It’s National Novel Writing Month! Some people criticize the concept, claiming that novels written in under a month aren’t going to be worth the paper they're printed on. But there are plenty of examples to prove the naysayers wrong. In fact, many classic, bestselling novels were penned within this time frame. While these authors completed these fine pieces of literature without the motivation of National Novel Writing Month, they still serve as an excellent example to those hoping to complete their own works this November.
1. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas: Irish novelist John Boyne said he was so wrapped up in this engrossing tale of a boy living through the Holocaust that he wrote the entire thing in two and a half days, barely stopping to eat or sleep throughout the ordeal. He notes that his other novels took months of planning and effort to write, but this story simply could not be slowed.
2. On The Road: The so-called “beatnik bible” that inspired an entire generation was penned in only three weeks. Granted, Jack Kerouac spent seven years travelling across America and taking detailed notes the entire time, but the actual fruits of his labor took less than a month to put on paper. It’s worth noting that he typed the entire draft on one 120 foot long piece of teletype paper that he taped together before writing.
3. A Study In Scarlet: The novel that introduced the famed detective work of Sherlock Holmes to the masses took Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle three weeks to write in 1886. This story was also notable for being the first Sherlock Holmes story to be adapted to the silver screen.
4. The Tortoise and the Hare: In 1954, Elizabeth Jenkins wrote this tale in three weeks after being romantically entwined with a man who refused to leave his wife. She revealed in an interview in 2005, “I have never looked at it since; it marked an era to which I had no desire to return.”
5. The Gambler: Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote this tale in 26 days while also writing Crime and Punishment. He was heavily in debt and addicted to gambling and saw the semi-autobiographical novella as a good way to help him pay off his debts. He later ended up marrying the young stenographer to whom he dictated the story.
6. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: Muriel Spark took only one month to write this novel about a fictionalized version of her teacher, Christiana Kay. She said the story was inspired by a 1960 class assignment: “We were given to write about how we spent our summer holidays, but I wrote about how [my teacher] spent her summer holidays instead. It seemed more fascinating.”
If you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month, good luck! We hope these stories helped inspire you to get cracking.
Note: This article originally appeared last November.