Written by Natasha Effendy & Zafra Usman Anfas

 

The term “NaNoWriMo” might confuse you if you’re not too deep into the writing scene. For starters, this abbreviation stands for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place annually in the month of November. Participants are required to write a manuscript of 50,000 words from the 1st of November up until the 30th. Since its launch on the 1st of July a decade ago, NaNoWriMo has fostered a thriving community of active writers. NaNoWriMo has also established itself as a non-profit organisation with many esteemed donors such as Wattpad and Scribd (yes, the money you use to buy their adorable merchandise goes to charity!).

So, what is the challenge? The rules are as follows: 

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Now, the challenge does sound like a daunting, demanding one. Yes, though the rules sound rather loose, NaNoWriMo still sounds intimidating. But wait! There are quite the number of famous authors have managed to complete the challenge, and they ended up with interesting, robust novels that deserve the shelf space they currently occupy – who knows, they could be the one already sitting on your own shelf! With that, I would like to present to you 5 books that were conceived during NaNoWriMo (which should definitely become your beacon of motivation to participate in NaNoWriMo 2019).

1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell 

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Rowell’s book is about a fangirl – literally. In fact, Cath Avery (the main character) is a famed fanfiction writer online, and she’s also a twin! The book follows Cath as she adjusts to college life without her sister, Wren. We observe Cath as she opens up herself to her roommate who ends up being her only friend at college, and a boy who’s totally out of her league. On top of these things, there’s also Cath handling her family, which involves an estranged mother, a single father and a twin sister who strives to be independent. 

In the midst of the intertwined nature of her life’s aspects, she’s on the journey of finishing off her own fanfiction novel in anticipation of the final book of the Simon Snow series, which is Rowell’s equivalent of the Harry Potter series in her quirky little Fangirl universe.

According to Rowell, she did admit that participating in the challenge was difficult. When producing the first draft felt futile, she took a few days off and then used NaNoWriMo as a strategy. Then she picked up where she left off, aiming for at least 2,000 words per day. Soon enough, she was able to craft the world of her book, and she spent most of her days writing endlessly. By the end of November, she reached a word limit that was twice the assigned limit. However, she went ahead to complete the novel and during the revision, did not make any changes. Everything that was written during NaNoWriMo was actually kept. 

 

2. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen 

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Water for Elephants is a historical novel that is set in the circus world during the 30s. After jumping onto a train with not a destination in mind, Jacob Jankowski finds himself thrust into the vibrant world of circuses. Only then, he gets assigned a job at a menagerie to look after the circus animals. There, he meets Marlena who happens to be a major part of the horse-riding act. A forbidden love story ensues as Marlena marries the circus’ animal trainer.

Gruen herself admitted that she was a little slow at first – life got in the way. She had to take care of a sick dog and a sick horse, in addition to nursing her foot. However, she got past her problems and wrote something she liked. This book was so successful it actually got adapted into a movie! Released in 2011, it stars Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon as Jacob and Marlena.

3. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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This book is actually the first of a five-book series called “The Lunar Chronicles”. It’s some good old young adult science-fiction, influenced by the classic tale we all know by heart: Cinderella. 

In Cinder, We are introduced to a dystopian milieu: a futuristic city called New Beijing, with a global threat called the Blue Fever. The main character (Lihn Cinder) is a teenage cyborg. What stands out about her is her immunity against the fever, making her a highly sought out subject for experimentation. 

Meyer actually did not just write this entire novel for the challenge – instead, she wrote three drafts of the first three novels in the series which are Cinder, Scarlet and Cress. With a total of 150,011 words during her participation in 2008, Meyer came in third place for the challenge of writing the most words in a month.

4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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The Night Circus took a whopping three cycles of NaNoWriMo to reach Morgenstern’s vision. The tale is of two magical apprentices of duelling magicians who are forced to compete with each other in a generation-long competition to dominate the other. Not completely understanding the rules and the purpose of their rivalry, the apprentices end up in a tumultuous journey of attaining mystical supremacy and…romance. At a welcoming length of just 387 pages long, The Night Circus managed to spend seven weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List!

 

5.Wool by Hugh Howey 

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Hugh Howey started off on a fairly half-assed note when he released the first few chapters of Wool as a short story for only $0.99 on Kindle Direct Publishing in July, 2011. Howey wrote of a post-apocalyptic world where people lived in giant silos underground, with a few main characters who operate against a totalitarian rule while uncovering a mystery (it already sounds like a setting for the next hot Hollywood blockbuster). The short story grew such a fanbase in the 3 months since that he decided to replace his other project for NaNoWriMo with Wool. As of this year, Howey has not only turned Wool into a popular 9-book series but has continued to publish over 40 books under his name.

Along with many NaNoWriMo books out there, this list proves that the challenge is both possible and a major opportunity for aspiring novelists. If you are feeling stuck during the challenge, NaNoWriMo has a website that may help you with motivation and other writer problems like combating writer’s block. If you’re a writer who’s looking for something new to do, then this challenge would be perfect for you. Should you decide to pick NaNoWriMo up, we here at Echo wish you the best of luck! 

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