Want to Make a Bot That'll Write a Novel? November is the Time to do it.

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November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And this year’s NaNoWriMo will probably play out as it has in the past: people around the world will spend the month trying to write a 50,000 word novel, a few will be good, many will be fine, many will be bad, someone on the internet will document and mock some of the bad ones, and the month will end.

But this year November will also be the second National Novel Generation Month (NaNoGenMo), one of the many brainchildren of hyper-prolific internet artist Darius Kazemi. The goal of NaNoGenMo, which Kazemi started last year with a tweet and a Github repository, is to spend the month (or part of it, or a couple hours right at the end) writing a program that will generate a novel, and then share both the code and the novel(s) it generates. Last year the results included a collection of violence from Homer’s Iliad (in French), a mashup of existing public domain novels, and a 50,000+ word palindrome.

Not everything that emerged last year was, strictly speaking, a novel. But the challenge is just sort of a fun game, and there’s something really cool about watching people figure out different ways to make machines and the internet (a lot of the programs involve scraping from Twitter) generate art. After Jenn Schiffer launched vart.institute (a series on generating paintings with JavaScript) earlier this month, she wrote “For the first time since I was a kid, I felt validated in making art as a software engineer, and others expressed the same feeling.” I can’t say for certain if NaNoGenMo has the same effect on its participants, but I hope so. At the very least, it makes me want to turn tweets into Mallarmé poems.