Every year during the month of November, I attempt to complete the National Novel Writing Month challenge and every year at a certain point in time it becomes clear to me that I will have no way of completing the challenge. This year has been particularly brutal to me in that it is only the 11th of the month and I am aware that, short of a complete writing miracle, or being temporarily stranded on a desert island with nothing but a word processor and necessary nourishment, I will not come even close to completing the challenge.

I have previously written about my failures during National Novel Writing Month. In an article titled National Something Writing Month, I wrote,

Every year since then I have attempted to win the Nanowrimo contest and every year I have lost. I don’t know what it is but I have not yet been able to keep it together well enough to write about two thousand words every day — not a tremendous feat for me by any means. I have come up with wildly different plots, from the story of a young woman enduring the trials and tribulations of the first year of school to different people with relationship problems. Funny how that theme seems to come up a lot in my writing. Yet I keep on coming back to it every year, hoping to win every win and never managing to do it. What is more amusing to me is how I haven’t really changed my strategy that much from year to year even though it clearly is not working.

In yet another article I wrote on the subject of National Novel Writing Month, Boles Blogs Network publisher David W. Boles commented,

I’ve always been confused with events like NaNoMo, Gordon. You either write or you do not. I don’t understand why having an event forcing people to write does any good because writers write and pretenders do not.

I continue to hold that National Novel Writing Month is fundamentally like a sprint. People can go out for runs if they wish, for their health or for the fun of going out for a run. When put in a sprint situation, however, the challenge is to run a certain distance in a specific amount of time or less, if possible.

I don’t think the majority of people who participate in National Novel Writing Month are necessarily serious about writing a novel — they do, however, want to see if they are able to do a little sprint. If you are thinking that no serious book could ever come from such a silly and frivolous competition, think again — the novel Water for Elephants was written during the National Novel Writing Month competition. Other examples of published novels written during the competition are plentiful and a careful look at the list will show you that many were published by notable publishers — not just printed and bound in the writer’s basement.

I would like to finish by mentioning something my wife asked me earlier in the month. She asked me why I keep on trying to compete in National Novel Writing Month if I know that I have never completed the challenge. The answer I gave her is that even though I know I have never completed the challenge, I never know if I will complete it in the future unless I try. Moreover, every little bit of writing I do is a pleasure — and so even when I lose, I still feel like a winner.


  1. My feelings still haven’t changed, Gordon. I think one either writes or not, and having a yearly contest to encourage people to write an enormous amount of counted words — instead of incredible content — is a fanciful effort aimed at non-writers.