National Novel Writing Month, which links aspiring novelists all over the world in an ambitious challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days, begins Thursday, Nov. 1. Chris Baty, who started NaNoWriMo in 1999, authored a guidebook for those who need extra coaching, prodding, guilt monkeys and writing advice, No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.
If you don’t have time to read about the history of NaNoWriMo or to follow the preparation guidelines before all the craziness starts — “No problem!” I hereby give you permission to skip to the second half of the book, a week-by-week survival guide to the rest of November.
Wrimos (participants) familiar with Baty’s caffeine-injected lingo will find the same trademark mix of practical advice and quirky wit. Practical — such as sending your inner editor away for the month so the creative side of your brain can take over. And slightly insane— such as finding just the right pen, or donning a Viking helmet to help those stubborn words flow.
The book goes more in-depth than the weekly inspirational e-mails sent to participants. (Baty retired from NaNoWriMo last year, but other teammates and guest writers continue to send pep talks.) The author peppers the pages with sidebars of examples and quotes from previous “winners.”
The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that “someday,” wanna-be writers find themselves with an actual draft, fueled by a deadline, competition, and other motivators. The agony of NaNoWriMo is that this speed-written draft drips with plot holes and clichés.
That’s why I was pleased to find a chapter on revision, “I Wrote a Novel. Now What?”
The revision strategy starts with big edits, like defining plot points, looking for story arc, and rearranging scenes. Writers then research facts for necessary corrections, and focus in on sentence structure and words to polish their prose.
Whether you read it in order or by sections, I recommend No Plot? No Problem! I even like the smaller trade-paperback size, easy to drop into a purse or backpack.
Will you dive into NaNoWriMo this year? What’s your go-to book or writing guide to get you through November?
Elizabeth Saunders is a three-time NaNoWriMo winner who has participated every year since 2008. She blogs at Travels with Books and sells used and antique books at Tannery Books in a small town in North Carolina.