“No Plot? No Problem!” novel-writing kit by Chris Baty

Title: No Plot? No Problem! novel-writing kit
Author: Chris Baty
ISBN: 9780811854832
Pages: 48
Release date: September 14, 2006
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Genre: How-to guides
Format: Hardcover case
Source: Personal collection
Rating: 1.5 out of 5


Did you miss out on all the noveling fun in November? Or are you inspired to keep on writing even after NaNoWriMo?

The No Plot? No Problem! novel-writing kit aims to keep you motivated whether you begin your challenge in December or July (just try to avoid February, unless you truly crave a challenge).

Contents of the kit include:

  • A 44-page booklet of advice from Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo (I assume this is advice excerpted from his larger book, No Plot? No Problem!)
  • Daily flash cards with advice, anecdotes, and quotes meant to inspire you and keep you moving on your word count
  • A pledge to complete NaNoWriMo
  • A pin that says “Novelist”
  • Stickers that say “Ask me about my novel!”
  • A 30-day progress log, with daily word count boxes, a progress bar, and gold foil stars
  • “Onerosity” coupons to disburse when your daily or weekly goals are looking impossible
  • A sealed red envelope that says “I quit,” to be opened only in the case of incredibly low spirits and a precariously high stack of dishes in the sink
  • A diagram of how to walk successfully from the door to your Novel Writing Sanctuary

Baty differentiates his kit from other books by explaining,

Most novel-writing guides set out on the admirable mission of teaching people how a novel works. In these how-to tomes, authors lay out the basics of story and craft, and warn against the common missteps that could sink a novel or brand a writer as an amateur in the eyes of agents or publishers. For all their good information, these books inevitably lack one important thing: actual novel writing. . . . Things are different here. When you dive into your novel next month, I’ll be right there beside you, cheering you on and offering advice to keep your spirits and word count high.


This kit is a whole lotta look, but not much else.

The booklet, flash cards, and progress log are kind of cool, though not entirely useful; I think they might be better as electronic resources.

The booklet contains a lot of statements like the one above, but no real advice for the daily practice of writing. Baty swings to the extreme opposite of most writing guides by offering all pep and no substance. The actual advice being issued really only scrapes the surface of how one goes about writing a manuscript in a month.

I also ordered Chris Baty’s original guide to NaNoWriMo, No Plot? No Problem! (pictured above), but after a month of waiting I marked it as lost in the mail. Perhaps I will try again with another seller in a few weeks, but after surveying this kit, I have to admit that my hopes for anything more substantial from Baty are low.

The kit’s contents are snarky and fun if you need a pick-me-up, but you shouldn’t expect any life-changing advice. Baty attempts to prepare you for a month-long writing endeavor with equal parts humor and advice, but the whole thing feels corny.

After seeing what he thinks will be useful in a month-long writing free-for-all (I mean, coupons promising that I will do things for other people if I miss my goals?! No, thanks. I’m already trying to write a freaking novel, I don’t need Tinker breathing down my neck about a long walk in the woods, too!), I wonder if NaNoWriMo isn’t actually just a cruel joke that Baty dreamed up one day and decided to entice a group of would-be novelists off the cliff with him.

But then I look at the warm, vibrant, optimistic crowd on Twitter, and I realize that NaNoWriMo-ers have all the support, advice, and inspiration they need in their own online community. My advice, after perusing this packet? Stick to November, or get a crowd of friends to write with you some other month, and leave this kit on the shelf.

1 reply »

  1. Interesting review. Initially, I wanted to disagree as I feel a special fondess for Chris Baty as he came up with terrific cliff jumping, er… idea. I have ‘No Plot, No Problem’ and it does use humor for sure. Not that it is an equivalent to the Bible in its content, but it has worked for me these two years (although, should have done the refresher read BEFORE the month started) and I intend to use it again. Are there really any true secrets to writing a novel? I think you just have to sit down and type (or write). His book offers some useful suggestions packaged in a very palatable format. At least it is for me.


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