This is the only time you will see the word “NaNoWriMo” on this blog. Ever.

Oscar the GrouchYou know I love you, right? I want you to write something brilliant, and I want you to love it. I hope it gets published and you become the next superstar author, to the degree that you can cut back to 30 hours a week at the office and still make payments on your Corolla.

It’s just that I’ve come to dread November every year. Throughout the 11 other months, I get to read great essays, poetry, and flash fiction as well as moving personal stories. I see inspiring photos and art. And, of course, I get amazing insights that, bit by bit, help me become a better writer. All generated by my fellow WordPress bloggers!

Then, in November, all that stops and my blog reader suddenly fills with post after post after post after post citing… word counts. 1200 words! 4000 words! 12,000 words! 23,000 words! 35,000 words! That happens for three weeks, followed by a fourth week of anxiety posts about falling behind schedule with word counts. Then three or four days of triumphant victory posts reporting that the 50,000-word target was met, or, far more likely, laments about the abject misery of failure.

Surely that’s the purpose of this event: to make you feel bad about yourself.

Yes, I understand people welcome the challenge, and they value the sense of accomplishment if they meet it. I get that it pushes people to stop procrastinating and start writing. But this event does not make for remotely interesting or enlightening blog posts, except, perhaps, to the compulsively supportive.

The event is a cool idea, but I’m not sure it leads to great writing as much as a frustrating sense of obligation amongst participants. And, frankly, shouldn’t a bunch of writers be able to come up with a less clunky and, at this point, less grating name for the thing?

oscar the grouch 2How about Novelember? 30 Days of Write? Word Turkey? Clock Back Word Stack? Hey, at least I’m trying!

Please, if these are fun times for you and you are bursting with enthusiasm to write and discuss, post away about your 50,000 word, 30-day adventure. Just don’t be upset with me if I hide under a rock and avoid everyone until it’s all over.

How about you? Are you eager to start word blasting? Are you secretly sick of the whole thing? Or are you thinking I’m just a grumpy old killjoy who hates to see others have a good time?

62 responses to “This is the only time you will see the word “NaNoWriMo” on this blog. Ever.

  • Raymond

    Bartender, whatever that guy Eric is drinking give him two on me. Never mind, give him the whole damn bottle. Stories aren’t “word count” they’re the arrangement of the word count. How about a month long contest to write one perfect chapter or paragraph focused on character development or proper grammar. I think the world of ebooks has more than enough “speed publication” – we don’t need to promote more “look ma- it’s 50k words of crap but I put them altogether on my own.”

  • nrhatch

    Love this post, Eric. I’m with you . . . I’m happy if they’re happy but I’m not happy about reading about how happy they are with the number of words they’ve written.

    For me, I’m more interested in quality than quantity. I always want to ask: So are the words “good”?

    • ericjbaker

      If I’d read your reply before I wrote this piece (zoinks!), your reply would have been this piece.

      Say, that’s a good idea for a 30-day novel. An internet that exists backwards! Or maybe not.

      • nrhatch

        Thanks you! I’ve enjoyed the comment thread on this post too. I’ve been smiling with each incoming comment.

        At least NaNoWriMo rolls off the tongue better than NaBloWriMo ~ which has the motto of blogging for blogging’s sake. From a post I wrote about how NaBloWriMo blows:

        [Blogging for blogging’s sake] sounds a bit like talking just to hear yourself talk! At least WP encouraged us to put on our thinking caps BEFORE striking blindly away at the keys.

        Blogging is a great way to say something . . . when we have something to say. It has far less value when we post just to say something.

        For that, there’s Facebook.

  • Janna G. Noelle

    and still make payments on your Corolla.

    Corolla? More like Hyundai. (Actually, more like Kona.)

    It’s true: the interest-factor of blog posts does take a nosedive in November. As does readership and participation on one’s own blog if many of your followers are writers. So, if nothing else, NaNo takes a lot of pressure off those struggling to produce sterling blog content, for no one’s reading it anyway!

