No plot no problem pdf

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Chris Baty, founder of the wildly successful literary marathon known as National Novel Writing Month, has completely revised and expanded his definitive. I hereby pledge my intent to write a 50,word novel in one month's time. By invoking an absurd, month-long deadline on such an enormous undertaking. Chris Baty, motivator extraordinaire and instigator of a wildly successful writing revolution, spells out the secrets of writing and finishing a novel. Every fall.

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No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide. No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days · Read more. creative writing courses in college, or read any how-to books on story or craft. no matter how bad that book might be—was irresistible. DOWNLOAD PDF. Editorial Reviews. Review. "No Plot? No Problem! offers suggestions on how to participate in No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress.

A rough draft is best written in the steam-cooker of an already busy life. Failing that, having a certain looseness of clarity can bail you out of some fairly tricky situations. Writing Language Arts Reference Nonfiction. Email lurks. Like many month-long writers, three-time winner Rise Sheridan-Peters finds this discrepancy between the joy of the book and the sorrow of friends and family especially pernicious in Week Three. Try all of these and more this week, and see if any help you unleash your imagination. Writing 50, words in a month breaks down to about 1, words per day.

The complete calendar is here. Book news and more; I'm paperhaus on Twitter. Skip to content. It begins Saturday. National Novel Writing Month. Love it or hate it, NaNoWriMo is coming.

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Here are 11 spoilers from it: A lot of coffee. You can clean in December. NaNoWriMo-ers, good luck! Books Newsletter. Stay up to speed with Times editors' favorites in books, authors, events and more.

You are now following this newsletter. This item is temporarily out of stock on chroniclebooks. Add to Compare. Chris Baty, motivator extraordinaire and instigator of a wildly successful writing revolution, spells out the secrets of writing and finishing a novel.

Every fall, thousands of people sign up for National Novel Writing Month NaNoWriMo , which Baty founded, determined to a write that novel or b finish that novel in—kid you not—30 days. Now Baty puts pen to paper himself to share the secrets of success. With week-specific overviews, pep "talks," and essential survival tips for today's word warriors, this results-oriented, quick-fix strategy is perfect for people who want to nurture their inner artist and then hit print!

Anecdotes and success stories from NaNoWriMo winners will inspire writers from the heralding you-can-do-it trumpet blasts of day one to the champagne toasts of day thirty. Whether it's a resource for those taking part in the official NaNo WriMo event, or a stand-alone handbook for writing to come, No Plot? When we broached the subject of our flagging motivations during one of our writing sessions, it became clear that most of us were having the same problem: Starting had been easy.

Continuing was hard. Perhaps flinging a random assortment of characters at a Microsoft Word document, we admitted, was not the soundest approach to book-building. And maybe trying to cram something as large as novel writing into an already busy schedule doomed both life and literature. Our lives certainly had taken on the feel of cursed things: Instead, we spent our downtime prodding at lifeless characters and wondering how long a human body could subsist on an all-ramen and Coke diet before liver functions ceased entirely.

By the middle of Week Two, we were ready to mutiny. Half of the participants dropped out. Unfortunately, some of us had bragged so widely about our heroic novel-writing quest that we were too ashamed to quit before the month ended.

So we slogged on, continuing to meet for less-than-joyous writing sessions. We were no longer in it to win it; our plan at that point was just to run out the clock. Week Two came and went. And then some strange things started happening. Quirky, unexpected, readable things. They sold their SUVs and started commuting to work in golf carts. They joined polka bands and got kidnapped by woodland creatures and found themselves organizing jewel-heist capers with their next-door neighbors from the nursing home.

It was as if our main characters, tired of waiting for competent stage direction from us, simply took control of the show. Thankfully, they turned out to be far better storytellers than we ever were. The listlessness of Week Two lifted, and the flat lines of our novels began to resemble the trajectories of honest-to-God story arcs.

