Every November, hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world buckle down for National Novel Writing Month, with the mind-blowing goal of writing a novel in -- you guessed it -- a month. No one expects them to be good words, but it’s an exercise in determination to get 50,000 words on paper so you have something to polish into a shiny diamond through revisions.
With only a week left in this whirlwind month of wordsmithing, some participants have likely reached the panic point when you compare the number of words you still have to write with the days left to accomplish it. Some of you overwhelmed writers might even be thinking of giving up. But don’t despair - any progress you have made on your novel is a win!
And though it may look like a jumbled mess now, you might just have a bestseller on your hands. To help stoke the fire in your heart, we’ve listed nine popular YA novels that started as NaNo projects, and for further inspiration, we’ve included some NaNoWriMo words of wisdom from the authors.
"Anna and the French Kiss" by Stephanie Perkins (2007 NaNo)
From a 2015 Pep Talk: “Keep writing until you reach the end. If you get stuck, take your protagonist down a different path. This isn’t the draft that you’re going to publish. This is the draft that will help you figure out what story you’re really trying to tell.
Novels aren’t written by muses who come down through the ceiling and shoot magic through your fingers and out onto your laptop’s keyboard. Before NaNoWriMo, some teensy part of me still believed that because writing is a creative act, it should feel easy. But fairies don’t write novels. They’re written with one simple equation:
Time + Work = Novel”
"Cinder," "Scarlet," and "Cress" by Marissa Meyer (2008 NaNo)
From a 2012 Pep Talk:
“Anyone who has ever written “The End” on a manuscript knows that, sometimes, inspiration eludes us. No one looks forward to those lulls in the writing process, but they are natural, and they can be overcome. These are the times when we must proceed on willpower and caffeine and the unflappable confidence that each word we write is one word closer to a finished novel. I can promise that, tough as those times may be, they often lead to some of our most proud and beautiful writing moments.”
"Rampant" by Diana Peterfreund (2006 NaNo)
From a 2010 blog post:
“Don’t be afraid to hurt your characters and make them suffer. No one wants to read a book about a happy, flawless person who never has any problems. It’s boring. They want to read about someone overcoming their problems, or dealing with their flaws. Conflict drives a story. Let the bad thing happen. Even better, let your hero be somewhat responsible for it.”
"Crewel" by Gennifer Albin (2010 NaNo)
From a 2012 NaNoWriMo Pep Talk: “It sounds so simple, but it’s true. I wrote a book. I put butt in chair and got from beginning to end. Oh, there’s the nasty business of revision and editing in there, too. But the one thing I know undeniably links me to people like John Green, Piers Anthony, and Philip Pullman is that we all wrote books, and all those books started as drafts much like the one you’re working on right now.
How many times as a writer have you gotten so caught up in the next step of the writing process that you lose sight of the real finish-line: getting to the end? Are you suffering from a case of go-back-and-fix-it, or worse, page-perfectionitis? Stop worrying about editing or finding the perfect word, and just get to the end.”
"Token of Darkness" by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (2007 NaNo)
From a 2011 blog post: “MAKE THE PUSH. Wherever you are. Don't give up. And stop wasting time playing Facebook games and reading blog posts (like this one) because you feel so behind. Go write!”
"The Forest of Hands and Teeth" by Carrie Ryan (2006 NaNo)
From a 2012 blog post: “Good luck to all the NaNo participants out there: write boldly, write with passion, put your writing first but be kind and gentle with yourself if you don’t hit that 50k word mark by the end of the month. Sometimes, something like NaNo is a tool to help you reach that bigger win.”
"Fangirl" by Rainbow Rowell (2011 Nano)
From a 2013 NaNoWriMo Pep Talk: “Here’s something that really shocked me during my revisions: I kept almost every word I wrote during NaNoWriMo.
That 50,000-word pile I made wasn’t a mess at all. It’s some of the bravest writing I’ve ever done, and it includes my all-time favorite character, a guy I think I would’ve second-guessed to death under normal circumstances. NaNoWriMo helped me push past so many of my doubts and insecurities and bad habits. And I think that’s partly why I love "Fangirl" so much now—because I remember how swept away I felt when I was writing it.”
"Side Effects May Vary" by Julie Murphy (2011 NaNo)
From a 2013 blog post:
“Man, I love NaNo. To me, it’s the Ironman Triathalon of writing—but with more junk food provisions—because if you’ve completed it, you wear it as a badge of honor. Plus, I thrive on a deadline. Without a deadline, I fall headfirst into my Netflix queue. And, ya know, the constant social media peer pressure doesn’t hurt.”
"Alienated" by Melissa Landers (2009 NaNo)
From a 2014 blog post:
“I had faith that there was a great story buried beneath those 50,000 hastily-written words, but I didn’t know how to unearth it. No one had ever taught me to write fiction, let alone edit it. So I spent the next year and a half in a constant state of revision, gleaning what I could from self-editing texts and critique partners. I rewrote—not revised, but actually rewrote—"Alienated" five times before it sold. … Most importantly, don’t give up. If I had quit after my second rewrite—or my fourth—I wouldn’t be able to see "Alienated" on the shelves when it launches next month. My characters were worth the effort… and so are yours!”
We hope the success of these writers inspires you. Now get back to writing!