Best-Selling Books That Started From NaNoWriMo

It’s the end of week 3 of NaNoWriMo and anyone participating might be hitting a slump. But keep your chin up and your hands on the keyboard! Here are some bestselling titles that began as NaNoWriMo projects to keep you motivated through this last week. You can find these full pep-talks at the NaNoWriMo website.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I like to think of NaNo-ing as excavating. You uncover different things at the 30K mark than you do at 10K. Things that felt like desperate, random nonsense on page 72 (the abandoned broken pocket watch, a partially obscured tattoo, that taxidermied marmot on the mantelpiece) are suddenly important and meaningful on page 187. Everything could hinge on the fate of that marmot. Or the marmot may be a red herring. Or perhaps the marmot is just a marmot. You have to keep writing to find out.

Even if you’re an outliner, leave room for the unexpected things to sneak in. Surprises are half the fun, the spontaneous road trips through tangents and subplots. They might end up being more important than you think. And if they’re not, you can always edit them out after November. No one has to know so for now, for this glorious November, you can do whatever you please. It’s your world to create and explore and even destroy if you want.

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Normally I start each writing session by rewriting whatever I wrote in my last session. With Fangirl, my NaNoWriMo project, I picked up wherever I’d left off and kept moving. I never looked back.

What I noticed right away was how easy it was for me to pick up. One of my challenges as an author is staying inside the fictional world I’m creating. I have to write in blocks (at least four hours at a time, at least four days in a row) to make any progress. During NaNoWriMo, I never left the world of the book long enough to lose momentum.

I stayed immersed in the story all month long, and that made everything come so much smoother than usual. I got a much quicker grasp on the main characters and their voices. The plotlines shot forward…

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Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

In the wee hours of last night, when I was trying to figure out how I could possibly give advice to people about their word counts when mine is so abysmal, I realized my problem. I’ve been ignoring my own advice, and everyone else’s too. You know, the “no editing” rule, and the “it’s okay to write a really bad first draft” rule, and the “move around the story as much as you want” rule. I was dutifully handing that advice out to my nano’ing friends, but I wasn’t taking it myself and I was (and am) 5,640 words behind where I should be according to my little spreadsheet. But today, I am going to jump around and write only the fun bits! I’m going to write about food fights, and disastrous sex, and escaping in-laws, and apes with unlimited credit! I’m going to write about roach-infested motel rooms with strippers upstairs and ways of using Jefferson Starship’s “We Built This City” as revenge! (Sorry Grace, I love you, but…)

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The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill

I learned to trust my instincts and my work, and believe that what’s coming down on the page in the beginning is close to what the writer in the back of my brain wants it to be.

Trust your work. Trust your initial vision. Don’t look at your first draft as something that needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the chassis up. Instead, find that backbeat and fill in the details around it. Because I think the best stories are ones that come from the gut, and if you approach that first, purest vision as something easily thrown away, you could end up losing what made it really cool in the first place.

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