The Help Desk: Will no one rid me of these troublesome novelists?

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

It's almost November, and soon the seats at Bedlam will be taken up with wannabe novelists instead of the usual wannabe screenwriters. I just really don't get this "NaNoWriMo" thing. No, more than that; I'm kind of offended by it.

Oh, you wrote a novel? In thirty days? Good for you, slim. Here's an idea: why don't you spend more than thirty days on it, then hire an editor, then send out some query letters, then get it published, and then maybe you've written a novel. If I was a derrickman on an oil rig, I'd be plenty pissed if someone half-assed their way through thirty days on the job and gave themselves that title. You're a novelist? The fuck you are, buddy!

It's keyboard masturbation. Sure, people can write whatever they want in thirty days, and that's great, but isn't calling the resulting spew a "novel" really presumptuous? Real, actual writers are toiling to make real, readable books, and they deserve your money, not your me-toos. Is there anything a person can do to discourage this dumb internet fad?

Steve, Belltown

Dear Steve,

First: Who doesn’t like masturbation? (Answer: Catholics and men with hooks for hands.) Second: Here are three current fads more dumb than NaNoWriMo: artisan salt, people in their 20s writing memoirs, clowns who linger.

While it’s kind of you to clutch your pearls on behalf of published authors, I doubt many NaNoWriMoers actually consider themselves to be novelists any more than I consider myself to be a Trump supporter after grabbing my own pussy. (I wanted to see how the other half lives.) Writing 50,000 shitty-but-coherent words in a month is pretty hard. As you noted, writing an actual readable novel in a month is nearly impossible. Only a fool wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

In general, marathon activities like NaNoWriMo (or running actual marathons) should be viewed as a trendy new take on self flagellation. These trends serve a greater purpose: they help mediocre people better appreciate the hard work that goes into producing something truly great.

But that doesn’t address your question, which was: Is there anything a person can do to discourage this dumb internet fad? Yes, Steve, there is. Any time someone brings up their NaNoWriMo novel in your presence, grab your pussy and start talking about the memoir you wrote in college.