Thinkin’ on Thursday: Thinkin’ About NaNo

Easy as A, B, C . . . by BB

camp nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) will be coming up sooner than you think. Well, OK, not November’s event, but their summer replacement: Camp NaNoWriMo.

Anyway, it’s never too late think about good advice from known writers. How about Chris Baty, the NaNo founder? Inchris_baty his delightful how‑to book No Plot? No Problem! he spoke about their first year. He’d talked 20 gullible friends into joining him in an experiment: try to write a book in 30 days. They decided 50,000 words was enough for a book (a short book, but a book nonetheless). He says of the 21 who started only 6 made it across the 50K line ‑‑‑ others fell short by “anywhere from 500 to 49,000 words.” But he also says they ALL came away changed by the experience.

Some realized they never wanted to write another book again. Others wanted to apply to MFA programs in creative writing. Chris, himself, came out of it with a revelation: “The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It’s the lack of a deadline. Give someone an enormous task, a supportive community, and a friendly‑yet‑firm‑due‑date, and miracles will happen.”

He credits the experience of the “go‑go‑go” structure of the event with lifting the “stultifying pressure to write brilliant, eternal prose . . . ” The pressure of excellence is taken away and a gift replaces it: the pleasure of learning by doing . . . of taking risks . . . of making messes . . . of following ideas just to see where they lead. Moreover, he claims, writing for quantity rather than quality “had the strange effect of bringing about both.”

Apparently, everyone who finished NaNo that first year agreed: they’d only been able to write so well because they wrote quickly and intensely. “The roar of adrenaline drowned out the self‑critical voices that tend to make creative play such work for adults.”

His take‑away from year one (1999) included:

1. Enlightenment is overrated.

2. Being busy is good for your writing.

3. Plot happens. [Trust the process long enough to get to week 3!]

4. Writing for its own sake has surprising rewards.

If you want more proof, some fun reading, and lots of inspiration, check out his book, No Plot? No Problem!

See you next for Spellbinder Saturday!

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