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7 Books with the Solutions to Your Biggest NaNoWriMo Problems

by  | November 12

Congratulations! You’ve made the huge step of deciding to write a novel in a month! You’ve forsaken your social life, probably dumped your significant other, shunned your family, accepted that you’ll take that negative eval at work, and yet…it’s mid-November, and you’re losing steam. Your plot has, maybe, fallen apart. Or maybe you still haven’t named your main character. Or you’re twenty-thousand words in, and you’ve just realized that describing what your main character eats for breakfast every morning may not actually be a novel. Never fear! There’s one easy solution, the very thing you’re attempting to create: books! No matter your NaNo problem, books have the answer!

(And don’t tell me you have no time to read. Reading is part of writing!)

Turbulence

Turbulence

by David Szalay

Your NaNo Problem: You’ve made it to 20,000 words, and you’ve run out of plot. The story is over. Done. You can’t possibly get to 50K now.

Read: Turbulence by David Szalay

Have you considered writing interlocking short stories? Maybe there’s another road you can go down to complement the one you’re already on. Maybe there’s a side character you can explore. And guess what? It will still definitely be a novel! Take, for example, David Szalay’s Turbulence. Each chapter follows a different person, beginning in a different airport, but they’re all connected in some way, with each next character briefly crossing paths with the one before. Of course, all your stories may not come together right now, but that’s for revisions in December!

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This Is How You Lose the Time War

This Is How You Lose the Time War

by Amal El-Mohtar

Your NaNo Problem: Your characters have no names, and you’re getting very tired of typing sentences such as: “NAME1 and NAME2 shared a passionate embrace before drawing their swords, approaching the castle, and killing the flaming armadillo.”

Read: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

In this novel, two time-traveling agents from warring futures work their way through the past, fighting for their future’s ability to exist. They’re alone and their pasts are dark, but when they begin to exchange letters, they find comfort in each other, falling in love, even as the battle rages on. What does this book have to do with your problem? Well, the agents’ names are Red and Blue. Yes, you can easily just color-code your characters. There. Problem solved!

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Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?

Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?

by Max Brallier

Your NaNo Problem: You’ve been writing one plot, but oh! There’s another shiny plot! And what if this other thing happened to your characters? There are so many options! And you want to write all of them!

Read: Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? by Max Brallier

So, you’ve reached the midway point, and now you suddenly find yourself with three story options you want to write. Or maybe it’s five. Or maybe you have a totally separate idea that wants attention. Never fear! Just write a choose-your-own-ending book! Then, you can include every option, and if you don’t know how something should conclude, you can just have everyone die and start over again! Begin your adventure by reading one or more of the twisted plotlines in Max Brallier’s Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? and discover if you would survive with humanity on the brink of complete collapse as the undead are coming for you.

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I Know This Much Is True

I Know This Much Is True

by Wally Lamb

Your NaNo Problem: You hit 50,000 words early. It’s only November 15th, and you won! You want to feel happy, but there’s also A LOT of story left to tell. What do you do?

Read: I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

Maybe you’re just writing a really long book! And that’s fine! Look at Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True. Clocking in at 928 pages, this book was nowhere near finished at 50,000 words. Instead, this story about twin brothers—one is schizophrenic and the other has been tasked with being his caregiver—is both heartbreaking and powerful, showing the dynamic when we find we both love and hate our family members. There’s plenty of story here, and it has received incredible acclaim, so don’t worry if you’re running long! Just keep writing!

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Lily and the Octopus

Lily and the Octopus

by Steven Rowley

Your NaNo Problem: You thought you were writing realistic fiction, but suddenly there are talking geese??

Read: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Okay, so you started with your main character dealing with a breakup. All is going well, except suddenly there’s a talking goose who wants to guide her through her problems. It’s not your fault. You just decided to write after going out for drinks on a Friday night. But what do you do? Let me introduce you to the wonderful world of magical realism, beginning with one of my favorite novels of all time, Lily and the Octopus. Upon first glance, this book seems like your standard dog-dying story, but it quickly turns to the fantastical. From a talking dachshund to a hungry “octopus,” this is a tale that combines the magical with the heartbreaking experience of losing your best friend. You’ll cry. Then you’ll get back to writing.

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The Ultimate Unwind Collection

The Ultimate Unwind Collection

by Neal Shusterman

Your NaNo Problem: You didn’t mean to be writing from multiple points of view, but now you are, and you have no clue if you’re doing it right. Do the perspectives of your characters sound unique enough? Do you really need more than one point of view?

Read: The Unwind Series by Neal Shusterman

Don’t worry! Multiple points of view can work, and they can be done very well. Just take it from one of the masters of YA, Neal Shusterman. His Unwind series centers around three characters, Connor, Risa, and Lev, who show us their world from their various points of view—and let me tell you, it works. In a world where parents have the opportunity to have their child’s organs transplanted into different donors (a process called “unwinding”), Shusterman gives us Risa, a ward of the state; Connor, a boy whose parents have deemed him too difficult; and Lev, a child conceived and raised to be “unwound.” Each character’s point of view adds to the story, shaping a full picture of this eerie dystopian society.

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Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants

by Sara Gruen

Your NaNo Problem: You’re pretty sure your book is complete garbage. Why even finish?

Read: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

First, it’s NaNoWriMo. Your book is allowed to be complete garbage! But also, it’s probably not. It probably just needs revisions. Just keep going and follow in the footsteps of an author like Sara Gruen, who wrote her bestseller Water for Elephants as part of NaNoWriMo. Water for Elephants is the compelling and gritty story of a second-rate traveling circus attempting to survive during the Great Depression; a young man who runs away to become its veterinarian; and one of the show’s performers, an elephant. It became a bestseller that was also turned into a movie, and it all started one November. Your book could get there too. Keep going!

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