Book Review: No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty (Revised/Expanded)

No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 DaysNo Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is an excellent guide for anyone who does National Novel Writing Month and anyone who ever wanted to write a book but had no idea where to begin. And I think most of the negative reviews on this site are sour grapes from people who have spent the past 15 years trying to write the Great American Novel and just can’t believe it could be this simple. They’re like Brian on The Family Guy reading Stewie’s novel.

All first drafts are crap. Of course. Baty says as much, frequently. But a crappy first draft you’ve finished is a hell of a lot better than a brilliant one you haven’t, isn’t it? Baty draws upon this nutty idea he had that exploded, and years of practice since, to tell you all about what works and what doesn’t. He has asked for input from other experienced WriMos (people who do National Novel Writing Month) to offer advice, tips and encouragement in this edition. Some of those people are award-winning authors and international bestsellers. True story.

In case you’re late to the party, Baty is the founder of National Novel Writing Month. The challenge: to write a 50,000 word novel in a single month!

Yes it can be done. I am here to tell you I have tried it seven times and have succeeded on all but one.

I’m an enthusiast, I confess. I had wanted to write a book for years, but couldn’t see how to make it fit into my schedule. I did my first NaNo in 2010. This gave me the discipline and skillset I needed. If you need proof, feel free to check out my author profile Sable Aradia here on Goodreads. Some of these books are traditionally published and some are self-published, but they’re all mine and I did them all.

Here’s the instruction manual as to how.

I won this book at my regional kick-off event for NaNoWriMo this year, so there was a lot in this book I didn’t need because I’ve already found it out on my own. And there was a lot that was still very useful to me, even as a seven-year NaNo veteran. Hence my recommendations.

Why not a five star rating if I’m so enthusiastic? Well, for one thing, I think Baty can be a little blind to his privilege. He’s a Silicone Valley white guy. I doubt he’s ever written in a one-room flat with no heat (I have). The closest he’s probably come was his college dorm, and he knew that was going to end sometime (when you don’t, it’s a lot more stress). Sometimes he makes it sound toooo easy. It’s not easy. It’s a marathon. Marathons require preparation and often, training.

But his reckless sense of adventure is infectious, and that’s what I think you need to succeed at NaNo. Which means you’ll have taken the first step when you’re done. But that first step, I think, is the hardest.

It’s not going to work for everyone. James Patterson, who spends most of his effort on his outline, would not be able to stand working this way and would tell you that you’ll fail if you try. But he’s wrong. I didn’t fail. And I’m one of thousands.

View all my reviews

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