    I’m not doing NaNo. I may try it someday, though I’m not entirely sure if that’s because I want the challenge or because I feel obligated. October can be a sh*tty month for blogs as well: all the pre-NaNo proselytizing about how every writer should do NaNo because, if you want to be a professional writer, you should be able to write that fast. I wish I could, but right now, it’s just not happening, so for me, NaNo is a big NoNo.

    P.S. Novelember = brilliant!

    • ericjbaker

      I even think it could have the opposite effect and burn people out from writing. To each her own, of course, but I agree that writers don’t need to be told what we “should” do all the time.

      I hope no one thinks I’m bashing the concept. It’s the resultant barrage of blog posts about the concept that becomes a drag. Whatever I’m writing about – even a self-indulgent who-cares countdown series on favorite singers – I still aim to make the content amusing or entertaining.

  • Eric Tonningsen

    Got room under that rock? 🙂

  • Kevin Brennan

    Bravo, sir. I say, bravo. [slow, building applause]

  • Ensis

    Boo! Unlike!
    Seriously, though I do have fun in November–I spend the rest of the year in self judgmental hell editing my work, so getting a month to cut loose and not have to worry about polish, hooks, or being the best.
    Plus, it gives me an excuse to avoid my family!
    But this is my first Nano blogging, so maybe I’ll change my tune.

    • ericjbaker

      Hmmm. I didn’t think of the avoiding people angle. Good point!

      Seriously (my version), it’s not the idea of the event, it’s the relentless flood of blog posts about the event. By the end of the month the very sight of [the word I shall not say] makes me shudder. Anyway, good luck with it. I bet if you took that “cut loose” approach the rest of the year, you’d come up with stuff that is just as good as the stuff you obsess and self-criticize about.

      • Ensis

        You’re totally right about cutting loose the rest of the year. And I’m actually glad you did this post–I think it’ll make me a little more conscious about what I post to my blog this November.

  • Jill Weatherholt

    I’ll be under that rock with you, Eric. I’ve participated and have been successful with Nano twice. Instead of having a third partial novel on my hands, I’m turning my attention to last years NaNo project, completing the story and rewrites. Yes, I do think you have curmudgeon tendencies…but that’s why I like you! 🙂

    • ericjbaker

      Every year, people who know I write but who are not involved in WordPress or blogging send me emails saying, “Hey, I saw this on NPR [or wherever]. Did you know November is National Novel Wiring Month? Maybe you should try it. You’d be good at it!”


      And then they stop sending me emails.

  • Richard Leonard

    Ignore my recent post about my strategy for this year…
    I was enthusiastic about it last year because it was a new thing I hadn’t tried before. You know, writing to a deadline and all. This year I want to finish the story I started but the enthusiasm is already waning.
    People actually posted progressive word counts? Pretty sure I didn’t do that. I hope I didn’t do that!
    Perhaps after this I should focus on actually finishing something. Achieving that would be more satisfying feeling, I’m guessing!

    • ericjbaker

      haha. Sorry about the timing. I understand the initial burst of posts when the event is about to commence. Heck, I get all the positives people say about it. It’s just that so many people post the identical posts through the month it starts to resemble an internet comment thread in which 300 people make the same comment.

  • wantonwordflirt

    I have never participated in NaNo and I won’t say “never” to future participation if I get an autumn urge to spew out a bunch of words all of a sudden some year.

    Because I am new to the whole writing scene, I just took the 50,000 word count and divided it by the 30 days hath November to see what the daily word count goal would be. 1666.666 Hmmm, that it explains it! NaNo is actually the Halloween trick of the devil.

  • Dave

    Ha ha ha. Novelember. I love it. Way better than NaNoWriMo.

    I’ve got mixed feelings about NaNoWriMo. The first time I did it, I “won”, back in 2010. I “failed” in 2011 and 2012 for various reasons. I’ve been vacillating between hiding under the rock with you (yeah, I knew you’d be there even before you posted this) and jumping headlong into yet another NaNoWriMo for a while now. Yesterday, I would have said I’m going for it. Tonight, I’m not so sure.

