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:
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.
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.