Is National Novel Writing Month is big fat waste of time?

“Ready to write a novel? You’ve come to the right place.” So says the NaNo WriMowebsite for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo WriMo, as it is affectionately called. NaNo WriMo challenges people to write 50,000 words of a novel during the 30 days of November. But if you’re a novice writer and think that you’ll come up with 50,000 words of publishable prose, you’ll be in for a big disappointment.

I was sitting in my Query Lab class at Grub Street Writing Center in Boston a few months ago, getting instruction from a top New York literary agent on how to fine tune the query letter I had written in my effort to get some attention for my manuscript, when, with a weary look on her face, the agent said, “I dread getting NaNo WriMo manuscripts.”

Started 16 years ago, NaNo WriMo is said to empower diverse voices in the quest for creativity and publishing success. It also makes literary agents, like the one teaching my class, cringe. At the end of November into December, agents know your manuscripts are coming. They’re already bracing themselves for slap dash work full of clichés, thin plots and plastic characters.

Studies show that NaNo WriMo writers often ignore the website’s official advice about revising work before submitting it to an editor or agent. NaNo WriMo writers take VERY rough drafts and submit them expecting a favorable response.

The reality is that getting the attention of an agent or editor is hard enough after a writer has gotten extensive feedback from readers, instructors, and other writers and has repeatedly revised the manuscript until it is polished.

I’ve heard very few success stories coming out of NaNo WriMo. Very few of these “writers” end up getting the NaNo WriMo version of a manuscript published.

So see NaNo WriMo for what it is: a way for aspiring writers to develop a routine and build a community with other writers., not a way to get published.