For most people, when November draws nigh, it brings tidings of crispy autumn weather, American Thanksgiving, annoying Christmas commercials that start airing way too early in the season, gunpowder, treason, and plots. But for some, November means that it is time to dust off our writing caps, because National Novel Writing Month has arrived.
NaNoWriMo welcomes the wannabes, the amateurs, the professionals, the enthusiasts, and the dabblers with equal verve to its challenge: Write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Most of the books churned out remain unsung, thrown in a drawer or lost to the ether when it comes time to start a second draft. But others toddle their way into the world as reasonably successful published novels. Here is the cream of the crop.
4. Time Off for Good Behavior, Lani Diane Rich
Time Off for Good Behavior is probably the least recognizable title on this list, but it holds a special distinction of its own: Lani Diane Rich was a the first unpublished author to ever sell and publish a project written during NaNoWriMo, making her NaNo’s version of Lana Turner getting discovered in a soda shoppe. Time Off for Good Behavior is the contemporary tale of Wanda Lane, a funny, self-deprecating heroine who is trying to reinvent her frazzled and out-of-control life. Rich has gone on to publish nine more novels.
3. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
Your mother is reading The Night Circus. Your Aunt Gladys is reading The Night Circus. That girl who rides the subway at the same time as you every morning and always steals your seat is reading The Night Circus. It’s hard to deny that The Night Circus seems to be everywhere right now — and after spending seven weeks straight on the New York Times bestseller list, this is not a shocker. And it started its life as a NaNo novel! Erin Morgenstern says that the phantasmagorical fantasy about a magical travelling circus in Victorian London was first born as a tangent in her 2005 NaNo endeavor.
2. Water For Elephants, Sara Gruen
Water For Elephants is the most famously published NaNoWriMo novel, especially after the 2011 film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson. A #1 bestseller in the New York Times, I have heard more than once that it is a book with the potential to become a classic. Even Laura Miller, who wrote a highly buzzed article for Salon tearing poor little NaNoWriMo to shreds in 2010, admitted that Water For Elephants was a gem. The book is a historical fiction about circus workers in the 1930s (what’s with NaNo and the circus!?), and still remains NaNoWriMo’s biggest success story.
1. Cinder, Marissa Meyer
Marissa Meyer not only wrote the first draft to her debut novel Cinder during NaNoWriMo, but also two of its sequels. That’s a whopping 150,000 words in thirty days. Cinder, a YA science fiction that reimagines Cinderella as a cyborg in futuristic Beijing, has been extremely well received, and its sequel Scarlet will be released in February 2013. With her seamless blend of wit, campy sci fi trappings, and romanticism worthy of a fairy tale, Meyer has quickly established herself as an author worth watching. She also maintains one of the most entertaining and accessible author blogs I have ever seen on the internet.