We were still tired, sure. But our books had gone from being albatrosses around our necks to welcoming ports in the storm of everyday life. They were stiff and awkward creatures, riddled with enormous plot holes, their loose ends flopping lewdly. But they were beautiful in their own ungainly way. And absolutely breathtaking in their potential. It was one of the best, most fulfilling experiences of my life, and, sadly, the only thing I can compare it to is the movie Field of Dreams—where Kevin Costner, playing an Iowa farmer, begins hearing voices that tell him: He wrecks his cornfield and builds a professional-grade baseball diamond next to his farmhouse.

Crazy as a loon. Those of us heading towards the fourth week of NaNoWriMo could relate. For us, the rewards were similarly bountiful. Though undeniably lousy baseball players, they were good at other things. To each their own. Whatever varied directions our stories were moving in, they were definitely moving.

And they were dragging us, happy and wide-eyed, in their wake. On Day 29, the first participant crossed the 50,word finish line. Another followed.

Then another. July came to a close, and as exhilarating as it had been to spend thirty-one days exploring the outer reaches of our imaginations, we were all ready to return to real life. Of the twenty-one people who participated, only six of us made it across the 50,word finish line that first year, with the rest falling short by anywhere from to 49, words. Everyone who participated in the escapade, though, came away from the experience changed by it.

Some participants, to be honest, realized that they never wanted to write another book again. Others were ready to apply the next day to MFA programs in creative writing. The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. Give someone an enormous task, a supportive community, and a friendlyyet-firm due date, and miracles will happen. Thanks to the go-go-go structure of the event, the stultifying pressure to write brilliant, eternal prose had been lifted.

And in its place was the pleasure of learning by doing. Of taking risks, of making messes. Of following ideas just to see where they lead. Writing for quantity rather than quality, I discovered, had the strange effect of bringing about both. But the proof was incontrovertible, and everyone who finished NaNoWriMo that first year agreed: We were only able to write so well—and have such a merry time doing it—because we wrote so quickly and intensely. The roar of adrenaline drowned out the self-critical voices that tend to make creative play such work for adults.

I now have three books in various states of editorial redemption, along with two hopelessly execrable rough drafts whose highest calling in life will forever be propping up a listing leg of my couch. I think the lasting lessons from that first year, though, boil down to just four revelations.

In fact, I had high hopes of delaying any novel writing attempts until I was older and wiser, and had achieved a state of complete literary enlightenment. From this position of all-seeing wisdom, I knew I would have amassed a roster of brilliant, original plots and dynamic, compelling characters.

And then I could cherry-pick the best ones for my masterful creation. If all went according to plan, I figured the state of enlightenment would descend on my bald head sometime around my ninetieth birthday.


And then, fully primed, I could simply dictate the Nobel Prizeworthy manuscript to my assistant or nursemaid, who would then pass it on to an appropriate publisher.

The novel I wrote at twenty-six is much different than the one I wrote at thirty, which will hopefully be much different than the one I write at fifty.

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What better reason to get writing now? With each passing era, a new novel is possible. And a potentially great book you could have written slips away into noveling oblivion.

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

And so I spent the following half year saving up enough money to resign my various obligations for three months, and then dove into the deliriously productive life of a full-time novelist. Things went awry almost immediately.

With nothing to do all day but write, I found myself doing everything but writing. Essential errands were run. Laundry was done. The bathroom was cleaned. Less essential errands were run.

The bathroom was re-cleaned. And so on. The mounting guilt I felt each evening over accomplishing so little writing during the day would then force me to cancel the plans I had made with friends that night. So I could stay in and get some writing done. Night, of course, simply involved more work on the Habitrail. At the end of the three months, I was frustrated, my friends were worried, and the squirrels continued to make their clumsy, desperate leaps from branch to branch.

The experiment in nonstop writing was a total disaster. For me the moral of the story is this: A rough draft is best written in the steam-cooker of an already busy life. If you have a million things to do, adding item number 1,, is not such a big deal.

