The NaNoWriMo Success Series: 5 NaNoWriMo Books that Became Best Sellers

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Alright writers, NaNoWriMo 2015 has officially begun! If you were with me during the first half of the NaNoWriMo Success Series you were able to plan your story, plot, and characters so that you could hit the ground writing on November 1st. (If you haven’t, it’s still not too late to start!)

Now I don’t know about you, but the strain of writing ~1,667 words everyday has already hit me and it’s only day 3. When I open my word document and prepare to get through the next 30 days of this month, it helps to know that other writers have gone through this exact same process and had incredible success.

If you’re feeling down or stressed or just in need of a little motivation, read about the NaNoWriMo Success stories below to learn how you can get motivated and become a success story of your own!

1) Leverage Your Community of Writers

With a #1 book on the New York Time’s Best Sellers List, a movie adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattison, and a Broadway-bound musicalWater For Elephants is probably the biggest success story in NaNoWriMo history.

Knowing that millions of other writers were in the trenches with her gave author Sara Gruen the push she needed to finally write her critically acclaimed novel.

The NaNoWriMo Success Series: 5 NaNoWriMo Books that Became Best Sellers | tomiadeyemi.com
The NaNoWriMo Success Series: 5 NaNoWriMo Books that Became Best Sellers | tomiadeyemi.com

“I needed to start a book and was suffering from a well-known syndrome (somebody needs to coin a name for this disease) that is characterized by the complete inability to open one’s file.

NaNoWriMo worked because misery loves company, and I knew that thousands and thousands of other people were out there beating their heads on their desks at the same time” – Sara Gruen

2) Don't Expect the Worst

Best-selling author Rainbow Rowell wasn’t convinced that NaNoWriMo would work for her, but when she finished Fangirlshe was pleasantly surprised by how must of her first draft made it into her final story.

The NaNoWriMo Success Series: 5 NaNoWriMo Books that Became Best Sellers | tomiadeyemi.com
The NaNoWriMo Success Series: 5 NaNoWriMo Books that Became Best Sellers | tomiadeyemi.com

“I wasn't sure I could write that quickly. And I was skeptical about writing anything good that quickly. I ended up being really surprised: I kept almost every word I wrote during NaNoWriMo.

That 50,000-word pile I made wasn’t a mess at all. It’s some of the bravest writing I’ve ever done, and it includes my all-time favorite character, a guy I think I would’ve second-guessed to death under normal circumstances.

NaNoWriMo helped me push past so many of my doubts and insecurities and bad habits. And I think that’s partly why I love Fangirl so much now—because I remember how swept away I felt when I was writing it” – Rainbow Rowell

3) Don't Give Up

Author Eric Morgenstern went through several NaNoWriMos to write The Night Circus. Her persistence lead to a New York Time’s best seller whose film rights were sold to Summit Entertainment in 2011.The movie adaptation is being produced by Harry Potter producer David Heyman and Jeff Clifford.

The NaNoWriMo Success Series: 5 NaNoWriMo Books that Became Best Sellers | tomiadeyemi.com
The NaNoWriMo Success Series: 5 NaNoWriMo Books that Became Best Sellers | tomiadeyemi.com

“In 2003, I tried doing NaNoWriMo for the first time, because I’d always wanted to write but had never been good about sitting down and actually doing it. I had ideas in notebooks but nothing concrete. I tried. I failed. Burnt out around 15k.

In 2004, I tried again. I made it to 50k that year. That novel is not a novel, it is a sprawling mess of post-apocalyptic… something.

In 2005, for NaNo #3, I had no plot but lots of atmosphere, and when I reached the 30k mark and had no idea where to go with it, I sent my characters to the circus.

In 2006, I spent NaNo working on that circus. I ended up with something interesting, but not novel-shaped. In 2007, I did another 50k worth of work on the circus.

Throughout 2008 I took the 100k+ of circus… stuff and attempted to shape it into a novel. I don’t know how many drafts it went through. Four, maybe? It started to have something resembling a proper shape in the beginning of 2009.”– Erin Morgenstern

4) Write What You Love

New-York Times Best-Selling Author Carrie Ryan planned to write 1 book a year for 10 years to see if she could become an author. Before NaNoWriMo, Carrie focused on writing books that she thought would sell.

NaNoWriMo gave her a month-long opportunity to just write what she loved and the product, The Forest of Hands & Teeth, was marvelous.

The NaNoWriMo Success Series: 5 NaNoWriMo Books that Became Best Sellers | tomiadeyemi.com
The NaNoWriMo Success Series: 5 NaNoWriMo Books that Became Best Sellers | tomiadeyemi.com

“I'm not sure I'd have ever written The Forest of Hands and Teeth if it weren't for NaNoWriMo. Back at the start of 2006 I decided that I wanted more than anything else to be an author and I gave myself 10 years to achieve that goal.

Essentially I figured that if could write/revise/submit a book a year, then if after 10 books I hadn't made it I could re-evaluate.

NaNoWriMo had given me this freedom to just take a month and write.  On a project that probably wouldn’t sell.  And using a brand new voice.

If I lost one month out of the year on a project that would never sell — so what?  I *loved* writing Forest and in November I got to indulge in that.  I got to experiment on a new voice and story without feeling like I was diverting from the course I’d set for myself.” – Carrie Ryan

5) Challenge Yourself

New York Times Best Selling author Marissa Meyer didn’t just publish her first NaNoWriMo Story, Cinder. She published 3 of them. Her Lunar Chronicles series takes a futuristic sci-fi twist on classic fairytale stories, and has been a hit with Young Adult readers.

The NaNoWriMo Success Series: 5 NaNoWriMo Books that Became Best Sellers | tomiadeyemi.com
The NaNoWriMo Success Series: 5 NaNoWriMo Books that Became Best Sellers | tomiadeyemi.com

“Oh, the crazy NaNoWriMo that was November 2008. That year I decided to challenge myself and instead of writing the expected 50,000 words in 30 days, I wrote 150,000. (150,011 to be exact.)

This included the 70,000-word first draft of Cinder, so essentially I wrote the first draft in about two weeks.

After that I set it aside for a few months, then would work on it a few months, then send it to beta readers and leave it alone for a few months, then work on it again for a while…Between writing the first word and considering it ready to submit to literary agents took just under two years. I had my first offer on Monday, November 1—the two-year anniversary from the day I’d started writing the book.” – Marissa Meyer

(If you want to hear more about Marissa's NaNoWriMo experience, check out her 2016 NaNoWriMo chat!)

So there you have it! Your word document today could be the best-seller of tomorrow! Don’t stop, don’t give up, and tune in next week for tips on how to stay motivated and push through week 3!

Know other NaNoWriMo writers? Share the love and motivation by sending them this article!