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The Case Against NaNoWriMo

The Case Against NaNoWriMo

The word counters are at zero. The support forums are abuzz with plot maps and character studies. The carpal tunnel-preventing wristgear is in place. And in a few short weeks, this year's National Novel Writing Month will kick off with the clickity-clack-clack-clack of a hundred thousand keyboards.

What do we, the SparkLife literati, think of this? Well, to quote a terrific novel which was most certainly not written in a month: we hates it, precious. WE HATES IT.


Yep, that's right. Call us crotchety old haters (you: CROTCHETY OLD HATERS!), but NaNoWriMo is the actual worst. It's one more head on the same modern-day monster that's spawned such flash-in-the-pan phenoms as The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Rebecca Black, and those annoying pop-up ads claiming that a woman in your general vicinity knows this "weird trick" to eliminating belly fat immediately and forever. It's instant-gratification culture gone highbrow, and we don't like it, not one bit.

With its 30-day window and focus on quick'n'dirty accomplishment, NaNoWriMo is to the literary world what bad reality shows are to televised entertainment: cheap, easy, and an appealing shortcut to fame and fortune for people with little-to-no actual talent and really tasteless hairdos. (Yes, that's right: everybody who ever has or ever will participate in NaNoWriMo has terrible hair. Don't argue. It's SCIENCE.) Back in the day, people used to labor for years over their manuscripts. Uphill. Both ways. In a blizzard! Because they knew, as should everyone, that producing an item of quality takes time.

Needless to say, NaNoWriMo is in bad taste. And it's bad for business, too; agents and editor hate National Novel Writing Month. Why? Because the day after it ends, a bajillion hastily-written manuscripts flood their inboxes—sent by a hundred folks still too high on the thrill of having written a novel to read what they've produced objectively. (Hint: most writers, even otherwise talented ones, come out on the end of their month-long spree with a pile of vomitorious goo. Read a few unrevised products of last year's NaNoWriMo if you don't believe us.)

Not to mention that producing a 50,000 word manuscript in just one month leaves little time for anything else... which comes at the sacrifice, not the interest, of your ability to tell a good story. What propitious moments of inspiration will you fail to be present for because you're shut indoors, sacrificing the journey in order to reach your destination? What great idea will fail to occur to you because you didn't leave yourself a spare moment to have it? What prospective suitors will you drive away with the ripe, rancid stink of your festering undercarriage as November 30th draws near and you've still thousands of words to go, and bathing goes by the wayside?

How will you read SparkLife, for the love of God?! Think, man! Think!

But really, we're not kidding: being able to ruminate, to rest, and to read the work of other writers—even as you produce your own—is essential to quality storytelling. And when you're enjoying the ride, and not racing to the finish line, amazing things happen. You can stop, read back, and realize when a subplot's not working. You can wake up in the middle of the night with a flash of inspiration and see if it serves your narrative. You can take your sweet, sweet time. So, by all means, write during the month of November. Write every day. Write your face off! But don't do it in service of an arbitrary deadline that nobody cares about except a bunch of very silly people on the internet. Do it in service of your story. Which, as a writer, will forever and always be your one and only master.

And also, seriously, the smell: it's like a wildebeest wrapped in a week-old taco covered in my grandma's foot powder. Is that your natural body odor? Because you should probably see a doctor.

What's your take on NaNoWriMo?

Topics: Life
Tags: writing, novels, nanowrimo, fiction

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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