They Can Do It, So Can You: Published NaNoWriMo Books To Inspire You

-Guest post by Celia Adams, Senior and President of Panther Book Club

Ahh, November. The weather gets colder, the leaves start to fall, the Christmas lights and decorations go up all around HPU, and somewhere, the sounds of keys clamoring is echoing throughout the space as a writer attempts NaNoWriMo. Short for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo is a challenge presented to writers every year. While the execution is difficult, the concept is fairly straightforward. All you need do is write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.

Despite seeming nearly impossible, this challenge is taken on by hundreds of thousands of writers around the globe every year. With just 30 days, they have to focus a lot of time and energy to meet their goals, but the rewards are pretty sweet–they have the rough draft of a now finished novel. Best of all, a lot of these novels (after I’m sure many rounds of revisions) get published into real books we can all read and enjoy. Most college students don’t have time to write a 50k word novel, but we can still celebrate and get inspired for another year; so here are five books in High Point University’s libraries that started their journey as someone’s NaNoWriMo challenge.


1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

I’m pretty sure this is the most famous example of a NaNoWriMo book, and it’s my absolute favorite, so how could I start with anything else? There’s a reason this book can still be found in every Target in the world years after it was first published–it’s absolutely stunning. The story of Marco and Celia, rival magicians who fall into forbidden love, mixed with the story of Bailey, a boy who gets as caught up in the wonder of the circus (as do the readers) will absolutely enchant and amaze you. In fact, you could read this book for its prose alone–Morgenstern’s writing is more descriptive and beautiful than anything I’ve ever read, and I could not be more thrilled that this month also marks the release of her second novel.

Check out a print copy: Smith Library 3rd Floor: 813.62 M82ni 2011


2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan. But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words…and she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I love this book. I love this book! I’m sorry–did I mention I love this book? This book reached out to my fandom-loving heart and showed me exactly what I would feel during freshman year, and how to navigate those feelings. Learning it was written during NaNoWriMo is just the cherry on top, because of course Rainbow Rowell managed to write this in a month. This is my go to coming-of-age recommendation, especially for college girls. Life is confusing; take a break and get caught up in Cath’s confusion instead as she navigates family, friendships and the haunting feeling of failure we all get as a freshman despite the fact that we’re fine! Rowell manages to write a story that will feel fun and entertain you despite getting you caught up in it’s intensity. I’ll say this about it: it’s real. It’s one of the realest stories I can think of and it is beautiful because of that.

Check out a print copy: Wanek Center Learning Commons YA Collection – Realistic Fiction: 813.62 R79fa 2013 c. 1


3. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons.

When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

Drama, murder, romance, intrigue; this book literally has it all. It’s haunting and beautiful, sharply drawn and full of every conceivable emotion, and it’s perfect for readers both young and old. I would know; my copy is on my mother’s shelf. Despite winning numerous book awards, I, like most of you, only heard of this book when they made a movie starring Robert Pattinson. Hey, if you would rather watch a movie than read a book, that’s fine too! How we get our fair share of romance and drama is up to each of us, but if you want to read a story full of beautiful prose and narration, this could be your next favorite read!

Check out a print copy: Smith Library 3rd Floor: 813.62 G86wa 2006

Click here to read the eBook!


4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

Ahh Stephanie Perkins. I would never believe that such a well-paced novel was first written in the span of a month. Anyone who knows my reading tastes could tell you pacing is what I look for most in any romance novel, and Anna and Étienne’s love story is anything but rushed. I would do this book a discredit by not selling it as first and foremost a love story, but I’d also do it one by not pointing out that just because something’s a love story first doesn’t mean it can’t be more, and Anna is much more. Anna is fun, the writing is witty, and the story about finding yourself is clear in any language.

Check out a print copy: Wanek Center Learning Commons YA Collection – Romance: 813.62 P41an 2010



5. Cinder (and the rest of the Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder’s brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it “a matter of national security,” but Cinder suspects it’s more serious than he’s letting on.

Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder’s intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that’s been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter’s illness, Cinder’s stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an “honor” that no one has survived.

But it doesn’t take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.

There’s a reason I have to end on this note. Not only did Marissa Meyer write the first draft for Cinder in one month, she wrote the first drafts for the next two books in the series, Scarlet and Cress, in that same one month. Marissa Meyer officially wins NaNoWriMo! This is up there with my favorite books, especially given my love of fairytale retellings. And really, if you’re going to retell the story of Cinderella, there are much worse ways than futuristic-cyborg-alien (?)- drama. Cinder is perhaps the realest of YA heroines, because she absolutely is not here for anybody’s nonsense, but she still turns into a babbling mess when Crown Prince Kaito walks in the room. An incredible ensemble cast, witty dialogue, brilliant action sequences, and one of the most fascinatingly evil villains in YA help lift this series to excellence. So if lost princesses, evil queens, and handsome princes-in-distress are your thing, try the sci-fi version with this debut series by Marissa Meyer.

Check out a print copy: Wanek Center Learning Commons YA Collection – Fantasy: 813.62 M58ci 2013

To learn more about NaNoWriMo, visit the offical website: