Review: No Plot? No Problem!

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

This book, written by the creator of NaNoWriMo, explains the origin of his crazy idea to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Its target audience is those creative, literature-loving types who often say to themselves, “Someday I’d like to write a novel,” but who haven’t actually done anything to make their dream happen. Baty’s central point is that the best way to write a novel is just to sit down and write it — and to give yourself an impossibly short deadline so that you can’t let procrastination or perfectionism get in the way. This book introduces the concept of NaNoWriMo and offers a guided tour of each week, complete with tips from people who have successfully hit the 50,000-word target in the past. It also offers suggestsions for how to keep motivated, what to do when you get stuck, and how to conquer your pesky Inner Editor.

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this yet, but I am participating in NaNoWriMo this month (and am already falling behind in my word count, due to an incredibly busy first weekend!), so I seized the opportunity to read this book before all the madness began. I really enjoyed Baty’s breezy, tongue-in-cheek tone, which underscores the fact that this is a ridiculous undertaking that is highly unlikely to produce quality work. I also found several of his suggestions helpful, particularly the idea of finding time to write every day by making a schedule and eliminating nonproductive activities. I know I can waste several hours a day doing nothing but watching TV or puttering around the apartment…but now I’m going to spend those hours writing intead! I should say, though, that this is not a good resource for learning about the craft of writing. Other than very basic definitions of plot, setting, and characters, this book doesn’t offer advice about style or improving the quality of your writing. I’d recommend it to people who are interested in doing NaNoWriMo, but those who want a more general writing guide should look elsewhere.

Review: Fangirl

FangirlRainbow Rowell, Fangirl

Cath and her twin sister Wren have always been close, and they’ve especially bonded over their love of Simon Snow, a Harry Potter-esque series of books with a huge fan base. Cath is even writing a slash fanfiction novel about Simon and Baz (think Malfoy from the HP books), with some help from Wren. But now that they’re starting their freshman year of college, Wren wants to branch out and meet new people — which means she doesn’t want to be Cath’s roommate. Which means Cath is all alone in a strange place, with a painful amount of anxiety and no idea where the dining hall is. Cath’s only solace is hiding out in her dorm room and writing fanfiction, but slowly she begins to make friends and come out of her shell. She even meets a boy and experiences the shock of falling in love for the first time. But can Cath embrace these new experiences and emotions without losing the person she’s always been?

I’ve absolutely loved both of Rainbow Rowell’s previous novels, Attachments and Eleanor & Park, so I had high expectations for this book; happily, I wasn’t disappointed! Cath is a character I can really relate to, as I think most readers and book bloggers can. She knows what it’s like to get lost in a fictional world and really engage with the characters in a book. I also really liked the way fanfiction is portrayed from various perspectives. There’s Cath, who uses it as an outlet for creative expression; her roommate and friends, who think it’s weird; her creative writing professor, who views it as plagiarism; and a devoted fan of Cath’s work who eagerly awaits each new installment of her fanficiton. The romance is very well done, as always, and I loved watching Cath slowly let down her defenses. I wasn’t nuts about all the excerpts from the Simon Snow books and Cath’s story, but other than that, I really enjoyed this book!