November 1st marks the start of National Novel Writing Month, also known by the abbreviation NaNoWriMo. Over the course of November, participants are encouraged to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which breaks down to about 1,667 words per day to stay on track. The goal isn’t to have a perfect novel, just to write. A planned out plot is not required. In fact, participants are encouraged to fly by the seat of their pants, discovering where their story will lead them as they write. In the end, the point is simply that you are writing.
For anyone who has ever had any interest in writing something – whether it’s a memoir, science fiction story, fantasy, mystery, or even poetry – NaNoWriMo is the perfect way to encourage yourself to finally put your ideas onto paper (or Word document). Like many people, there has always been a small part of me that dreamed I would one day write a bestselling novel. Although I’ve never successfully completed a story from start to finish, I can say that my first year participating in NaNoWriMo I completed the challenge of writing 50,000 words, which amounted to over 120 pages. While I ultimately decided to abandon the story rather than re-work it into something readable, I’m proud of what I accomplished. This will be my fifth year taking part in NaNoWriMo and, although I have yet to reach the 50,000 word goal again, I have further developed several ideas that might one day be great stories and, most importantly, had a blast pushing myself creatively for thirty straight days.
While I have yet to complete a story, there are hundreds of other participants who have gone on to transform their NaNoWriMo projects into published novels, some of them even bestsellers. Believe it or not, these popular stories all started out during NaNoWriMo:
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Set primarily in the 1930s, Water for Elephants is about a young man named Jacob who leaves college after the death of his parents and joins the Benzini Brothers circus as a veterinarian. Following his time working for the Benzini Brother show, Water for Elephants doesn’t shy away from the dark and gritty side of the circus, including the abuse of both the performers and animals. Learn more here.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Night Circus, as the name implies, is about a magical traveling circus that is only open at night. The story is about two illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete with one another, using the circus as their stage, until only one is left standing. Learn more here.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Fans of The Lunar Chronicles may be surprised to learn that Cinder (along with Scarlett and Cress) was first drafted during NaNoWriMo. Cinder is a futuristic re-telling of Cinderella. Instead of a pumpkin carriage and glass slippers, though, this Cinderella is a cyborg mechanic living in New Beijing. Learn more here.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell is an incredibly successful YA author, and easily one of her most popular books is Fangirl. Fangirl centers on a girl named Cath during her first year of college. Unlike her twin sister, Wren, who is having a blast making new friends, going to parties, and building a life separate from her sister, Cath has a hard time adjusting to all the changes. As a way to cope with the stress and anxiety brought on by college, Cath retreats into the fan fiction she writes inspired by the fictional book series Simon Snow (similar to Harry Potter). Learn more here.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
This is a dystopian story about a teenage girl named Mary. Mary's village is surrounded by a fence used to keep out the Unconsecrated, zombie-like people who are always trying to break through the barrier and prey on the villagers. One bite from the Unconsecrated is all it takes to become infected and turn into one of them. One day, the Unconsecrated breach the fence and Mary must venture beyond the fence that has always protected her in order to survive. Learn more here.
To sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo, visit www.nanonwrimo.org and create a free account. Once you are logged in, you can announce your novel, track your progress each day by entering your word count, and use the forums to share and borrow ideas from other participants.
Good luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo this year!