Let’s NaNoWriMo


Hey, everyone, I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year!

Okay, okay. Stop laughing.

Srs talk first: lots of people have heavily criticized NaNo and questioned whether it’s really effective at fostering writing skill, or if it just results in a lot of unpublishable tripe at the end of November. I agree with all of those criticisms. My participation this year shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of the the NaNo method.

So why am I doing it at all? Three reasons.

1) I’m curious.

2) I think if you view NaNoWriMo for what it actually is- a way of motivating lazy people with a creative impulse to bang out 50,000 word of unpolished first draft- it could be useful in kick-starting a writing habit that might potentially lead to greater things.

3) I’ve written stuff before, but never anything I’d call a finished novel. I had been planning on having another crack at something long-form already, so why not try to apply the NaNo challenge at the same time?

I fully realize that I’m traipsing right into the stereotype of the guy who makes it his thing to take the piss out of other people’s writing and then utterly face plants when he tries to do it himself. But hey, if whatever I come up with is bad enough to entertain someone else by ripping into it on a blog, well, there’s worse ways to leave your mark on the world (and just so we’re clear, I have absolutely no illusions that my noveule will get anywhere close to being published, nor am I entertaining fantasies about actually approaching agents with it- this is purely for fun).

You’ll see frequent posts on this very blog about my deep anthropological insights on the culture and attitudes surrounding NaNoWriMo (research for these deep anthropological insights will be conducted using a forum persona completely disconnected from the one I use for this blog, for reasons that will become obvious when you see the posts) so that will be fun. Also, the NaNo folks do something cool where they get established authors to send you “pep talks” throughout the month to tell you that you’re the best around, no one’s ever gonna get you down. I wonder who’s doing the pep talks this year?


Wow, Catherynne Valente! She’s one of my favourite authors! It’s a bit weird that they only list her three all-ages books instead of the more sophisticated stuff she’s written, but






Well that should be….. enlightening.

Anyway, stay tuned. I might post excerpts and do teaser Tuesdays (Wednesdays?) and all that shit depending on how much I hate myself by then.


17 thoughts on “Let’s NaNoWriMo

  1. katz

    There is no “method.” If you’re participating, you’re participating. Can’t do it and also maintain a superiority over “those people who do that sort of thing.”

    1. ronanwills Post author

      By “method” I mean the aim of writing 50,000 words in a month and building a community around that goal (although I realize not everyone participates in the official NaNo forums).

      I have no sense of superiority over people who do NaNo; if you’re talking about the “motivate lazy people to write” thing, I’m including myself in that category. The fact that I’m criticizing NaNoWriMo itself doesn’t mean I’m criticizing anyone who does it.

      1. katz

        The fact that I’m criticizing NaNoWriMo itself doesn’t mean I’m criticizing anyone who does it.

        I appreciate this; there are way too many people who just want to hang around and criticize the participants and that feels very mean-spirited to me.

        Have fun; I hope Rothfuss says something hilarious!

        1. ronanwills Post author

          tbh seeing that Rothfuss was going to be giving a pep talk was maybe 30% of the reason I decided to do it in the first place.

  2. M. A. Valentine

    I did one last year, but I didn’t really participate in the forums/discussions relating to it. The only sense of “community” I had was with a group of people on a forum I frequent, and it was more about encouraging people to put words to a page rather than praising their creative abilities. Everyone I’ve talked to about NaNo understands that nothing they write will be publish-worthy from the start, and in fact they believe it will be mostly garbage. Perhaps there’s a community on the website itself that has fostered the illusion that NaNo writing is serious and if they just write the novel they could have millions in a book deal, but no one I’ve talked to actually believes that. There are crazies everywhere, though.

    I look forward to your research, but I wouldn’t discount the entirety of NaNoWriMo based on the (probably batshit insane) community it fosters on its website.

    1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

      Most of the people I’ve had the chance to talk to also se NaNoWriMo as a tool to get people over their fear or laziness, but when I broached the subject they also seemed to come to the conclusion that I must be very good at writing, otherwise why would I bother criticizing the NaNoWriMo system? It seems though that people focus more on their word counts and feel that just getting enough words out is what they should focus on, which would of course lead to all sorts of bad habits. It seems that all NaNoWriMo can do is turn one lazy writers into bad ones.

      Also if the point is to get people to overcome their fear of writing, shouldn’t it only be necessary for someone to do it once? If someone does it year after year then it seems the process failed.

      1. M. A. Valentine

        Like any form of practice, you get out of it what you put in. The NaNo method is set to be 50k words in a month as a standard, but of course if you put in only the basic amount of thought just to reach the goal, it won’t be very useful as practice.

        I see it purely as encouragement to get words on a page. How one uses those words is entirely up to the writer, but I don’t think that encouragement inherently reinforces bad habits. Turning off one’s inner critic in order to reach a wordcount goal is not a bad thing in itself, so long as a person does not lose their inner critic entirely when the time comes for editing and rewriting. It’s a step in a process, not a means to finish a work.

        And I don’t know about you, but motivation is always welcome, no matter in what stage of writing I may be. I use NaNo to play around with story ideas that I might not have tried to tackle otherwise, to see if I find them worth pursuing. I also use it to practice word flow and dialogue, as I find a rapid practice more useful than rewriting the same sentences over and over. But different methods will work for different people, and I don’t find it useful to blame a method for bad writing.

    2. redsilkphoenix

      Based on what I’ve read about NaNoWriMo, most of the folks who do their writing then do it in the same spirit as the folks who say “I will start my diet on New Years Day” or “I will give up smoking for Lent”. That is, joining a bunch of other people doing much the same thing at the same time can be a great motivator/encouragement for getting off your rump and start doing sonething instead of just dreaming about it. My interpretation, anyway.

      By the way, there are two (that I know of, anyway) lesser-known spin-offs of NaNoWriMo. One is almost identical to it, but aimed for the budding comicbook/strip writer/artist. Don’t recall its exact name, but it takes place in October. The other is called, I think, NaNoEdMo, and takes place in March. It’s when you take that wordbrick you created back in November and edit the thing. When the wordbrick has had a chance to ‘cool’ in your mind and you can see the flaws in it more easily and fix them.

      As I mentioned earlier, neither of those are as well-known as the November event, but they do exist.

  3. braak

    Oh, also, it could be that they just talked about Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland books because the third one just came out, and she’s either just finished or is still in the middle of a book tour for it.

    I agree, though, Catherynne Valente is hell of good.

  4. braak

    I did NaNoWriMo for my first book — kind of, anyway. I didn’t realize it was a forum or a movement or anything, I thought it was just a book that I’d found in the bookstore, “how to write a novel in thirty days.” And as far as THAT goes — as way to help kickstart a relatively lazy person into getting some work done — it’s pretty good. There’s a lot of good tips about organizing your thoughts and staying motivated and things like that.

    I did my first one in February, though; when I tried, later on, to actually do NaNoWriMo in November, I found I couldn’t keep with it.

  5. Signatus

    Good luck with that. 🙂

    I’m curious. As I don’t have that sort of contest here, what do people say about it? Heard of it, but never investigated further than that.

    1. ronanwills Post author

      It’s gotten a (justifiably) bad reputation as not really being a good way to encourage people to write better, fostering an environment that discourages actual criticism and feedback and basically just resulting in a lot of people churning out tripe and deluding themselves into thinking they’re going to get published.

      For specific examples, see my upcoming blog posts with their deep anthropological insights.


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