of quick advice.
  • Point 3: I suspect that Chris is addicted to coffee and sugar-laden foodstuffs. An entire section of the book is dedicated to treating yourself with wonderful yummy treats and I’m thinking the word coffee has come up in every chapter.

Full Review of No Plot? No Problem!

If you already get the gist of what this book is about, skip the synopsis and go straight to the final thoughts.

No Plot? No Problem! Synopsis

No Plot? No Problem! is basically a book of inspiration and advice for those wanting to complete a novel in a month’s time. Of course, time is somewhat determinate based on length. That said, for the purposes of NaNoWriMo, the length of a novel is 50,000 words (about 175 pages).

The book even explains why 50,000 was the magic number:

I’d like to say that NaNoWriMo’s 50,000-word threshold was achieved by a scientific assessment of the great short novels of our age. The real story is that when I started this whole month-long noveling escapade five years ago, I simply grabbed the shortest novel on my shelf–which happened to be Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World–did a rough word count of it, and went with that figure.

And while the choosing of the word count seems random, it’s a good number. There are quite a few great novels written that are within the 50,000 word mark penned by such great authors as F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, among others.

The book is divided into two sections: Preparation and Writing.

The first section is all about what you need to do before NaNoWriMo actually starts to prepare yourself for the month ahead.

Chapter 1: Secret Weapons, Exuberant Imperfections, and the End of the “One Day” Novelist

Chapter 2: Time-Finding, News-Breaking, and a Step-by-Step Guide to Transforming Loved Ones into Effective Agents of Guilt and Terror

Chapter 3: Noveling Nests, Magical Tools, and a Growing Stockpile of Delicious Incentives

Chapter 4: Cruising for Characters, Panning for Plots, and the First Exciting Glimpses of the Book Within

Despite the vague chapter titles, they do contain helpful information. The first chapter explains the necessary mental attitude you need to have in order to complete your novel and the importance of having a deadline, plus gives you the tools to get yourself into that place mentally. The second chapter is all about squashing any excuse involving not having enough time to write. This section is invaluable when it comes to revamping how you spend your time and planning your novel around your current schedule. The third chapter deals with preparing your writing space, getting the proper tools for writing (i.e. the magical pen–it can’t be just any pen), and what rewards you should shower upon yourself when you complete your goals. The fourth and final chapter in the first section is all about coming up with ideas for characters, plot elements, and outlining your book before NaNoWriMo begins.

The second section is where your pep talks for the actual writing begins.

Chapter 5: WEEK ONE: Trumpets Blaring, Angels Singing, and Triumph on the Wind

Chapter 6: WEEK TWO: Storm Clouds, Plot Flashes, and the Return of Reality

Chapter 7: WEEK THREE: Clearing Skies, Warmer Weather, and a Jetpack on Your Back

Chapter 8: WEEK FOUR: Champagne and the Roar of the Crowd

Chapter 9: I Wrote a Novel. Now What?

Chapters 5-8 are really about the ups and downs of writing during the month of November (or whichever month you choose to write your novel). It starts with the honeymoon period where the words flow endlessly like ambrosia from mythical fountains straight through the period of doubt when your story seems to be going nowhere (along with your word count) and finally to the end. Tips are provided for each juncture in the road. The final chapter is all about polishing up your novel. Now, don’t assume this final chapter is a step-by-step guide to proper prose and clean grammar–it’s not. The final chapter gives you an overview of what you’ll need to do if you wish to get your novel ready for publication.

Final Thoughts On No Plot? No Problem!

Chris’s high energy permeates throughout this book. It has this magical way of flowing from the book into your hands and straight up to your head. Before you know it, you’re following the exercises and you’re anxious for November to start just so you can begin writing. And that’s basically what it’s all about, isn’t it? Writing.

The first section of the book contains a ton of great instruction and exercises, such as creating a Magna Carta I & II so you can write a novel you’ll actually enjoy writing and how to create a “time-finder” chart so you can block out the ideal times for writing. The second chapter is especially important if you’ll be writing with children or have a usually tight and busy schedule.

The second section is everything you need to keep you going through the hump week when you feel like you have no more words left in you. Each week is filled with tips to help you ignite your imagination (or keep it burning).

It’s incredibly easy to read and can be finished in a single sitting rounding out at about 170 pages of content. In the back, there’s also an index which means you don’t need to decipher the cryptic chapter titles and thus makes it a pretty good reference.

On a final note, it’s also important to remember that this isn’t a technical writing manual. It’s wonderful motivation to keep you writing, but you should also have your favorite style guide handy as a reference. (Though, really, the style guide can wait until you’re ready for editing…in other words, December.)

Rating: Worth every penny (?)

Get No Plot? No Problem! at Amazon.com

Comments on Review: No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty

  1. # Jace wrote on November 1, 2008 at 4:15 pm:

    Great review! :-) I really like that you review non-romance books too.

  2. # Brie wrote on November 1, 2008 at 8:21 pm:

    This book sounds excellent and just the thing I need right about now and in the future. Thanks for the awesome review. :)

  3. # Ann-Kat wrote on November 2, 2008 at 1:54 am:

    Thanks for the kind words Jace and Brie. Glad you both liked the review.

    Jace, I’m glad you said something about reviewing non-romance books. I definitely want to make sure that this blog doesn’t become trapped in any specific niche. Hopefully as it grows, it will reflect a wide range of topics, genres, and styles. :D

    Brie, good luck with NaNoWriMo…don’t forget to keep the words pouring out.

  4. # How to Use Liquid Story Binder XE for Your NaNoWriMo Novel - Today, I Read… wrote on November 3, 2008 at 10:10 am:

    [...] readers tend to be writers, or aspiring authors, whichever you prefer, so in the spirit of the No Plot? No Problem! review and NaNoWriMo itself, I’ve decided to publish a brief outline of how you can use Liquid Story [...]

  5. # Page 56, Sentence 5 - Today, I Read… wrote on November 26, 2008 at 12:29 pm:

    [...] highly recommend Self Editing for Fiction Writers as a wonderful companion to No Plot? No Problem! (read review)–it picks up right where that book leaves off. And while I’m on the topic of [...]

  6. # How to Use Liquid Story Binder XE for Your NaNoWriMo Novel - Today, I Wrote… wrote on December 5, 2008 at 1:05 pm:

    [...] readers tend to be writers, or aspiring authors, whichever you prefer, so in the spirit of the No Plot? No Problem! review and NaNoWriMo itself, I’ve decided to publish a brief outline of how you can use Liquid Story [...]

  7. # 2008 in Books, or the Ten Books I’m Glad I Read This Year - Today, I Read… wrote on December 31, 2008 at 5:34 pm:

    [...] Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty (review) You’ve always wanted to write, but…just haven’t gotten around to it. No Plot? No Problem! is [...]

  8. # Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2009 - Today, I Read… wrote on October 26, 2009 at 7:07 pm:

    [...] cartas on either side. No Plot? No Problem? (links to my review) discusses creating two magna cartas (aka lists), one detailing everything you [...]

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