Success Stories from National Novel Writing Month

November 16, 2015 | M. Elwood

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During National Novel Writing Month, people around the world are encouraged to stop thinking about writing a novel and actually do it. Between November 1-30, participants complete a 50,000 word novel. In Toronto, 1,655 writers are hard at work on their books. To these people I say: you're doing great! Keep it up!

If you get frustrated while you're writing think of these stories:

Art of crash landing Fangirl Forest of hands and teeth Lock in

The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo
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Melissa DeCarlo stopped writing when she turned 40 and had not yet had a book published. In 2009, one of her friends told her about NaNoWriMo and she participated. More important than the quality of her work (she describes it as "craptastic") was that the experience rekindled her love of writing. Her very well-reviewed debut novel was published in September 2015. 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
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Rowell had written two books before November 2011. She was worried that NaNoWriMo would be too intense and stressful, but she decided to participate anyway. Fangirl is the result.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
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First time novelist Ryan began her bestselling zombie trilogy for National Novel Writing Month in 2006. She did not complete 50,000 words during the month, but she was inspired to keep writing and completed the first draft of the book the following April.

Lock In by John Scalzi
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Faced with a December 1 deadline for a novel he hadn't written, award-winning Scalzi participated in NaNoWriMo in 2013. During the month he wrote the bulk of his bestseller, Lock In. He has said that the thought of writing 2,500 words each day made the idea of completing his novel more manageable.

Night circus Shades of milk and honey Water for elephants Wool omnibus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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Erin Morgenstern participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2003 when she was only able to finish 15000 words. She tried again in 2004, "winning" that time with what she describes as a "sprawling mess". In 2005, she was stumped about what her characters should do next, so she sent them to the circus. The circus idea resonated with her and the following two Novembers she expanded upon it, producing much of her popular novel.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
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Shades of Milk and Honey, Kowal's first published novel, was written during November 2006. After spending 10 years on her first (unpublished) novel, she realized that having a deadline and setting a goal of 2,000 words per day, focuses her mind on the writing process. Shades of Milk and Honey was nominated for Best Novel at the 2011 Nebula Awards. 

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
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Gruen spent two National Novel Writing Months perfecting her book about a Depression-era circus.

Wool by Hugh Howey
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Although he had published one book through a small publisher, Howey had planned that Wool would be a short story and released it on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing. It was a great success and readers began asking for more. During NaNoWriMo he completed the next three stories in the Wool Omnibus.

Purists will quibble that most of these writers broke the rules of NaNoWriMo by expanding upon previous writing efforts--taboo in this challenge--but I find it inspiring that their books were written and that NaNoWriMo was responsible.

Visit NaNoWriMo for additional information and the complete list of works written during the challenge that have been published either by traditional publishers or self-published. 

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