When, on the other hand, you have nothing to do, getting out of bed and washing yourself before 2: As Isaac Newton observed, objects in motion tend to stay in motion. When writing your first draft, being busy is key.

It may feel frustrating at first, but having daily writing periods curtailed by chores, family, and other distractions actually helps you get the thing done. This is partly because the hectic pace forces you type with a fleet-fingered desperation.

And making it up as you go along does not require you to be a Particularly gifted novelist. That first year, I started with neither plot nor characters, and I ended up with a reasonably accomplished novel that had tension and momentum and even a subplot or two.

And I did all that with an imagination the size of a pea. If you spend enough time with your characters, plot simply happens. This makes novel writing, in essence, a literary trapeze act, one where you have to blindly trust that your imagination and intuition will be there to catch you and fling you onward at each stage of your high-flying journey. The good news is that our imaginations live for these high-pressure situations.

The human brain is an agile, sure-handed partner, an attention-loving, razzle-dazzle showthing that can pull plausible transitions out of thin air and catch us before anything save our pride gets too terribly injured on our inevitable tumbles. The key to writing a novel is to realize that you are in the greatest hands possible: Ray Bradbury said it best: No matter what your talent level, novel writing is a low-stress, high-rewards hobby.

I stopped taking the text for granted and began noticing a host of crafty details and wellconcealed seams. To really get behind the scenes and understand the books you love as beautiful art and crafted artifice, it helps to write one yourself. And finally, the more I wrote, the better my writing became. The single best thing you can do to improve your writing is to write.

The more books you have under your belt, the more comfortable you are with your writing voice, and the more confident you are in your style.

Treating a novel like a hands-on writing class-room—where advancement relies as much on dramatic failures as it does on heroic successes—has been an amazingly liberating experience for me.

That second year, an amazing people signed up, and 29 people ended up winning. Then word began to spread about NaNoWriMo. A talented engineer built the new, more-robust www. The event grew larger still—five thousand participants the third year—and I continued to work as both director and participant, sending out pep-talk emails, overseeing the Web site, and interacting with nascent NaNoWriMo chapters around the world. In November , NaNoWriMo celebrated its fifth anniversary with more than twenty-five thousand participants from over thirty countries.

A handful of participants have gone on to edit and sell their creations to big-time publishing houses like Pinnacle and Warner Books. The biggest success stories of National Novel Writing Month, though, are rarely the published ones. These are the stories of everyday people who, over the course of one frantic month, discover that literature is not merely a spectator sport.

Who discover that fiction writing can be a blast when you set aside debilitating notions of perfection and just dive headlong into the creative process. No Problem! Chapters one through three describe how to prepare for the actual writing month.

They guide you in creating a realistic schedule and in gathering the tools and treats that are essential in bashing your book out. They also look at ways to turn your home and immediate surroundings into phenomenally productive word factories, and lay out winning tactics to transform innocent bystanders into cheerleaders and fellow travelers on the journey.

Chapters five through eight serve as a week-by-week guide to your writing adventure. Chapter nine offers some thoughts and advice on post-novel life, particularly on making a graceful transition back into the day-to-day world, and it also contains a guide to rewriting one-month novels for those interested in shaping and polishing their work into publish-worthy form.

These were, in order of importance: What you really need is a secret weapon. You need a superpowered, diabolical device that will transform you into a bastion of literary accomplishment. What you need to write a novel, of course, is a deadline.

Deadlines are the dynamos of the modern age. Deadlines bring focus, forcing us to make time for the achievements we would otherwise postpone, encouraging us to reach beyond our conservative estimates of what we think possible, helping us to wrench victory from the jaws of sleep. A deadline is, simply put, optimism in its most ass-kicking form.

This is especially true when it comes to creative pursuits. Because in the artistic realms, deadlines do much more than just projects finished. They serve as creative midwives, as enthusiastic shepherds adept at plucking the timid inspirations that lurk in the wings of our imaginations and flinging them bodily into the bright light of day. Drafting a novel typically involves years of navigating a jungle of plots, subplots, supporting characters, tangents, symbols, and motifs.

