Monday, October 7, 2013

No Plot? No Problem! Chapter 1

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No Plot? No Problem!

By Chris Baty

Section One: A Round-Trip Ticket to Novel-land: Gearing up for Your Writing Adventure!

Chapter 1: Secret Weapons, Exuberant Imperfections, and the End of the "One Day" Novelist

Baty kicks off Chapter 1 by explaining that you don't need plot, character, setting, or even coffee to write a novel.

What you need is a deadline:
A deadline is, simply put, optimism in its most ass-kicking form.  It's a potent force that, when wielded with respect, will level any obstacle in its path. This is especially true when it comes to creative pursuits.
He goes on to explain how deadlines like NaNoWriMo keep you from becoming -- or remaining -- a "one day" novelist, as in "One day I'll write a novel."

Why 50,000 words, though? Because when Baty first conceived of NaNoWriMo, he used the approximate wordcount of the shortest novel on his bookshelf  -- Brave New World -- as a benchmark. It works out to about 1667 words a day; a task, to be sure, but doable.

Now, says Baty, let's embrace that the novels we write in November won't be good. In fact, let's revel in it. Because every novel needs to be edited anyway, so let's take pleasure in the fact that it doesn't matter if it's good, or even if it makes sense. Embrace the Exuberant Imperfection.
The first law of Exuberant Imperfection is essentially this: The quickest, easiest way to produce something beautiful and lasting is to risk making something horribly crappy.
In everyday life, Baty explains, we have to be competent and proficient. So we tend towards competence and proficiency even in our downtime, and that makes embracing the imperfections not only hard, but kind of scary. Exuberant Imperfection faces down that fear.

Once we have our deadline and our exuberance, we need our pack. Whether that's other writers along for the ride with you, or just supportive friends and family members. My Shut Up and Write meetings are perfect for this, and NaNoWriMo organizes meetings as well. And you know what? I think I've suckered you, the reader, into being part of my writing pack this year.  Sorry about that.  I'll return the favor if you want to follow along in the comments.


Baty sprinkles the chapters with amusing and/or helpful sidebars, some of which contribute to the surrounding text, others of which are just fun non sequuntur. Rather than bounce around, I'll be talking about them separately in my posts.

In the first sidebar, Baty points out the actual, physical dangers of sitting at a keyboard for too long -- eyestrain, back pain, etc. -- and reminds us to stretch regularly.  In fact, let's all do that right now.

Oof.  I feel better.  You?

In a second sidebar, Baty warns up not to overthink our novels too much in advance. Expectations will be higher, which means it'll be harder to embrace the crappiness of a speedily-written draft.

A third sidebar is reserved for nitpickers who might complain that 50,000 words is only a novella, not a true novel. Don't worry about it, he says: you're writing a novel.

Sidebar the fourth encourages us to extend the practice of Exuberant Imperfection to other aspects of our lives during our month of writing.

A fifth sidebar lists other novels that clock in around 50,000 words, including The Great Gatsby, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Of Mice and Men.

We end the chapter with a sort of contract, stating our intent to burn through this novel, crappiness and all, in one month.

Sounds like a plan!

How about you?  Are you ready with your deadline, exuberance, pack, and intent? I am!

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