8 Great Books to Prep for NaNoWriMo

Emily Martin

Contributing Editor

Emily has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi, MS, and she has an MFA in Creative Writing from GCSU in Milledgeville, GA, home of Flannery O’Connor. She spends her free time reading, watching horror movies and musicals, cuddling cats, Instagramming pictures of cats, and blogging/podcasting about books with the ladies over at #BookSquadGoals ( She can be reached at

Foreshadow edited by Emily X.R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma.

This trove of unforgettable short stories and accompanying essays on craft offers an ode to YA literature. Ranging from contemporary romance to fantasy, these stories showcase underrepresented voices of YA fiction. Each piece is selected and introduced by a YA all-star like Jason Reynolds and Sabaa Tahir. What makes these memorable stories tick? How do authors build a world or refine a voice or weave in that deliciously creepy atmosphere? Emily X. R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma address these questions and more in essays and discussions on craft so aspiring writers can write their own short stories.

I know it’s hard to believe, but November 1 is already right around the corner. I know. Where did the year go? How did we get here? Unfortunately, I don’t have time to answer those questions or even reflect on them. Why? Because it’s time to get ready for what can be the most rewarding and the most stressful time of the year for every writer. That’s right. NaNoWriMo is here again.

It’s time to get writing. It’s time to get inspired. And if you’re wondering how to get your mind in the right space to do all of that, try these books to help prep you for NaNoWriMo.

The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley

The first thing you have to do before you can get to writing your next great novel? You have to be inspired. If you’re struggling for an idea or you’re just feeling stuck getting words across the page, Brian Kiteley’s inspired writing prompts in The 3 A.M. Epiphany will help you get through any writer’s block.

Ready, Set, Novel! by Lindsey Grant and Tavia Stewart-Streit

Got your idea ready to go? Great. It’s time to organize. Lindsey Grant and Tavia Stewart-Streit’s Ready, Set, Novel! is the perfect workbook with prompts to help you develop characters, scenes, and outlines for your great NaNoWriMo novel. This workbook really thinks of literally every step of the novel-planning process and guides you through it.

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

You’ve got your outline. Great. How do you turn that outline into a riveting novel that people will actually read and, you know, enjoy? Lisa Cron is here to help with that! This book looks at how the brain responds to fiction. Cron uses cognitive storytelling strategies and develops a step-by-step guide to making a blueprint for a successful story that actually goes somewhere interesting.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

After you’ve got your tools together to write your own NaNoWriMo novel, the next thing you need for a bit of inspiration is some advice from successful novelists. Haruki Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is the author’s look at his life as a marathon runner and a writer. Murakami makes many parallels between the discipline it takes to run a marathon and the discipline it takes to write. And what better analogy could there be for the NaNoWriMo writing process? This book will inspire you to start your own writing marathon, if not your own running marathon.

The Little Book of Muses by Khaled Talib

Looking for inspiration that’s a little more abstract? Try Khaled Talib’s The Little Book of Muses. This book is full of phrases, reflections, and expressions that will make you fall in love with the written word all over again. Hopefully some of the beautiful words written in this book will spark some beautiful words of your own in your NaNoWriMo project.

Black Ink by Stephanie Stokes Oliver Cover

Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing by Stephanie Stokes Oliver

When you’re in the middle of your NaNoWriMo project and you’re feeling discouraged, remind yourself that writing is powerful. No really. Reading and writing can give people the power to change the world. Don’t believe me? Then check out Black Ink. This book looks at over 250 years of Black literature, from Frederick Douglass to Ta-Nehisi Coates. In this collection, African American authors look at the way Black people have been historically disenfranchised through a lack of access to reading and writing, and how literature can be an act of resistance.

Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

Okay, so you understand that writing is important. You know that you want to write something meaningful. The next hurdle: finding time to do it. Barbara DeMarco-Barrett understands that a lot of writers (especially women) never get around to writing because they feel like they don’t have the time. This book aims to help you find the time. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day. Or when you’re waiting in line. Or stalled in traffic. There are minutes throughout the day you can use to write, and this book will help you find them.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

After you’ve finished NaNoWriMo November, the work isn’t over. Surely you didn’t think those published NaNoWriMo novels when straight from NaNoWriMo to the press. A first draft is always going to need lots of edits, especially when you’re writing so fast and furiously throughout the short month of November. Renni Browne and Dave King can help you get from your messy first draft to a publishable novel.

Need more books to inspire you and get you through NaNoWriMo this year? Check out these 9 Books You Didn’t Know Started As NaNoWriMos. If they can do it, you can too! Good luck!