    Maybe I’ll pull a Jill and work on my last incomplete NaNoWriMo project.

    If I participate, can I send you personal emails about how great I’m doing? I can really use the encouragement. You know?

  • JH Mae

    I don’t understand NaNoWriMo. I can’t think of a better way for writers to spend their time generating bad writing than this event. Writers can only hope to write a first draft, and as Hemingway (I think) said – the first draft is shit.

  • A Writer Inspired

    I love National Novel Writing Month (see how avoided the shortened name there)! I think the blogging about It is a way to connect, lament and celebrate with like-minded individuals. It’s funny when people start following you and liking your posts you just assume that you all have the same things in common. In all things there will be different views and perspectives.

    Does your post make me smile? Yes! Do I agree? No way! This is my favorite time of year, where I get to meet more people just like me and I’m thrilled! What I will do though, is remember my non-participating friends and try to post something completely unrelated to the fabulous madness that is my November.

    For those of you not into it, I still hope to see you in December.

    • ericjbaker

      I was going to praise you for your classy, respectful comment when I remembered that your last post was titled, “Facebook is for Losers.” I’m still laughing about that.


  • Gry Ranfelt

    Nanowrimo teaches us to SHOW UP. It makes us understand the pace a professional writer should have. Each year Nanowrimo has taught me perseverence and meeting deadlines. I can’t wait to participate, but I think the whole word count thing should be kept on the nano website

    • ericjbaker

      That’s a good point on the deadline thing. I already have to write on a deadline for 8 hours a day, so the idea of self-imposing another one is unpleasant to me. Makes me think of working my way through college all those years… 8-9 hours of work, driving to school and take classes until 10:20 p.m. from Monday to Friday and then spending Saturday and Sunday writing papers. Bad flashbacks.

  • Bryan Edmondson

    Can you do 100 words on Lou Reed? I just heard the news. Good blog. But NJ sucks. It’s true.
    Texas is the Truth State.

  • Bryan Edmondson

    I just heard it was all a hoax. Lou Reed is still alive. Rumors are crazy things.
    Thanks Bob

  • NaNoWriMo And Why I’m Scared to Death Of It | From Slacker To Scribe

    […] fellow (and awesome) WP blogger I follow mentioned their indifference to NaNoWriMo, how the event starves WordPress of its creative people for a month, taking away what could be a […]

  • kriskkaria

    No, not a word blaster. I have trouble getting to 1000 words!

  • tinemagpayo

    “I want you to write something brilliant, and I want you to love it.”

    I LOVE THAT LINE A LOT!! Well, the most frustrating thing about being a writer is we dont really get to see (as in really SEE) our works the way others look at it. We cant detach ourselves from it. It’s likes something is always either overdone or lacking. I hope one day I can write something brilliant. I would want myself to love it. 😉

    • ericjbaker

      I was just commenting on someone else’s blog about how I waffle between really liking what I’ve written and thinking it’s the worst piece of junk ever. Ultimately, I’ve never been happy with anything I’ve written, so I’ll leave it to others to decide if it’s worthwhile.

  • Dela

    I see you on many blogs I visit, Eric. So after seeing you on one more blog again this afternon, I decided to finally hop on and see yours. This article has given me glee untold. The point is clear; there can’t be enough good quality coming from a crash-marathon writing session seared of all inspiration. Fortunately, my blog is dedicated solely to African poetry and I have consciously worked to keep it influenced only by African poetry even though many blogger friends (even here in Africa) harp on about NaNoWriMo (what a silly name..haha)

    • ericjbaker

      Sorry for my delay in responding to your comment. Thank you. I agree, I can’t even escape talk of “it” at work (I promised I’d only ever use that word once, in the title of this post). More power to those who enjoy it and thrive on it, but I hope they will forgive me for skipping out on their blogs for a month while the event is discussed ad infinitum.

