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5 Successful NANOWRIMO Novels and Tips for Your Own
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5 Successful NaNoWriMo Novels (And Tips for Your Own)

It's November, meaning it's National Novel Writing Month -- a.k.a. NaNoWriMo! For participating writers, this month can feel productive yet also stressful. Maybe you've been trying to motivate yourself to bring that great idea to life. The only issue is between your job, family, and other hobbies, you can't seem to find the time. Enter NaNoWriMo! Let's talk about NaNoWriMo's history, some novels you may know that began as NaNoWriMo projects, and why you should give it a shot for yourself.

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is the 30 days of November when writers of any experience level try to write a novel. You can set any goal of words per day, but most writers aim for 50,000 words by the end of the month.

So, every day in November, writers sit down to work on their project of choice. Not every NaNoWriMo has to be a novel; some people write short stories, essays, or poetry. The goal of NaNoWriMo is consistency and holding yourself accountable to write something that you're proud of. Many participants even self-publish or get their novels traditionally published when they're finished.

We're going to look at a few success stories (pun intended) and see if you recognize any of these NaNoWriMo novels!

Book cover for "Cinder" showing a woman robot's foot in a red high heel shoe
"Cinder" by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Remember how I said some people don't write novels during NaNoWriMo? People like Marissa Meyer write THREE novels... in one month! She wrote over 150,000 words in one November to create what has become known as the Lunar Chronicles.

Cinder, the first book in her series, is a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella. This dystopian novel begins with Lunar people watching as a deadly plague destroys the earth's population. Cinder, a cyborg, crosses paths with Prince Kai. With some forbidden love and a struggle for freedom, this book is definitely inspired by the classic fairy tale.

Book cover of "Water for Elephants" showing a circus tent with a person peering inside.
"Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Many of you reading this have probably heard of or even read Water for Elephants before. Isn't it amazing to think that this now bestseller and Hollywood film started out as a NaNoWriMo project?!

Set during the Great Depression, this novel follows the protagonist Jacob Jankowski whose life changes as he jumps onto a traveling train. Jacob is almost finished with his veterinary degree, so he's put in charge of the circus animals. His biggest issue seems to be Rosie, an untrainable elephant, but he discovers a way to reach her. Meanwhile, Jacob meets Marlena, who seems too beautiful and kind to be married to August, a cruel animal trainer. As the novel progresses, the reader will find Jacob's story to be filled with love and positivity despite the bad hand he was dealt.

Book cover of "A Blade So Black" showing a Black teenage girl holding knives.
"A Blade So Black" by L.L. McKinney

A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

If you're looking for another fairytale retelling, A Blade So Black might be perfect for you! McKinney creates a world similar to Alice in Wonderland except with a Black teenage protagonist who investigates the poisoning of her mentor. In this novel, Alice has trained to fight the monsters in Wonderland with supernatural weapons and warrior skills. However, in real life, Alice deals with her helicopter mom, an intense best friend, and her dropping grades. She needs to be able to separate Wonderland and life in Atlanta, but it proves to be quite challenging. This is the first of McKinney's Nightmare series, so if you read it and enjoy it, there are several more books to enjoy as well!

Book cover of "Side Effects May Vary" showing a black background and multicolored words with various sketches of a pill bottle, ballet slippers, a ferris wheel, and a checkmark.
"Side Effects May Vary" by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

This novel may give you the same energy as The Fault in Our Stars. In Side Effects May Vary, Alice, a 16-year-old girl, starts making a bucket list when she is diagnosed with leukemia. She even gets her best friend, Harvey, to help her achieve everything on her bucket list. However, as Alice is seeking revenge and enjoyment for the last time, she learns that she is in remission -- her disease is weakening. Believe it or not, this is a romance and young adult novel that focuses on hope, love, and positivity.

Book cover of "Fangirl" showing a girl typing on her computer on top of the title and a boy staring up at her.
"Fangirl" by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

If you are still looking for more young adult novels, you should enjoy this one! Fangirl is a coming-of-age story about two sisters whose bond over being extreme fans of Simon Snow holds them together. Through good and bad, at least Cath and Wren can escape into the Simon Snow fanfiction, movies, online forums, etc. The only problem is that now that they're about to go to college, the twins have to learn how to be less dependent on each other. Cath is left to figure out the world for herself -- her roommate's ever-present boyfriend, her judgmental professor, her annoying classmates, and her family. In this novel, Cath learns how to navigate her new life, but can she leave Simon Snow behind?

NaNoWriMo Novel Tips

So, you've seen these NaNoWriMo novels that have turned into bestsellers... Now how do you do that for yourself? Here are a few tips and pieces of advice for your own NaNoWriMo process.

  1. Don't just write your novel in November! Even though National Novel Writing Month happens to be in November, there is no need to limit yourself. The holidays are a busy time of year for everybody, and maybe you'll have time to write your novel over the summer. If you go here to NaNoWriMo's website, you can create a free account and fill in all the information about your current or future project to start whenever you want.
  2. Use the website's community features. Are you the only one that knows about your novel? You need someone to hold you accountable! But if you tell a friend or family member who isn't a writer, they won't understand. If you're looking for a writing community, look no further. NaNoWriMo allows you to search by region so you can connect with other writers in your area. It also suggests local events at libraries or recreational centers!
  3. Set realistic goals for yourself. Attempting a novel is intimidating no matter how experienced you are. If you know that you tend to procrastinate or are a major perfectionist like myself, don't set your word count per day too high. For my first NaNoWriMo, I targeted 30,000 words for the entire month of November -- so 1,000 words per day. This was when I was in high school, so I knew my days would be quite full. If you make your goal too unobtainable, this will make you feel like a failure; writing is supposed to be enjoyable!
  4. Start small! This ties into my last tip, but don't feel like you have to write a whole novel right away! Maybe you want to start out with poetry, a short story, or a creative essay. A novel is a huge investment of time and energy, and even if it's something that feeds you, it can be overwhelming on top of the rest of life's responsibilities. Take baby steps with something like a novel that really matters to you!

At Discover Books, we always hope that you're learning new things and discovering more about the book world. If NaNoWriMo is a completely new concept to you, check out their website to learn more. Looking for some inspiration and motivation to actually write? Check out our blog on book recommendations to achieve your goals. If you're not a writer at all but enjoy reading, support NaNoWriMo projects by reading the ones I mentioned and others. You can find countless NaNoWriMo novels online and get a copy for yourself at Discover Books. Happy writing and happy reading!


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