In just a couple of days, NaNoWriMo starts up again for its sixteenth year. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Hundreds of thousands of people will attempt to write 50,000 words before midnight on November 30.
I’ve heard about NaNoWriMo and considered participating before—one year I went so far as to try “NaNoTwiMo” where I was going to tweet a story, 140 characters at a time, but it fizzled out after only a few sentences. And this year I’ve already made too many promises about Kickstarter board games and interviews, so while I may approach 50,000 words, it won’t be one story.
Still, the concept intrigues me, all the more so after reading Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. Baty is a freelance writer who started NaNoWriMo in July 1999. During that first year there were only 21 participants, but nowadays it’s a nonprofit, with workshops for young writers and even a virtual summer camp.
No Plot? No Problem! (newly revised from its 2010 edition) offers suggestions on how to participate in something as crazy as writing a short novel in a single month, as well as why you’d want to do so. Baty gives practical tips peppered with humor, recognizing that this endeavor is both enormous and somewhat ridiculous, but still worth doing. Baty walks you through things like how to find time to write, what tools and foods you should keep handy, and the benefits of planning (or not planning) your novel ahead of time.
The second half of the book is a week-by-week guide, intended to walk you through the first week exuberance, second week slump, and so on. Baty’s been at this for 15 years already, so he knows what he’s talking about—plus he has quotes and advice from many other NaNoWriMo winners as well. So even though NaNoWriMo starts up this Saturday, you’d still have time to read the first half of the book and potentially join the fray this year.
A large part of the experience of NaNoWriMo is that you have to sit down and just write. You don’t hit 50,000 words without hammering it out, and NaNoWriMo is all about the quantity instead of quality. But the magical thing, according to Baty, is that when you stop worrying about getting everything perfect, you unlock your creativity and amazing things happen. Characters go places and get into adventures. Things happen. I would, of course, have to give up my inner editor for a month, which could be difficult.
Even if it never results in something that you’d want to publish, the achievement of having finished a 50,000-word novel is one that you can claim proudly. And chances are, you’ll want to do it again.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this book.