Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

NaNo Inspiration: The Night Circus

During the month of November, which we all know is National Novel Writing Month, many folks will ask you why? Why are you doing this? What is the point? As the month progresses even your most ardent supporters may flounder as they grow lonely waiting for you to finish. You spouse may begin to think the laundry will never again be clean, and the clutter that will accumulate this month will start to take on a life of its own, and they will ask, why?

To write a novel, of course.

Your NaNo novel will be messy and in its infancy by December 1st. You will have plot holes large enough to drive a semi through and your character arcs may sag in the middle. On your first read through you will find entire paragraphs that were written in the wee small hours when you were running on fumes from your 15th cup of coffee and you will wonder what the heck you were babbling on about. It will be bad.

But, have faith! Many have gone on to publish their NaNo efforts to great success!

night circus

Erin Morgenstern wrote The Night Circus (2011) during NaNoWriMo. She had participated in NaNo from 2003 through 2009. It took until 2008 for her to start writing year round. NaNo can help you take yourself more seriously as a writer, as it did her! In her NaNo pep talk she admitted that her novel began as a random tangent in her 2005 NaNo novel. As a result, she urges people to allow room for surprises! In her pep talk she explains NaNo as follows:

I like to think of NaNo-ing as excavating. You uncover different things at the 30K mark than you do at 10K. Things that felt like desperate, random nonsense on page 72 (the abandoned broken pocket watch, a partially obscured tattoo, that taxidermied marmot on the mantelpiece) are suddenly important and meaningful on page 187. Everything could hinge on the fate of that marmot. Or the marmot may be a red herring. Or perhaps the marmot is just a marmot. You have to keep writing to find out.

Even if you’re an outliner, leave room for the unexpected things to sneak in. Surprises are half the fun, the spontaneous road trips through tangents and subplots. They might end up being more important than you think. And if they’re not, you can always edit them out after November. No one has to know so for now, for this glorious November, you can do whatever you please. It’s your world to create and explore and even destroy if you want.

I feel that way too! Glorious November! The month where anything can happen on the page and it doesn’t matter because you can always fix it later. Talk about pure freedom!!

This freedom is the catalyst many would-be writers need to light the fire. Ms. Morgenstern didn’t write before NaNoWriMo, and neither did I, not really. I never thought of myself as a writer, though I dreamed of being one. Despite this desire, I found that putting pen to paper was the most difficult thing in the world. NaNo changed all that by giving me a crazy goal and a deadline and something to prove to myself.

For more on Ms. Morgenstern and her lovely story, you can watch an interview here and here.


  1. Daphne Shadows

    I LOVED that book. It totally blew me away. One of the few books I’ve read that reminds me of a fantastical storytelling vibe, the way I imagine writing is when I’m thinking in idealistic and poetic terms. Hopefully that made some sense. 😉
    Good luck with NaNo!!! 😀

  2. Cassidy Frazee

    “Water for Elephants” was also a NaNo novel. When doing a little investigating I was surprised by the number of NaNo novels that have ended up getting published.

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