A single troublesome passage may stop the writing for years as the writer fusses and stews and waits for the way forward to become clear. Writing on deadline changes that.

Having an end-date for your quest through the noveling unknown is like bringing along a team of jetpack-wearing, entrepreneurial Sherpas. Carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain, back problems, numb-butt This is no joke: Take it easy on yourself by setting up an ergonomic writing station, making a point of taking stretching breaks, and calling it a night at the first sign of numbness.

Several companies, such as Workpace. Look on the Web for eye exercises as well, and keep some eye drops on hand to ward off the inevitable dryness that comes from getting so wrapped up in your book that you forget to blink a great sign for your story, but a notso-great sign for your poor eyeballs.

This rule is enforced by legions of invisible guilt-monkeys, which are unleashed every year against those who dare to break the rules. While this costs NaNoWriMo a pretty penny annually in guilt-monkeys, it also keeps things fresh and exciting and helps prevent people from sabotaging their productivity by being overly invested in the outcome of their book.

The writing will be slower, the pain much greater, and the output will likely leave you disappointed. My strong advice is to come up with something new for this challenge. Outside of writing classes, we never quite get the professional-grade push we need to tackle big, juicy, creative projects like novel writing. And who has time for classes? Really ready for bed. Or we were stuck, anyway. Because as far as artistic deadlines go, this book comes with a doozy. Once activated, it gives you just one month to write a 50,word rough draft of a novel.

And then normal life, with its regular showers and reasonably clean apartments, can begin again. Should you decide to take your month-long novel and revise it to perfection later, you can do that.

Writing 50, words in a month breaks down to about 1, words per day. Most average typists will be able to dispatch that in an hour and a half, which makes it doable, even for people with full-time jobs and chaotic home lives. Fifty thousand words is also just large enough for someone writing concisely to sketch an entire story arc within its borders. And yet, despite its short stature, a 50,word novel is no cakewalk.

Only about 17 percent of National Novel Writing Month participants reach the 50,word finish line every year, and some have argued that the number should be lowered. I think the number is perfect. And this, for a first draft, is the pathway to genius.

Celebrating your writing inadequacies, though, will likely be a new and somewhat uncomfortable prospect. Give it a try when you write your novel next month.

The most important mental preparation you can do for the noveling month ahead is to realize the following: There is no pressure on you to write a brilliant first draft. Because no one ever writes a brilliant first draft. When your novel first peeks its head into the world, it will look pretty much like every newborn: This is the case no matter how talented you are, or how long you take to coax the thing into existence. Novels are simply too long and complex to nail on the first go-round. Anyone who tells you differently is a superhuman literary cyborg, and should not be trusted.

Flip through books on writing by Stephen King or Anne Lamott, and they say the same thing without, of course, the crucial insights on cyborgs. To quote the mild-mannered, mincing Ernest Hemingway: A first draft is an anything-goes space for you to roll up your sleeves and make a terrific mess. It is, in short, a place for people like you and me. And when it comes to the topsy-turvy world of the rough draft, the law of the land is best summed up in two words: Exuberant imperfection.

The quickest, easiest way to produce something beautiful and lasting is to risk making something horribly crappy. Like most things associated with writing a novel in a month, this may not make a lot of sense on the surface. Namely, the older we get, the more scared we are to try new things.

Especially things that might make us look stupid in public. Women with boyfriends or husbands can see this in action by suggesting they take salsa dancing classes together. We do this for a very good reason: In the workplace, the emphasis on professionalism makes great sense. No one wants to have his or her cerebellum doctored by a dilettante brain surgeon.