      Re: African poetry. I’ve never been a big poetry person, but thanks to WordPress I’ve been exposed to a lot of African poetry and think it’s beautiful and amazing. Obviously, “African poetry” isn’t a specific style, but I see a thread of strong, stark imagery and emotion in it. I’m glad I’ve had the chance to learn a little bit about the poets who produce it in recent years. I’ll be sure to swing by your blog and check out your stuff!

  • M. R.

    I find the whole competitive thing fairly trying; but that could well be because, for instance, The Daily Post asks for something on topic [x] and says the best will be seen in Freshly Pressed on Friday, and nothing at all is seen on the topic on that day. I ask myself: what’s it all about [Alfie]? And why do we need to compete? Of course, seeing as how I write nonfiction, I’m always on the outside looking in. Hang on: should that be the other way ’round? Oh well …

    • ericjbaker

      If it makes you feel any better (though I have no reason to imagine why it would), I read far more nonfiction than fiction, despite being a fiction writer. I know I know… read in my genre. Bleah. I hate rules.

      The problem with competitiveness in writing is that it manufactures losers. It’s already frustrating enough trying to get read, and some other thing is always coming along to tell you you’re not good enough. The thing is, committees selected “the best” seldom get it right.

  • Maybe NaNoWriMo Isn’t for You, and That’s OK | D. Thomas Minton

    […] was bad).  Just a look around at writing websites, it seems like everyone is doing NaNoWriMo—much to the chagrin of some fellow writers.  Posts with word counts abound.  Posts trumpeting finished chapters.  […]

  • livelytwist

    This stopped my pity party 😉

    “And, frankly, shouldn’t a bunch of writers be able to come up with a less clunky and, at this point, less grating name for the thing?”


    • ericjbaker

      It’s like a job title called “Senior Engineering Improvement Specialist, Third Shift, Streamlining Job Titles for Global Operations Project Planning IT Business Strategic Development Group”

      We can do better!


  • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    Whatever works – for you. Me, I can’t take pressure – it slows me down. If I wrote that many words, few of them would be usable, and none on-target.

    I tried to do a month-long challenge last year to increase my finished scene count by 20% – failed miserably. Maybe I should say ‘failed happily.’

    Knowing I had promised to try more did nothing for speed – it takes what it takes.

    If anyone wants more from me in the way of fiction, they’re going to have to take Life off my shoulders. I’m trying out a new assistant tomorrow – maybe she will help. And maybe having to talk to and train a new person will make me incoherent. New people and new writers are so needy.

    I skip the blogs where the complaining occurs, encourage anyone with the temerity to try these things, and hope it works for them. But please do not expose me to the results.

    • ericjbaker

      I feel like if I actually tried to write a novel in a month (while working full time), it would be so incoherent and plotless that I’d spend the next two years untangling it. Why not show a little patience and do it write from the start?

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

        BTW: lovely Freudian slip – or was it deliberate (“do it write from the start”)?

        You are correct.

        Some people need to give themselves permission to write with their inner critic off; for me, IC serves a useful purpose of keeping me truer to structure.

        I’ve written many a short piece (having my character interviewed by a psychiatrist, having one write a letter to give me permission to tell his story,…) in a white heat, allowing myself to write as fast as I can think.

        It blows through some roadblocks, but while I will produce several pages at a time, only a sentence or two might end up in the WIP. Writing that fast is more of a mind-clearing and -loosening exercise than a way to write a story.

        Thanks for the thoughtful replies – I’m off to write for the day.

        • ericjbaker

          hahaha. Do it “correctly.” Forgive me, I haven’t gotten enough sleep this past couple of decades.

          My motivation comes in fits. I can get into a groove and write quickly while still producing worthwhile material, but I can’t force it.

          Enjoy your writing!

  • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    Oh, dear – just realized you were talking about LAST year, not setting up for THIS year. My bad.

    • ericjbaker

      As long as The Event I Shall Never Mention Again exists, I believe this post will remain timeless. And I’m always happy for a thoughtful comment, no matter when I wrote the post above it.

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