What is NaNo?

“What is NaNo?”

This is a conversation I had with my imaginary friend, Hazleton Chesterford, after a recent The Writing Journey™ (“ThWriJo™”) meeting.
“Well, obviously,” I said, “it’s short for National Novel, so when people ask, ‘Are you doing NaNo this year?’ they’re asking if you’re doing “National Novel,” as if that makes any kind of sense.”
Also, did you notice that if people do say WriMo, they say it like…”Rye-Mo,” as if they pronounce “writing” as “Rye-ting.” I certainly didn’t notice.
“But what IS NaNo?” Hazleton insisted. “Is it:
A) A kind of challenge/performance art where you see how much typing you can do within thirty days
B) An attempt to see if you can create something shaped like a novel that is not totally horrible, confined within the bounds of a thirty day parcel of time
I frowned at this point, possibly owing to the dodgy formatting of the question.
If it’s the former, then it makes sense to prepare. Make notes. Make outlines. Generate characters. Create plots. Perhaps type up a few practice drafts while you’re at it. Make it something that can’t be confined by the space of a mere thirty days. Scoff at the concept of a “month” and simply use that set of weeks to hone a vision to razor-sharp prefection.
If it’s the latter, then writing for word count on a strict time limit while celebrating and preparing for holidays is probably not going to result in the next The Great Gatsby. Actually, since The Great Gatsby is dreadful, perhaps it will.
“In my opinion,” I answered, after careful consideration, “it is what you make of it.”
Hazleton fell silent for a moment.
“I wonder if it’s related in any way to the fact that so many new novels appear on Smashwords in December.”