Your challenge this month, if you choose to accept it, is to write a novel. Yes, a full-length novel. Not a short story. Not a novella. We’re talking 50,000 words, which equates to about 1,667 words daily. If you think about it, November is a fantastic time for National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. With days growing shorter and temperatures dropping, the writing desk seems an awfully cozy spot.
While many ambitious writers accept the NaNoWriMo challenge every year, some have penned drafts masterful enough to actually become published. Some of these books were written over the course of more than just one NaNoWriMo. Others may have begun as NaNoWriMo projects, but were finished or dramatically edited later. All of them, however, at least in part owe their existence to NaNoWriMo.
This fanciful novel is a Prohibition-era circus story that follows Jacob Jankowski, a poor orphan, as he joins the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth—and finds love. After being laid off, Gruen began to write fiction full time. Whether or not she’s productive, she forces herself to sit at her desk every day. She admits that the hardest part is just getting a draft on paper. Her advice for writers? “Stop thinking, start writing.”
In Fangirl, Cath and her twin sister, Wren, are diehard fans of the Simon Snow book series—that is until Wren starts to grow out of the Snow phase and begins pulling away from her sister. Cath is forced to live on her own and forge her own independent way forward. Rowell decided to try out the NaNoWriMo challenge to fast forward through the first draft doldrums. During that time, she wrote at least 2,000 words every day, and warned her husband and kids that she’d be a little M.I.A. While she didn’t finish her whole Fangirl draft in that month, she describes it as “some of the bravest writing” she’s ever done.
Another NaNoWriMo circus tale, The Night Circus tells the story of two rival magicians in the nighttime Le Cirque des Rêves. Celia and Marco are young and competitive, pitted against each other nightly upon the stage. In the midst of their rivalry, however, they begin to fall in love. Morgenstern began her novel in 2005, and worked on it during two NaNoWriMos in 2006 and 2007. She finally wrapped up the book in 2010 and publication came soon after.
A sci-fi survivalist story at heart. Wool began as a single short story that Howey self-published online back in 2011. When it drew hordes of fans, Howey added four more installments and the runaway success continued. Wool details a future civilization forced to reside inside of a silo dug into the earth after the planet is ruined. Howey is also a fan of the NaNoWriMo constant writing mentality. “The only way to amass a pile of words into a book is to shovel some every single day. No days off,” he writes on his website.
Whether you’re a book lover spending the cooler November days reading voraciously or a writer tackling a full-on novel, we wish you a most fruitful NaNoWriMo!
The Book Lover’s Calendar offers insightful recommendations for readers of all interests. Crime fiction and history come together in A Murder on the Appian Way, Steven Saylor’s lively novel set in ancient Rome. Wordsmiths will devour The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget’s Thesaurus. Plus James Boice’s dark and engrossing basketball novel MVP and Michael Burlingame’s definitive Abraham Lincoln: A Life. And new elements this year include opening lines and famous last words of great books, literary quizzes, and surprising facts about our favorite authors.