But the emphasis on mastery has certain unseen psychological ramifications on the rest of our lives. But what do we do when we have free time? Like talking on the phone. Or walking up and down stairs. Or getting drunk. This is especially true with artistic endeavors. At the first awkward line of prose or botched brushstroke, we hurriedly pack away the art supplies and scamper back to our comfortable domains of proficiency. Better a quitter than a failure, our subconscious reasoning goes. Exuberant imperfection allows you to circumvent those limiting feelings entirely.

It dictates that the best way to tackle daunting, Paralysis-inducing challenges is to give yourself permission to make mistakes, and then go ahead and make them. In a first draft, nothing is permanent, and everything is fixable. So stay loose and flexible, and keep your expectations very, very low. It sounds like a recipe for a disastrous novel, I know. Exuberant imperfection is not a surefire path to bad writing so much as it is a necessary mental reshuffling, a psychological sleight-of- hand that takes the pressure off and helps you tolerate the drivel that greases the wheels of genius.

In your first draft, the ratio of muck to mastery may be somewhat disappointing. It will all get better in time. For now, quantity—not quality—is of primary importance.

No Plot No Problem - writing guide

And embracing exuberant imperfection will do much more than just help keep your word counts soaring in the coming month. By giving yourself the gift of imperfection, you tap into the realms of intuition and imagination that your hypercritical brain normally censors. These are the left-of-center dialogue exchanges and strange character quirks that end up forming the most memorable and delightful parts of your novel.

This torrent of thoughts and ideas is exhilarating and scary, and absolutely, absolutely essential to getting a first draft written in such a short amount of time. In the coming weeks, loosen your control over your life. Sing off-key in public. Stop proofreading the emails you send to friends.

Ideally, you will find people interested in taking the noveling plunge alongside you, cranking out their own questionable master-works in the same month you do. The group you want to form now is one where you meet up only to write. No sharing. No critiques. No feedback whatsoever. Just pure, unadulterated output.

For most people and I used to count myself among them , writing is a private act, and the thought of writing en masse sounds both terrifying and highly unproductive. Give it a shot. The goal, ultimately, is to move your novel from the realm of private suffering to a matter of public record.

The help of a writing community and the fear of public failure are both invaluable motivators, and both have a way of turning an already strong 50,word mission into a fait accompli. So go get that calendar and pick out the best month for you to do this. No month is going to be perfect, but here are some signs of a good one: Barring that, all months are pretty much equal. The one bit of advice I do offer in choosing your timeframe is to write over the course of a calendar month, rather than simply picking thirty-one consecutive days.

Then meet me at chapter two. We have some planning to do. Some other novels checking in at around 50, words in length include: The typical paperback you see on a bookstore shelf is about , words, with shorter genre fiction, like serial romances or sci-fi tie-ins, coming in at 50, to 70, words.

The thirty-year-old Oakland cartographer was less than a week into NaNoWriMo, and his story was floundering. Then, with three days left in the writing month, Tim got a new idea for his book. Tim dove into his tale for a third time. And this time it caught. In five years of doing NaNoWriMo, Tim has always written most of his book, and become a winner every time, at the last minute.

Tim—and the other writers who have learned to turn procrastination into performance art—would be the first to admit that writing an entire manuscript in three days exacts a high toll on your book and your body. But their rocket-fueled exploits underline an important fact of this whole endeavor: Slow writers find they can write about words of novel per hour; a speedy writer and good typist can easily do twice that.

Which means that the whole novel, from start to finish, will take an average writer about 55 hours to write. If you had the luxury of writing eight hours a day, seven days a week, you could begin on a Monday morning and be wrapping up your epilogue in time for brunch on Sunday.

The truth is, though, that few of us have the luxury of writing eight hours a day, seven days a week. In fact, between school, jobs, and the host of other daily events that fill our lives, carving 55 hours of quiet time, however small that number looks on paper, ends up being quite a challenge.

Enter the Time Finder. But rather than extracting precious things from tight places, the Time Finder does the opposite: It helps wedge large valuables into impossibly small spaces. And before you start complaining about getting homework already, let it be known: There are treats involved. Before you go to bed every night, sit down with your paper and pen, and write down everything you did that day, broken down into half-hour increments. Start with the moment you woke up and carry it through to the time you turned on the Time Finder.

