How many of us have ever thought it would be pretty cool to write a novel? Most of us, right? Maybe you’ve had a story idea you’ve been carrying around for years, revisiting it from time to time to add a detail or think through a character, like a pensive twist at an unsolved Rubik’s Cube. Or, maybe you just like the idea of having something that you’ve created and completed yourself. Whatever category you find yourself falling into, November is National Novel Writing Month, and the perfect time to get writing.
Known to insiders as NaNoWriMo (na-noh-RYE-moh), it’s an annual challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. It’s free to join and open to any adult: the only requirements are that you must start with fresh material and only work from midnight on November 1st to 11:59pm on November 30th. If you’re under 18, NaNo runs a special Young Writer’s Program for kids and teens with slightly different word goals.
If 50,000 words sounds like a huge number, you’re right. It works out to 1667 words a day, about the same as five typed pages of 12-point double-spaced text. It’s nearly impossible to write anything other than a very rough first draft of a novel, and that’s completely by design: to get to 50,000 words, you have to shut off your inner editor and become a high-velocity writing machine for 30 days. It doesn’t have to be good. It just has to be.
So what do you win if you reach the goal of 50,000 words? Mainly bragging rights and the satisfaction of knowing you were able to complete the challenge. There’s no monetary prize or anything, but you do get coupons for some writing products. And at our NaNoWriMo 101 program on October 16th, Diane Scarponi, the Municipal Liaison for the CT Shoreline area, informed us that one particularly sweet coupon from CreateSpace entitles you to two free printed paperback copies of your novel if you hit the 50k word goal. Hooray!
For many NaNoWriMo writers, two copies isn’t enough: they want to share their novel with the world. Those who want to publish their work – after editing the daylights out of that first draft, of course – have a choice between self-publishing and traditional publishing. (It’s the same in the music industry: think musicians selling CDs out of a van, versus getting a contract with a major label.) It’s a tough game, but lots of authors who started their drafts during NaNoWriMo have gotten their finished projects into print via traditional publishers, and several of those novels have even gone on to become bestsellers.
The following titles all started as NaNoWriMo drafts, and against the odds, they’ve been published by major publishing houses and have made it onto the bestseller lists – and onto our shelves here at the library. Maybe you’ve already read them!
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Perhaps the best known NaNo novel of them all, this was made into a film a few years back that starred Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Another circus-themed read that has been making the book discussion rounds since it came out in 2011.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The first installment of a super-popular YA series that features cyborgs, plagues, and outer space. You’ve got our attention!
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The author of the bestselling Eleanor & Park didn’t rest on her laurels after it began appearing on bestseller lists. No, she decided to write 100,000 words during NaNoWriMo 2011.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Perkins’ debut novel and the first in a series of three young adult romances, NPR called it one of the best teen reads for 2010.
The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough
Before you start thinking NaNoWriMo writers are only doing chick lit and teen books, you have to know there’s some hardcore science fiction writers out there cracking their knuckles and then frantically typing. Hough’s Dire Earth Cycle, a trilogy of sci-fi thrillers starting with The Darwin Elevator, got its start during NaNoWriMo.
Are you doing NaNoWriMo in 2014? Let us know in the comments, or stop by during one of our scheduled Write-In Wednesdays on 11/5 from 5-9 pm and 11/19 from 5-9 pm!