“You love challenge.”


Not really. Nerd alert: I was part of my high school’s Academic Decathlon team. On the practice test, I did really well on the Language & Literature portion, but during the real deal at regionals? I kept second-guessing my answers and ended up scoring pretty low. I can’t handle timed pressure. This is why I would be a bad contestant on any number of reality TV shows.

For writers, there’s the current NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge. Kudos to those taking this on! Every year, I’m mildly tempted to participate. Then I calculate how much work it would take for me to complete 50,000 words in one month, and I back out.

I don’t know about other people, but I can’t write all day long. First, there’s the logistics, like picking up kids, cooking meals, etc.. Then there’s my temperament. I prefer shorter stretches at a time and breaking up my writing.

However, some lovely books have resulted from the NaNoWriMo challenge, including:

  • Night Circus (a magical tale featuring rival magicians). Morgenstern started with a different story during the challenge, but when she refocused her efforts on a new setting–a circus that comes to life at night, the premise for her bestselling novel began.
  • Water for Elephants (a story centered on a Depression-era circus, with a love story at its heart). After Gruen got laid off as a technical writer, she delved into fiction. Water for Elephants was on the bestseller lists for over a year.
  • Wool (a breakout science fiction novella that turned into a series). Howey is a self-publishing star who sold tens of thousands of books to readers before getting an agent and securing a six-figure deal with a major publisher (finagling print rights only and keeping e-rights for himself).

Any experience with NaNoWriMo? Did you enjoy any of the above books?

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  1. How interesting to learn those books started with NaNo. I’ve read Night Circus and Water for Elephants. Loved them both. I don’t participate in NaNo–November is a busy month for me–but I wish good luck to those who do. May they spawn best sellers like these authors did. :)

    • Jennifer J. Chow says

      I know, Carrie. I can’t imagine juggling the holidays and NaNoWriMo. Hats off to these productive writers!

  2. I’ve done NaNoWriMo three times. Only once did I pursue my manuscript after the first draft was down. It’s my latest Middle Grade novel. The two other times were to get me going.
    A friend of mine does it with picture book manuscripts. She gets quite a few buy the end of the month! This year I am doing it but not every day and I might not reach 50 000 words. But I need to get a new story down and the pressure helps me to keep focusing on this new manuscript.
    I knew that a few books were the product of NaNoWriMo but the success of the three novels above is spectacular. Not sure it wil happen for me. Yet!

    • Jennifer J. Chow says

      Wow, Evelyne. You’ve got some great work ethic! Is it the MG novel that’s out right now? Congrats on that!

  3. Didn’t realize those books were a result of all this. Pretty cool!

  4. The Dose of Reality says

    I *loved* Night Circus! I had NO idea that it came from NaNoWriMo! WOW! I’m always impressed with people who can commit to writing in a challenge like this. Good luck!! –Lisa

    • Jennifer J. Chow says

      I know. How do people come up with these beautiful ideas? I mean, a circus that comes to life at night? Amazing stuff.


  1. […] week, I wrote about NaNoWriMo. Apparently, Webucator, the national training company, had the same idea. They had two of their […]

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