A Novel in Ten Days: Bragging Rights & Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo 2013

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In October Access Copyright invited its members to “Showcase Your Creative Space,” and it has been posting the submissions on Twitter.

“The world is a lot more fun when you approach it with an exuberant imperfection.” – Chris Baty

Earlier this year, it must have been July, I was visiting my daughter. I can’t remember whether I was the one who was first attracted to a book on her bookshelf because of its title on the spine, or whether she drew my attention to it. However it came my way, the title of Chris Baty’s book, No Plot, No Problem: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days,  spoke to me in ways some of my daughter’s other recommendations haven’t. (She recently presented me with The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud, a 2010 Giller Prize winner that stumped me. Why did it win a Giller? I was put off immediately by the inaccuracies in the drawing of the soldier’s uniform on the cover, and later when one of the characters addresses a sergeant as sir. Turning the last page I was still wondering if the novel had a plot. You’re probably wondering how, being as put off as I was, I made it to the last page. Stupid, I quess. You may remember that only 800 copies of The Sentimentalists were published by Gasperau Press in Nova Scotia, and the week that the Gillers were announced, the book was unavailable in the bookstores. Sales of the ebook soared, and the The Sentimentalists became a Kobo best-seller. Seems to me there was more of a story about the book, than in the book. By the way, if you disagree with my assessment of Skibsrud’s novel, I’d be happy to read your polite replies. There is a comment box below.) Sorry. I’m getting off track, but a detour such as this serves to increase my word count, an essential goal of NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month, the topic of this posting.

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Chris Baty’s book attracted me for two reasons. First No Plot, No Problem, speaks to my way of writing. A character or two will nudge me towards the writing of a few notes. When I can no longer overcome their insistence, I begin to write their stories. I have no idea where the narrative will lead and trust that the characters will tell me where to go. I was attracted to the title of Baty’s book because when I write, I don’t have a plot, and I dearly want to be assured that that is “No Problem.”

The second reason for reading No Plot, No Problem was the idea of completing something. Those of you who have been reading my posts know of my “unfinished novel” and how its characters have influenced me. As a matter of fact my first posting was titled “The Dreaded ‘D’ word: Or How the Internet is Not to Blame for my Unfinished Novel.” And dear, oh, dear, look at the date. August 2012. Regrettably I’ve moved that novel forward by only a few chapters, and the characters are “sleeping” in the same drawer where three other wannabe novels languish. Continue reading