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A Kid Goes (Chris) Baty

   Posted by: admin   in Musings

I wrote my first book when I was 10 years old.  Sure, it was only five hand-written pages long, but I added a few illustrations, bound it in poster board, and spent a few hours with my colored pencil set to create the cover art.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s officially a book.  I had writer’s block for a couple years, but in the summer between 7th and 8th grade, I wrote another story.  This one was fifty or so hand-written pages.  I bound it, illustrated it, and also considered it a book—the first in a series, with the second written near the end of the school year.  More writer’s block (or maybe it was that I started to notice girls) but I finally wrote a third book my junior year of high school.

Those stories were all mysteries.  I love reading mysteries but I found that I don’t love writing them, and so I now write horror and dark fantasy.  I wrote about that transition in a previous post.  What I need to talk about here is my process for writing those early books.

Each youthful day I spent writing one of those books, I set a goal for myself of one page per day.  Many days saw two or three pages, but no matter what else was happening, I absolutely refused to stop before at least one page was turned over onto the stack.  I was sometimes a few minutes late to the dinner table, and I missed the beginning of The Dukes of Hazard and The Incredible Hulk once or twice.  These were the sacrifices I had to make if I was to finish my books.

Adolescent and adult life happened.  Girlfriends.  The track team.  College.  Perhaps, a party or three.  Career.  Volunteer work.  More college.  A new career.  And on and on.  I let the writing goals slide.  Then I purchased a book, and those goals were brought back to me by Chris Baty and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  There’s a lot behind Chris Baty’s plan for pounding out a novel in November, but at the center is a simple truth: if you don’t set goals and a deadline, then it won’t get done.  Writing a novel is no different than weeding the garden or painting the upstairs bedrooms—you need to set aside the time to finish the task.  Nothing against a periodic sit-down in front of the television, but if you’re watching celebrities learn to ballroom dance, you’re not spending that time behind the keyboard, with the trowel, or on a ladder.  (For me, it was attractive police officers catching murderers with questionable science that took up my time.)

What I’d known instinctively in my youth, I’d forgotten as the years passed.  So, with Chris Baty’s blessing, I set aside some time each day and I wrote a novel.  It took me more than that single month, I must admit, but I did finish Good Deeds.  Putting the last word on the page gave me the same excitement I’d found finishing those little mysteries.  I was giddy!  (Of course, I had champagne to give my giddiness a boost this time, but that’s almost as good as Pop Rocks and Mr. Pibb.)

NaNoWriMo has grown over the years and gained quite a following.  It has spawned a script writing sister program and the Young Authors Program to help kids get excited about reading and writing.  Chris Baty has decided that NaNoWriMo can sustain itself now, and he’s stepped down to pursue his own writing career.  It’s sad to see him go (and I’m sure I’m not the first blogger to say so—Google him and you’ll probably find numerous praises).  He’s helped hundreds of thousands realize a life-long dream.  But after spending over a decade inspiring others, he deserves a break and the chance to pursue his own dreams.

The support of my friends and family helps more than they know.  I’m forever in their debt.  But if it wasn’t for Chris Baty reminding me of a simple truth, my first novel might still be a jumble of images only available inside my head.  If you’ve always wanted to write a novel—or need a jumpstart on your next novel—and you want all the details of how to make November incredibly hectic for you and your family, I encourage you to check out NaNoWriMo.  I don’t want to speak for Chris Baty and the NaNoWriMo staff, but I have no doubt that they will welcome you with open arms.

Maybe, like me, you’ll feel like a kid again.

You can find more information about NaNoWriMo at their website.
Seriously, Google Chris Baty. People really love that guy! Here, I’ll help you…

With November looming, I’m about to start working on another NaNoWriMo novel, Hell Bent, but in the meantime, you can check out my first one, Good Deeds.


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 at 2:51 am and is filed under Musings. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 comments so far


Thanks for the inspiration. I did NaNo last year for the first time–even got 8,500 words written! Yeah, that’s a fail of sorts, but I have an excuse. I do find it a win that in the short time I was able to stick with it, I got that many down.

Very true about commitment, regardless of the month. Thanks again!

October 19th, 2011 at 12:20 am


That’s not a fail! You have 8,500 words more than you did a year ago. Do it again this year, and you’re over a third of the way there. (Or do what I did and make June another NaNo month.) Either way, I say congrats on the win!

D. Miles Martin

October 19th, 2011 at 12:29 am

Nice post! Very encouraging words to keep in mind for when it all kicks off, in just over a week’s time! It’s so nerve wracking for a first-timer like myself, but I’m sure pep talks like yours will see me through it (and sitting down to get it done, of course!).

Have a lovely day!


October 24th, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Don’t get too worked up about NaNo pressures. Whatever you get down are words you didn’t have down before. Good Deeds is about 83K words. It took me 2 NaNos and some extra time to get through the 96K that was trimmed down to the final novel. If nothing else, you’ll have learned a lot about how you write and what works best for you. Then during those Sunday mornings in the coffee shop (or wherever you go to write), the words will scream out of you!

October 24th, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Chris Baty really is inspirational, and I totally agree – it’s the deadline that make NaNoWriMo work. How else will you ever write a whole first draft if you don’t make a goal of it? I read a quote somewhere to the effect that, goals are dreams with deadlines. I think that’s spot-on.

Good luck and happy writing!

November 7th, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Thanks, Adrianne!

Honestly, I’m well behind my goal. But if NaNoWriMo does nothing else, it gets me up early to put some words down. As I said to Rob in a previous comment, if it’s 1667 or 1000 just a paragraph or two, it’s still words that weren’t there yesterday or last month. And because I’ve got a new group of friends that have my back, it’s probably more words that I did most non-NaNoWriMo days.

My body can’t keep this up forever, but if a new novel comes out of me by the end of the year, I’m on track to spend January and February editing.

Best of luck to you, too, Adrianne. And all the other WriMos out there!

D. Miles Martin

November 7th, 2011 at 11:43 pm

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