November 6, 2015

#NaNoWriMo challenges writers to stop talking and start writing


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was written as part of National Novel Writing Month. Image via Macmillan.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was written as part of National Novel Writing Month. (Image via Macmillan.)

It’s almost unavoidable that you’ll see # all over Twitter this month. National Novel Writing Month is an annual event that has captured the imagination of the writing community. NaNoWriMo participants aim to finish writing a 50,000 word novel by midnight on November 30 because, as the their website says, “the world needs your novel.”

If you’re anything like us, your reaction to NaNoWriMo is somewhere along the lines of, “That’s great! But I’ll take a pass on reading that manuscript.” But is it possible we’re missing out? What if worthwhile and fun and lasting works of literature really can be produced in 30 days? Minneapolis Public Radio‘s The Thread did some digging and came up with a list of books you’d never guess were banged out in under four weeks. It might not be a particular surprise that Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road in three weeks, but As I Lay Dying?

[William] Faulkner claimed to have written the classic in just weeks, working every night from midnight until 4:00 a.m. while he kept his day job at a power plant. He also claimed that he didn’t change a word from the original draft.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky might have appreciated NaNoWriMo himself, as it seems he worked well under pressure, writing The Gambler in under a month.

Dostoyevsky was under a tight deadline for this novel: He signed a contract that said if he didn’t produce a full-length book in 26 days, he would forfeit the rights to his work for 9 years. He turned to his vice — gambling — for inspiration. (He was also writing “Crime and Punishment” at the same time.)

And one of the literary world’s most popular and enduring characters was introduced in a work produced in less time than it takes to get a new passport.

Considered to be ‘the most important book Conan Doyle ever wrote,’ according to Sotheby’s, ‘A Study in Scarlet’ was written in just three weeks. The book introduced the world Sherlock Holmes and his constant companion, Dr. James Watson.

More recently, Erin Morgenstern‘s The Night Circus and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell are two examples of critically acclaimed fan favorites written as part of the annual challenge. So, now that you know it can be done, it’s as good a time as any to stop reading blogs and get back to that #amwriting stuff.



Julia Fleischaker is the director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.