Laid back down in bed. Reluctantly got back up again. Wrote email and sent it off. These are the top-tier items that you have to do every day or risk unemployment, eviction, expulsion, or mental collapse. Things in this category would be basic acts of personal hygiene, commutes to work or school, actual working, running work-related errands, eating meals, shuttling friends or family around, grocery shopping, and paying bills.

In this category go the things that, if push came to shove, you could get by without doing for a month, but which would cause major stress or hardship.

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This includes Internet surfing and chat-room trawling, online shopping, TV-watching, making art, nonessential home repairs, hobby-based tinkering, and recreational reading.

Go through the forgo-able items, and add up how many hours you spend per day, on average, in their pursuit. As you can see from my list, I tend to spend about three hours every day doing things that I could sacrifice for thirty days without my life falling apart. These will be your sacrificial lambs next month. Say good-bye to them now, and know they will still be there when you pick them up again in thirty days. Other writers use the opportunity to pare back conversations with their in-laws and stop doing yard work.

Because these are more important, the best approach is to cut down on frequency rather than eliminate them entirely. Plan on skipping a few meetings, ducking out of birthday parties early, or making your child hitchhike home from school a couple of days a week. You are in the top. It may be tempting to use the novel as a cornerstone for a total lifestyle overhaul, but this is a decidedly bad time to implement ambitious changes in your life.

In fact, the best thing you can do for yourself, your manuscript, and those around you is to keep as many of your old routines as possible. Being available for a minimum of social activities helps keep your mind fresh for the book, and also forestalls mutiny among your friends and family. Which is this: When I introduce novel writing into my schedule, I actually seem to have more time, for running errands and goofing off.

Other a NoNoWriMo participants have confirmed the phenomenon, which seems to stem from a short-term willingness to maximize every minute of the day to startlingly productive effect.

A side effect of this is that the moments that you do choose to spend in leisure activities become imbued with a sort of technicolor radiance—with everyday pleasures like unhurried conversations and ambling window-shopping taking on a near-sexual lushness. Strange, but true. How to allocate the soon-to-be-liberated hours the Time Finder just uncovered?

Pacing is obviously important, but what is a good pace? Should you write every day? Every other day? On weekdays only? Does the onset of a bad mood mean you get to skip a planned writing session? What about an exploding pancreas? Unfortunately, there are no hard-and-fast answers to any of these questions save the case of exploding body parts, which warrants a one-day writing exemption. Even professional novelists have wildly conflicting theories about the ideal times and durations for writing sessions.

The chief tactic in formulating a winning battle plan for your noveling schedule is to try a variety of approaches early on, discover what works best for you, and use it relentlessly thereafter. My personal technique is to write for two hours per night, three or four weeknights per week. I follow that up on weekends with three two-hour sessions on either Saturday or Sunday. Why do I do this? And because it seems to work. It also gives me one or two weeknights and one entire weekend day to relax and hang out with friends.

Some NaNoWriMo participants do all of their writing in the morning before work, taking advantage of the relative quiet and the pleasant caffeine rush of the predawn hours. For now, the best way to approach your scheduling is with a light heart and an open mind. Friends will pick your noveling month to have relationship meltdowns. And your computer, which has worked flawlessly for the past five years, will explode in an apocalyptic series of error screens and electronic moans.

No Plot? No Problem! | Chronicle Books

When this happens, just go with it. Sometimes taking a night off to go to that concert is the best thing you can do for your novel. Having a ready supply of concert tickets and three-inch nails on hand, depending on your progress and mood, is the surest path to scheduling success.

Week One, for instance, is much easier than Week Two. Other predictable problems vary depending on personality. I, for one am an inveterate procrastinator. I make sure any trips I need to take happen in the beginning or middle of the month.

