7 Books That Started As NaNoWriMo Novels

It's NaNoWriMo season, and we're hoping to motivate current writers with these success stories!

November is upon us, which means one thing if you are a writer: National Novel Writing Month, also know as NaNoWriMo, the 30-day period in which writers collectively take it upon themselves to write 50,000 words of a novel.

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Many have tried, not all have succeeded, but a very lucky few have turned their NaNoWriMo projects into successful, published novels. As NaNoWriMo begins, we’re taking the time to highlight its success stories in the hopes of motivating all of thos brave NaNoWriMo souls who are embarking on the perilous, exciting journey this year.

Here are seven books that began life as NaNoWriMo projects…

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NaNoWriMo Novels - The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Written over the span of three NaNoWriMo periods, The Night Circus is the story of two dueling magicians and the young people who get pulled into their epic struggle for dominance. Those two magicians are called Prospero the Enchanter, aka Hector Bowen and “the man in the grey suit,” aka Mr. A. H—, and those young people are Bowen’s six-year-old daughter Celia and a nine-year-old orphan called Marco Alisdair.

Further reading: Best New Fantasy Books

This generations-long duel plays out in the eponymous Night Circus, or Le Cirque des Rêves, where the now-adult Celia and Marco work to out-magic the other and fall in love during the process, not fully understanding the rules of the competition of which they are a part.

The Night Circus was released in 2011 and spent seven weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

NaNoWriMo Novels - Cinder by Marissa Meyers

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The first book in The Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder is a reimagining of the Cinderella story set in the futuristic city of New Beijing and following Linh Cinder, a cyborg and mechanic.

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Further reading: Best New Science Fiction Books

The speculative fiction bend on the fairy tale classic would go on to launch a full series, featuring different fairy tale characters reimagined in clever ways. Scarlet is based on Little Red Riding Hood. Cress is based on Rapuzel. And Winter is based on Snow White.

Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest(Book 3.5 in the series), and Heartless (a standalone novel based on Alice in Wonderland) were all written during NaNoWriMo.

Read Cinder by Marissa Meyer

NaNoWriMo Novels - The beautiful Land

The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill

Alan Averill began writing his debut novel The Beautiful Land during NaNoWriMo before going on to publish it through Ace Books (a Penguin Random House specialty publisher).

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Further reading: Best New Horror Books

The book follows Takahiro O’Leary, a man who explores parallel timelines for the Axon Corporation. When he retrieves information that would mean Axon changing the chronology of his timeline in order to maximize profits, Tak must use his knowledge and power to save his timeline and the woman he loves… and, you know, prevent the apocalypse.

Read The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill

NaNoWriMo Novels - The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Started during NaNoWriMo 2006, this 2010 novel by Carrie Ryan follows Mary, a young woman living in a world that has been overrun by zombies. In Mary’s post-apocalyptic reality, her dwindling village considers itself the last of humanity. Surrounded by a chain link fence and ruled by a group of dubious nuns known as The Sisterhood, Mary questions the future her rigid society has laid out for her. Also, there is a love triangle.

Read The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

NaNoWriMo Novels - Fangirl

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

While many authors write their debut novel with NaNoWriMo as a support, Rainbow Rowell had already written and successfully sold two books when she gave the writing challenge a try. The result? The glorious Fangirl, the story of Cath, a college-aged girl who must balance her new college life and the demands of her fanfiction-writing in this coming-of-age romance.

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Further reading: Best New Young Adult Fiction

Fangirl is the NaNoWriMo gift that keeps on giving, as Rowell would go on to write Carry On, a story set in the world of the fanfiction Cath is writing in Fangirl. The novel about queer wizards is getting a sequel in 2020.

Read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

NaNoWriMo Novels - Water For Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This one has a novel and a feature film adaptation! And to think… it all began during NaNoWriMo.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is about Jacob Janowski, an orphan and veterinary student whose life becomes intertwined with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Put in charge of caring for the circus animals, Jacob meets Marlena, an equestrian star married to the circus’ brutal animal trainer, and Rosie, an elephant who could spell salvation for the down-on-its-luck circus.

Water for Elephants sold a bajillion copies and is now a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, so that is pretty impressive.

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Read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

NaNoWriMo Novels - Wool

Wool by Hugh Howey

According to author Hugh Howey, 80,000 of the 160,000 total words of The Wool Omnibus were written during NaNoWriMo. The originally self-published work has appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers list, been translated into 19 foreign languages, and won IndieReader’s Best Indie Book of 2012 Award.

It also has a great premise: Set in a silo deep underground, a community’s sheriff asks to go outside, setting into motion a series of event that will change the life of this society forever.

Read Wool by Hugh Howey

Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? Have you wanted to? Let us know in the comments below!

Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.

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