NaNoWriMo is here.

It's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), that special time of the year when some folks think it'd be fun to crank out a 50,000 word novel (that's about 3,000 words a day) in a busy holiday month sounds like a great idea.

Back in 2005, I was in a writer's group and we had five people that actually completed the challenge. That's actually fairly amazing, because lots of people start but not that many finish. To have so many in one little North Dakota writer's group finish was stellar.

I finished a 50,000 word novel, and it was a real dog. But I was pretty proud to have finished the thing, so I displayed a winner's badge on my blog for several years.



At the core of it, NaNoWriMo a word-count competition, not a reader's delight competition. There are some skilled writers whose NaNoWriMo novels end up a successfully published book. Mine was basically a word-count winner in which, technically speaking, the words were actual sentences that could be construed as a kind of story. I ended up writing the "novel" that my Bob character was allegedly writing in the "Of Rats and Men" short story. That's all too meta for me at this age.

You can ask my parents, who were present in the final hours of November, about how I was busy hammering out on the keyboard with 30 minutes to spare in the waning moments of November, inventing crap scenes for a crap novel so I could upload it and get the word count verified and get my certificate of completion.


November is a terrible month for this kind of writing attempt. January or February, which are cold and event-less, would be much better.

I logged into my old NaNoWriMo account and was surprised to see how NaNoWriMo has expanded over the years. They've kind of made it social and gamified it a bit with badges and camps and writing buddies and so on. Pretty much the last thing I want to do is socialize with people during that time, and get distracted talking about writing instead of bleeding out 6,000 words in the final moments before midnight.

Sometimes I still go back and read that "novel" I wrote under November duress, and use it as a reminder that illiteracy can't be all bad if it could spare you from the misery of reading such an assemblage of words.

It sounds so easy, just 3,000 words a day! I wrote 8,000 word blog posts and 30,000 word ebooks for clients. How hard could it be?

Pretty hard.

A novel is a different beast. It has to have a story and can't rely on bullet points and factoids.

As I noted in an article five years ago, "Day one of National Novel Writing Month is smooth sailing. Days two through six aren’t bad at all, either. It’s when you swing into week two that the NaNoWriMo website starts sending emails to encourage yourself to not quit."

So last night I actually had a nightmare that I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year. Today I have the decision on whether or not to make that nightmare come true.

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