#NaGrafWriMo: Welcome to National Paragraph Writing Month!

November 2, 2015 | 4 books mentioned 8 2 min read


If you are a writer with a Facebook or Twitter account, you surely know that we are already two days into National Novel Writing Month — or as it’s known in the Twitterverse #NaNoWriMo — the month in which writers across the globe commit to writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Last year, 325,142 lunatics writers took part. They’ve done pretty well, too. According to the NaNoWriMo website, since the program started in 1999, it has spawned more than 250 published novels, including bestsellers like Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

covercovercoverHere at The Millions, we’re a little slower on the draw. Our longtime contributing editor Garth Risk Hallberg took seven years to write his debut novel City on Fire, which came out in October. That’s fairly quick compared to our staff writer Bill Morris, who confessed in a piece last week that it took him 16 years to publish his first novel, Motor City. Even the relative speed demons on our staff, like Emily St. John Mandel and Claire Cameron, have gone more than a year without publishing a book.

With this slacker history in mind, we would like to propose a kinder, gentler alternative to NaNoWriMo, to be called National Paragraph Writing Month, during which we all strive to write one truly worthwhile paragraph. (Garth will probably have to write two paragraphs because his books are 900 pages long, but the rest of us are sticking with just the one, thanks.)

We are launching #NaGrafWriMo in recognition of all the writers with jobs and family obligations, and those who just spend an ungodly amount of time on the Internet, who find it hard to read a whole book in a month, much less write one. But we are also embarking on this new program because we have found that, for most writers, it can take more talent, determination, and hard work to write one good paragraph than an entire lousy book.

Unlike NaNoWriMo, we won’t be able to offer online webinars or pep talks from bestselling authors like Diana Gabaldon or Charlaine Harris. We talked about maybe doing #NaGrafWriMo coffee mugs and T-shirts, but sadly, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, either. We do have achievement badges, though! Here are a few we will be awarding:

  • The Adverb Avenger: This badge will be awarded to any #NaGrafWriMo writer who cuts two or more unnecessary adverbs from his or her paragraph.
  • The Gustave Flaubert: This badge will be awarded to any #NaGrafWriMo writer who spends a morning writing a sentence and an afternoon revising it.
  • The Do-Over: This badge will be awarded to any #NaGrafWriMo writer who recognizes that every word he or she has written so far is total shit and has to be written over again from scratch.

I was tipped off in advance about the launch of #NaGrafWriMo, and started my paragraph at the stroke of midnight on November 1. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

I could barely see the sun as it lazily yawned at yet another gray wet dawn. I longed for the warm blanket of cigarette smoke. The phone rang.

I know, I know, it’s pretty rough. It’s underdeveloped and a little derivative, and already I can see an adverb I need to cut. But it’s only November 2, right? I’ve got 29 more days to work out the kinks.

Start working on those paragraphs, Millions readers. Go, #NaGrafWriMo!

Image Credit: Pixabay.

is a staff writer for The Millions and a contributing editor for Poets & Writers Magazine. His nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Salon, and The Economist. His fiction has appeared in Tin House, December, The Southampton Review, and The Cortland Review. His debut novel, Blithedale Canyon, is due out from Regal House in June, 2022


  1. #NaGraphWriMo is a pretty brilliant idea. Especially for a lot of writers I know who just can’t write fast, for whom every sentence and paragraph needs to be absolutely perfect before they can move on.

  2. I’ve participated in every #NaSenWriMo since the beginning, and it’s a great exercise for the aspiring writer that I just finished.

  3. Alright, this is funny and so on, etc fine.

    But the notion of “the writers with jobs and family obligations, and those who just spend an ungodly amount of time on the Internet, who find it hard to read a whole book in a month, much less write one” is even possible is ridiculous.

    I’m sorry, but if you’re struggling to read a single book a month, and that’s a stretch for you, you really shouldn’t be a writer. Do you even like the very media that you’re producing?

    Sorry if I’m analyzing a glib statement too stringently but it really shocked me.

  4. It figures my daughter would post this. She knows I would open and read the article. As two writing junkies, we tend to find 100 ideas that scream to be put into words, and 100 excuses why we haven’t done it yet. Here lies the challenge…you’re on Kate!

  5. NaNoWriMo is all wrong. It’s not about writing. It’s about less-than-average writers taking the piss out of the craft by saturating the writing scene with their shitty “10K IN ONE DAY!!!” These people then pat their own backs for being able to keyboard smash out all their drivel. It’s fucked.

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