NaNoWriMo Success Stories

It’s that time of the year again: November. The time of year when Christmas paraphenalia is appearing in stores, the days are getting longer, the weather is settling into drier patterns… and the time of year when authors all over the world will be putting fingers to keyboards, or pens to paper, and scribbling out as many words as they can in a month, all with the same goal: 50,000 words in 30 days.

Yes, it’s NaNoWriMo time again, National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated.

I consider myself a NaNoWriMo veteran, I’ve participated in it more years than not since the earthquakes in 2010. My completion rate is pretty high (albeit that I’ve rehashed the same story so many times it’s starting to get tedious) and I’ve reaped various rewards from a free proof copy, to free copies of my published book (back when Createspace used to contribute to the rewards), a hardback version of Fellowship of the Ringtails (courtesy of Lulu, and possibly the only hardback copy in existence), and last year I purchased Scrivener.

But whilst I’ve had marginal success, selling maybe a couple of dozen copies of 2010’s Aroha’s Grand Adventure and even fewer of Fellowship of the Ringtails (the sequel is my never-ending Work-in-Progress), there are some authors that have gone on not only to finish their 50k manuscripts, but to polish them to the point where they were published – and became strong sellers.

Here’s a selection of some of my favourites:

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Enter the lyrical and haunting world of the Night Circus. It will draw you in, entrance you and whisk you away to a different time and place. With its evocative language, and gently flowing plot, it reminded me rather of “Jonathan Strange” and some of Neil Gaiman’s work. The descriptions are lush and vivid, the characters entrancing. It haunted me long after the final page. However, there is a blemish to every jewel and in this one it was the constantly shifting time periods – each chapter would jump back or forward some years, which left me feeling a little disorientated. It was to good purpose though, to aid the ebb and flow of the tale.

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoy this kind of book – it has characters I can relate to and situations I can identify with (even though they are now lost in my distant past). This book hooked me with its candid writing, appealing prose, witty dialogue and interludes to a fiction within a fiction.

Fanfiction has become a really big thing currently, and has had quite a bit of prevalence in the media – the taking of other people’s characters and worlds and creating your own stories, and different directions, is a real art. Rowell explores this in her novel, where introvert Cath must cope with going to college, meeting boys, her manic father, a twin sister who is seeking distance and the responsiblities and so-forth of her future life.

I also loved the fact that Levi is not your typical sexy hunk – his personality was a true delight and I enjoyed the descriptions of his gangly nature, receeding hairline and the smile that lit up the room. I rather wish I could meet him.

Wool by Hugh Howey

A science fiction/dystopian novel, set in a post-apocalyptic world, where the human race is confined to giant silos, whilst the world outside has been reduced to ruin. The first book is divided into four parts, and was initially released independently and individually, to great acclaim, before Howey received a publishing contract and they were bound up into one book. There are several follow-ups to the series, but I have only read the first one.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Set in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, this is the tale of a young man who runs away to join the circus – literally. Here he befriends the elephant, Rosie, and falls in love with one of the equestrian stars. Beautifully written, deeply compelling, it became a bestseller and was turned into a movie, staring Robert Pattinson. An absolutely wonderful read, and one I highly recommend.

Cinder by Melissa Meyer

A unique and unusual re-telling of Cinderella. Cinder is a cyborg mechanic, living in a futuristic, high tech city of New Beijing, where androids, humans and cyborgs crowd the streets. When her life becomes entwined with Prince Kai, she becomes caught up in an intergalactic  struggle. I listened to it on audio book and found it somewhat strange, but definitely different and very entertaining.

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Top Reading Picks for 2016

Last year, possibly due to my new-found addiction to Pokemon Go, or possibly my closer proximity to my workplace (thus reducing my reading-and-walking time down to approximately 10 minutes from 40 mins a day), I only managed to read 102 books in 2016, a distinct drop from the 160 of 2015. This year I aim to do better, without resorting to reading a lot of picture books!

Here are my Top Five Four* “Stand out” reads from the previous year – some ARE new, some will, however, be older titles that I have only just discovered.

kalanonKalanon’s Rising by Darian Smith
Darian Smith is a very talented writer, one whom I would – believe it or not – rate as highly as Brandon Sanderson and Peter V. Brett. His plots are engrossing, his settings highly developed and he has a real knack for immersing you fully into the world.”Kalanon’s Rising” is both a murder mystery and a powerful fantasy novel, and Smith displays a considerable amount of talent and imagination at penning both. There are red herrings, false leads, plenty of unexpected twists and illuminating discoveries. Plot holes are skillfully plugged, and tangled webs are woven. He doesn’t go light on the shock and brutality either. (Read More)
nevernightNevernight by Jay Kristoff
Intense. brutal. lyrical. beautiful.
Not for the faint of heart.
Loved it.
For fans of Laini Taylor and anyone who likes an evocative, richly detailed epic.
genestormGeneStorm: City in the Sky by Paul Kidd
A grand rollicking read, in the true spirit of Paul Kidd’s earlier works – rambunctious characters, a weird and quirky cast of mutant characters, over-the-top plot, non-stop action and explosions a plenty. This was a lot of fun to read.
I urge more people to read this series! Especially artists, as I would really, really love to see how others (including Kidd himself) interpret the stranger characters – Beau, the fox-pheasant, for example, is just begging to be drawn. And as for the floating plant guy…
Wickedly weird. I read it slowly, not because it was dull, but because I just wanted to enjoy the company of the characters for as long as possible.
magpiemurdersMagpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
A highly enjoyable mornings read! This is two stories combined into one – we begin with Alan Conway’s last Atticus Pund mystery: Magpie Murders. A manuscript delivered to our narrator, an editor but, frustratingly, missing the final chapters. Whodunnit? Who knows! What could be more irritating in a quaint English murder mystery than not knowing the reveal? Well, our narrator, Susan Ryeland, will not rest until she’s found those missing chapters for, not only does she need to know, but the continual existence of her publishing house could well depend on it. What it unravels, however, is a modern mystery all of its own – when the author commits suicide. Or does he? (Read More)

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* Not only have I not read many books this past year, there have been few that have truly hooked me.