I also do my best to reduce my workload or, ahem, fall deathly ill on the final Thursday and Friday of the event. The healthiest, most productive approach to writing is to acknowledge your weak spots early on, and build a writing plan that plays to your strengths and works around your liabilities. Why spend a month writing a book when it only takes five minutes to buy one from the shops, was the general attitude.

The compassionate souls who will be your cheerleaders and voices of reason; the ones who will pick you pick you up off the floor and set you gently back at the computer keyboard.

Because for all their potential helpfulness, your intimates can also make your thirty days in novel-land very, very difficult. They can take your newfound shut-in tendencies personally, erode your willpower through succulent diversions, or demand extra amounts of your time just when you need it most for the book. Mostly, though, you should talk to them because they are probably harboring secret noveling urges as well.

And nothing diminishes the pain of extraordinary labors like having a friendly someone toiling there alongside you. Granted, it is a social activity where no one is allowed to talk. Maybe I have a strange idea of social activities, but this to me is heaven. And a productive heaven at that. Writing with a partner or three or four helps all parties tap into the pool of competitive energy that forms when several people are working toward the same goal.

When noveling with someone else, you have a pacer, a motivator, and a sympathetic ear for sharing the triumphs and tragedies of your novel. From your immediate family to long-forgotten classmates, chances are good that someone you know will take you up on the offer. And if no one in your immediate area is up for the challenge, pitch the idea to friends and relatives in faraway towns. You may not be able to novel in coffeeshops together, but you can have nightly check-ins via phone or email.

From cooking you the occasional dinner to checking in on your progress and mental stability, your support network of nonwriting friends will be invaluable in helping you survive the noveling slog. When making my pitch for support to my loved ones every year, I always touch on the following four talking points: With all the pressure of cranking out a book-length work of fiction in such a desperately short amount of time, you will be in need of fun, reviving distractions at various points throughout the month.

Doing this is important to me. Your best friends are also the most likely to see this novel-in-a-month plan as another of your charmingly crackpot selfimprovement schemes. When the chuckles die down, though, do your best to make it clear that, however ridiculous the whole escapade may sound, you plan on seeing it through to completion. Also make it clear that, when you are a best-selling author, you will use a portion of your vast fortune to reward your supporters and destroy those who scoffed at you.

I need your help. Everyone loves helping an underdog triumph against insurmountable odds. Superman was Clark Kent to his coworkers, and you might want to be similarly discreet about your new superhero novel-writing powers around officemates. After collecting a group of cheerleaders, the next step is to leverage all their goodwill into usable quantities of fear. Include a clear start time and end time in your invitation, and encourage people to be punctual.

Brew up a pot of coffee or tea, and have lots of noncrumbly, nonoily treats on hand so people can snack without worrying about their keyboards. Thirty or forty minutes of work followed by a ten-minute break is a good one. Ask all attendees to turn off the ringers on their cell phones, and set a timer so everyone knows exactly when each session ends and the glorious break time begins.

Should anyone continue to type after the alarm marking the end of the session sounds, chop off their fingers. Nothing makes it more difficult to back down from a task than having boasted about it, in great detail, to all of your friends and loved ones.

Think about it: Do you really want to be the jokes every time novels are mentioned? For the rest of your life? Or have to hear your mother sigh when she learns that you botched yet another attempt at making something of yourself? My ultimate goal is to back myself so far into a corner before the month even starts that I have no choice but to stay on course with the word count, no matter how dismally off-track my novel gets in the weeks that follow.

In this way, bragging is an essential device for creating expectations. Not for genius prose, mind you. No, what you want to do is set up expectations for completion. For staying on track. For seeing it through to 50, words. Some people pay personal trainers thousands of dollars to receive this sort of ongoing, disappointmentbased motivation. Smart people get it from friends and family for free. Begin talking about your imminent ascent of the noveling ladder immediately after you have those first discussions with your friends about the thirty-day plunge.