Cheating at NaNoWriMo – why?

ace of hearts cheatFor me part of the appeal of NaNoWriMo is its simplicity – write 50,000 words in November. It is clear, it isn’t 49,999 words nor is it October – December. It is a measure of you the writer versus time to produce (at least part of) a draft of a novel.

You may fail, you may succeed; you could cheat!

Why cheat

This will no doubt come across as a very moralising post – I can see why human nature might lead to cheating but ultimately I believe you cheat yourself. What has surprised me from a quick look at the NaNoWriMo forums is how honest people are about cheating.

There are many reasons why you might cheat:

  • Lazy
  • Genuinely lack of belief in your own ability to do the task
  • You want the bragging rights
  • Something comes up that you can’t ignore and you come close but don’t hit 50,000

What I was astonished by was a post along the lines of ‘I’ve already written 45,000 words, my novel’s really long, I’m going to make sure I win’. And yes, winning gives you some status and a badge and some cheaper software, why not cheat?

I think the web and games have something to answer for: there’s a sense that its ok to cheat in a virtual world to have fun or to show off and it doesn’t really matter, nobody gets hurt. I’m also willing to accept that some people can cheat a NaNoWriMo success then go on to great things. Mostly I think it devalues the whole thing and makes it less symbolic for people like me that may struggle to fit the time in around the day job and real-life.

Maybe the only people you can respect will be the one’s that fail!

If you’re going to cheat

Don’t go on about how clever you’re going to be, just go to Project Gutenberg, download a classic, paste it in then claim the success. Then get out of my sight.


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