Strickland revised or rewrote about two-thirds of his 2004 NaNoWriMo manuscript, Looking Glass. He shopped it around to different agents before selling it to a publisher he met at a science fiction convention. And Sara Gruen, author of the New York Times best-seller Water for Elephants, published her NaNoWriMo novel, Flying Changes, in 2005.
DESPITE SUCCESS STORIES like these, NaNoWriMo is not without its critics. Eric Rosenfield, a computer programmer who runs the literary blog Wet Asphalt, wrote the post, "Why I Hate National Novel Writing Month, and Why You Should Too," claiming the event trivializes novel writing.
Rosenfield emphasizes that he has nothing against the participants and is not attacking their right to write a novel. "It's the attitude that [the creators] take toward it," he says. "The way that they're presenting it indicates to me that they're not taking the idea of writing a novel seriously."
Over the years, NaNoWriMo has grown beyond its original purpose of simply encouraging people to write. For the past three years, organizers have donated half of their net profits (NaNoWriMo has an online store that sells products; it’s a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that accepts donations, and writers can be sponsored much like runners or walkers can be for charity races) to Room to Read, a group dedicated to building libraries in rural areas of Southeast Asia. And in 2005, Baty and his friends launched NaNoWriMo’s K–12 equivalent, called the Young Writers Program. Teachers and students set individual word-count goals and use the event as a way to create excitement about writing.
Despite the changes to and the growing popularity of NaNoWriMo, Baty insists that its main purpose remains simple yet powerful. “People just sometimes see for the first time that people have a story to tell, and that they have the perfect voice to tell it,” he says. “This model of monthlong creativity for everyone has an amazing potential to transform the world.”