Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor
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Book Review:

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

Reviewed by Joel Arellano
2005,
Joel Arellano


Reviewed by Joel Arellano

I discovered National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo or NaNo) three years ago. Two years ago, I participated in the event, trying to complete a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. I failed (and fired the muse). Last year (with a new muse), I tried again and made the goal with plenty of words and time to spare (which other participants tried to buy off from me). Barring distractions such as family, friends, and lovers, I plan to participate in this year's event. And to better prepare myself, I parted with some hard-earned cash and purchased NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty's book, No Plot? No Problem! so that I, too, can be one of those folks who cross the finish line.

At the end of the first week.

Legitimately, of course.

No Plot? No Problem! is broken into three parts: Introduction, Section One, and Section Two. I rarely read the introductions of any novel (or anything for that matter), but I strongly advise you to read the one for this book. Baty discusses the genesis of NaNoWriMo (it is all rooted in novelists, rock stars, and scoring dates); the first event beginning July 1st, 1999; and the rise in popularity since then.

Section One is composed of chapters One through Four. Baty covers standard "how to write a novel" topics like finding time (using highlighters), place (bathrooms, motel bars), pace (with cheerleaders), and space (preferably with no spiders -- unless you like spiders). However, unlike most such works, he adds "race" to the equation as in "racing to meet a deadline." Also unlike similar books, he gives the "secret weapon" for completing that first draft in Chapter One. (Which I gave away in this paragraph. I am not good with secrets.)

Making their first appearance in this section are some NaNoWriMo participants: three-time winner Andrew Johnson, one-time winner Michelle Booher, and others. Like the Introduction, I strongly recommend you read their stories; you will get plenty of great advice, including how to write at work without losing your job.

Section Two breaks down the four weeks of insanity... er... NaNoWriMo. Baty strongly advises you to read each section as you enter the correct week. (I, obviously, ignored this advice for this review.) Chapters Five through Eight consist primarily of what I call pep talks, all based on hard-earned experience with the NaNoWriMo process, as well as practical issues such as how to avoid colds and ensure that significant others know they are important, too, during the month. Baty includes plenty of participants' experiences in these chapters. I won't spoil the rest of this section, but I found each week matching my own NaNo experience. (Well, except the alcohol. And the whoopee cushions.)

Chapter Nine ends Section Two with a discussion of what to do after NaNoWriMo. I liken this chapter to a bookend to Section One, for here Baty covers, at surprising length and in depth, how to rewrite the first draft. The National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo, of course) makes its -- thankfully brief -- first appearance in these pages for those who found NaNoWriMo a brisk warm-up. (We don't to scare people more than we have to, do we?)

Overall, I enjoyed No Plot? No Problem! Baty's book provides plenty of prep and pep to participants of the event. Even folks who have no desire to participate will find much of the information useful for other writing.

 

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

Published by Chronicle Books

ISBN 0-8118-4505-2