National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) started in 1999. In this annual event, writers are challenged to complete a 50,000 word (or more) novel from November 1 to 11:59 PM on November 30. The organization’s site allows you to create an account, post what you’ve written, and see your word count metre go up and up and up.
(It’s not too late to start, FYI, if you’re feeling creative this month.)
But while you may not have heard of NaNoWriMo you have probably heard of the next five books. While they didn’t exactly win a monetary prize, the next five authors and their books got a lot more out of it than some self-satisfaction.
Here are five novels you probably didn’t know came to fruition thanks to this month.
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
As described by the book itself, Water for Elephants is a story of Jacob and the “memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death.”
It’s a page-turner about love, trust, and ultimately, survival.
Water for Elephants would later be the number 1 on the New York Time’s Bestseller list in July 2007.
You’ve also probably seen the movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, but what you probably didn’t know is this book-to-screen story was actually also started during NaNoWrimo.
Gruen would later participate another year to write Ape House.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
It is a story about magic and love set in a Victorian London on a travelling circus. It is a circus that appears out of nowhere, from sunset to sunrise. It is a war that has raged even before the two protagonists were born. It is a story filled with ethereal settings and a fantastical story. It is also a story written during NaNoWrimo.
According to Morgenstern, her first attempt at NaNoWriMo was in 2003. She failed. By 2004 and 2005 she succeeded. And one of her successes was The Night Circus.
As mentioned on her site Morgenstern believes “NaNoWriMo is a brilliant idea and gives you two magical things: company and a deadline. Before NaNo [she] was the sort of person who would write a page and hate it so [she’d] stop, when really you need to keep going and write more pages.” For Morgenstern participating in NaNoWriMo helped teach her this.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Linh Cinder is a cyborg girl who has no recollection of her past. When a deadly plague sweeps her home in a future-version of China, Cinder will stop at nothing to save her sister. Couple that plot with her sudden interest in her royal prince, her survival amidst the impending war between the Moon and Earth, as well as figuring out who (or what) she really is, the first instalment in the four-part series puts a creative twist on the traditional tale of Cinderella.
But what’s shocking is books one to three (Scarlet and Cress) were also written during NaNoWrimo.
Way to show dedication!
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
A fence has always surrounded Mary’s village. A fence that protects Mary from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But then one day that fence is breached and Mary must make the decision between her future and her village.
Filled with suspense, questions, and even love, this YA novel is nothing short of a literary adventure.
And even Ryan admits that if it weren’t for NaNoWriMo, it would have been a story never shared.
As she writes on her blog, “That November, I came home every day after work and I wrote (well, almost every day). Because I expected it of myself, because I enjoyed watching my word meter tick up, and because I had other people watching that word meter tick up too. Like I said, I loved writing Forest and NaNo gave me a reason to indulge in that love.”
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Ultimately the story is brilliant in its character development.
“[W]riting every day and writing so intensely helped me immerse myself in the story and get to know the characters much more quickly than usual,” said Rowell.
And while Rainbow wrote Attachments and Eleanor & Park before reading Fangirl, she credits NaNoWriMo for pushing her to create the fun story that is Fangirl. As Rowell points out she didn’t finish her book in November, she met the word count, but didn’t finish the story until spring. But she also states that she kept almost every word she had written during NaNoWriMo.
Would you try the NaNoWriMo challenge?
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