I’m just going to say it: writing a novel in a month isn’t pretty. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days means watching your contemporary high-school drama turn into a dystopian heist at the 20,000-word mark. It’s composing a 10-chapter dream sequence about motorcycles that has nothing to do with your high fantasy plot. The prospect of writing 1,666 words a day all November long can be as soul-crushing as it is thrilling. So how do you continue writing when you’ve fallen into that mid-November slump?
One thing that always gets me back on track is rereading books by my favorite authors. By attempting to determine what it was about their stories that resonated with me on my first read through, I find myself itching to try out their techniques in my own work after just a few pages. So for if (when) you lose all hope and rationality during NaNoWriMo, here are five standout books that will inspire you to keep pushing towards that December 1 finish line.
Read The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater, for its evocative descriptive passages
Are you a fan of subtle magic, not-so-subtle kissing, and teenagers in search of adventure (and long-lost Welsh kings)? If the answer is no, you should pick up this book anyway. Most novels have their share of (sometimes overly) descriptive prose and, let’s be honest, people aren’t usually reading a book for its tired depictions of that boy with eyes the color of an emerald. But description doesn’t have to just be set dressing. Steifvater is a master at making her audience do a double-take at would-be mundane sentences, and her unique narration will inspire you to reexamine the way you explore the world in your own writing.
Example: “Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn’t know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he was worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves.”
Read Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli, for its incredible voice
All Simon Spier wants to do is continue falling in love with Blue, the mysterious boy he converses with via witty emails, and to avoid the hassle of coming out to his friends and family during the chaos of junior year. But after Simon forgets to log out of his Gmail account on a school computer, his correspondence with Blue might not remain a secret forever. Simon is a great protagonist for so many reasons—he’s kindhearted and clever and his devotion to Oreos is admirable—but it’s really his internal narrative that makes him stand out. From the first page to the last, Simon’s voice will propel you forward until you’re left lying on your floor in shock, trying to wrap your head around the fact that he’s fictional.
Example: “Really, though, there are only two kinds of weather: hoodie weather and weather where you wear a hoodie anyway.”
Read Six Of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo, for its crackling dialogue
When Kaz Brekker is offered a fortune to pull off an impossible heist, there’s no way he’s going to refuse. Armed with five dangerous outcasts and an infinite supply of motivation, Kaz might just succeed in securing the haul of a lifetime—if his gang can stop fighting among themselves for five minutes first. It’s no secret that Leigh Bardugo is the Queen of World Building, but she’s also a pro at creating witty banter and heart-stopping one-liners. If you’re looking for an example of on-point dialogue, Six Of Crows is the book for you.
Example: “Fine. But if Pekka Rollins kills us all, I’m going to get Wylan’s ghost to teach my ghost how to play the flute just so that I can annoy the hell out of your ghost.”
Read I’ll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson, for its fascinating style
At age 13, Noah and Jude are joined at the hip. At 16, they hardly know each other anymore. While I’ll Give You The Sun is a story of family and friendships, first loves and heartbreaks, this novel also centers around art, and Nelson’s writing reflects that. Told through nonlinear narration, Noah’s portrait ideas, and “bible” entries written by the twins’ grandmother, this gorgeous book breaks the bonds of traditional storytelling and will leave you in awe of its originality for weeks.
Example: “Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you’ve been in before—you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to.”
Read Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, just because
If you’re reading this post because you’re an aspiring author, chances are you’re going to relate to Cath and her love-hate relationship with writing. Cather Avery isn’t just in the Simon Snow fandom—she practically is the Simon Snow fandom. Her fics are so popular she has her own merch, and even her own fanbase. But writing original pieces? Cath isn’t sure she has what it takes. While this novel contains great character development, tons of feels, and on-point banter, the main reason I’m adding it to this list is because sometimes it’s nice to read about a protagonist you can empathize with on a writerly level.
Example: “Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity.”