Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB
I wanted to share with you the introduction to a fabulous book: No Plot? No Problem! A Low‑Stress, High‑Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by the originator of the National Novel Writing Month [NaNoWriMo], Chris Baty. Here’s how he explained his “in the beginning” . . .
The era, in retrospect, was very kind to dumb ideas.
The year was 1999, and I was working as a writer in the San Francisco Bay Area, drinking way too much coffee and watching the dot‑com boom rewrite the rules of life around me.
Back then, it seemed entirely feasible — nay, inevitable — that my friends and I would spend three tiring years in the workforce throwing nerf balls at each other and staging madcap office‑chair races. And then we’d cash in our hard‑earned stock options, buy a small island somewhere, and helicopter off into blissful retirement
It was a delicious, surreal moment, and in the middle of it all I decided that what I really needed to do was write a novel in a month. Not because I had a great idea for a book. On the contrary, I had no ideas for a book.
All of this made perfect sense in 1999.
In a more grounded age, my novel‑in‑a‑month concept would have been reality‑checked right out of existence. Instead, the very first National Novel Writing Month set sail two weeks later, with almost everyone I knew in the Bay Area on board.
That the twenty‑one of us who signed up for the escapade were undertalented goofballs who had no business flailing around at the serious endeavor of novel writing was pretty clear. We hadn’t taken any creative writing courses in college, or read any how‑to books on story or craft. And our combined post‑elementary‑school fiction would have fit comfortably on a Post‑it Note.
My only explanation for our cheeky ambition is this: Being surrounded by pet‑supply e‑tailers worth more than IBM has a way of getting your sense of what’s possible all out of whack. The old millennium was dying; a better one was on its way. We were in our mid‑twenties, and we had no idea what we were doing. But we knew we loved books. And so we set out to write them.
I’m here to tell you, what Baty and his cohorts began in 1999 is alive and well. Internationally. On every continent. With thousands upon thousands of participants. Not to mention the school programs NaNoWriMo has instituted: free materials for teachers at both elementary and secondary levels. His organization is mentoring children and teens, and the program continues to grow.
The book, from which part of the intro you read above, is hilarious and inspiring. They now also run Summer Camp programs a couple of months in addition to the regular November effort.
If you want a quick and fun read to find out “how” to do this, go ahead: read No Plot? No Problem? But that’s not why I’m saying all this.
You don’t need to DARE to write a novel. Maybe you want to write a short story, or a poem, or lyrics to a song whose tune won’t leave you alone. Maybe you want to visit all 50 of the states in this great country. Take up knitting. Learn to speak a foreign language. Tour the British Isles and parts of Europe on a mo‑ped! Go ahead! (I did THAT one, way back in the late ’60s.)
What I’m saying, what Baty was saying, is DARE. Dare to be your most authentic self. Dare to make your life what you want it to be. I know all about stability, family, circles of friends, responsible jobs. I get it. Been there, done that. But don’t let all that keep you from being the best, most evolved and satisfied YOU!
What’s your “pipe dream”?
Go ahead and just do it: I DARE YA ! ! !
See you next for Thinkin’ on Thursday!