Can you believe it's almost December? And ready or not, the holiday season is in the air — Starbucks red cups, twinkling Christmas lights, and all. We've got holiday shopping on the brain, so we're sharing a roundup of gifts for the writers in your life. After all, November is National Novel Writing Month, so if you know any aspiring novelists who need a little nudge to get pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), these gifts could inspire a future Jane Austen. No matter what kind of writer they are, these novel gift ideas are sure to cure a case of writer's block — check them out now!
Like a perfume or designer clothing line, celebrities use their personal brands to sell books, ostensibly written by themselves with the often not-so-secret help of a ghostwriter. Books authored by women originally famous for anything but writing range from tell-alls, to thinly-veiled autobiographical novels, to, in the case of Madonna and Kim Cattrall, sex manuals. I've read and enjoyed some myself, like the comedic memoirs of Chelsea Handler, while others intrigue me enough to add to my reading list — I might just download Pamela Anderson's novel Star next time I come down with a cold. To celebrate National Novel Writing Month, I chose some of the most high-profile celebrity-penned books out there, and I want you to vote on each one: read or shelve?
First time's a charm! Or at least it was for these women, who hit a home run with their first attempts at writing a novel. November is National Novel Writing Month, which motivates many would-be writers to get crackin' on their maiden masterpiece. But many aspiring novelists are stuck in a rut — worried about their first work being a dud. So if you're in need of some inspiration, check out successful tales by novel-writing newbies. They may give you that kick in the pants you needed to put pen to paper!
This year we dove into a diverse group of page-turners. We got hot and bothered over Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey, we held our breath while immersed in the mysterious Gone Girl, and we had a tissue box on hand while reading Emily Giffin's heartfelt Where We Belong. Then, thanks to Mindy Kaling's new show The Mindy Project and the first Hunger Games film, both Mindy's memoir and the Suzanne Collins-penned trilogy were also popular reads in 2012 (even if they didn't come out this year). If you're looking for inspiration for the hard-to-shop-for women in your life, look no further than their favorite book! Here are five gift guides based on some of the hottest books of the year — flip through now!
November is the month when writers participate in National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. It's a creative project that challenges author wannabes to start on a new novel and write at least 50,000 words in 30 days.
If you've been telling yourself to get going on a novel-writing project, here's your chance! You can track your progress at the official website, interact with other writers on the site, and arrange to meet up in person. Once you sign up, you'll be receiving pep talks from actual authors via email.
So how about it — will you be writing a novel this month?
Today is Nov. 1, which means we're not only speeding down the Fall and Winter holiday highway, but for the next 30 days, writers everywhere will be producing massive amounts of words by participating in National Novel Writing Month. Thirty days to write at least 50,000 words? You better be prepared. Make sure you take these tips into consideration and have these tech tools on hand as you dive feet first into noveling mania.
- A clean workspace — There's nothing more distracting than a cluttered workspace to keep you from diving into your novel. Be sure to clean off your work area at home and get organized before you begin to minimize procrastination.
- A lightweight laptop — Some people can write for hours at home, while others need to get away from their comfort zone to focus. Keeping a netbook, lightweight laptop, or iPad and portable keyboard in your bag at all times allows you to write when the urge strikes, even when you're on the bus.
- Google Docs — Rather than write your novel on a Word doc that you have to keep updating and sending to yourself, write your masterpiece in Google Docs so you can access it anywhere, no matter what computer you're using. Cloud computing also provides a good way to sneak in some writing time at work. Just have another doc ready to click away to when the boss approaches!
- A timer — One trick of the NaNoWriMo trade is word sprints. For a few minutes at a time, write as fast as you can to get your word count up. For this, you'll need an egg timer or your smartphone's timer app to challenge yourself.
- Inspiration — Sites that help you come up with new and fresh ideas can keep you from getting into a writing rut. Try these random plot generators and random storyline generators to keep the juices flowing.
There are famous authors (think Danielle Steele or J.K. Rowling), and then there are celebrity authors: part-time writers recognized more for acting, singing, or reality-TV stardom, who use their fame to sell books. Hollywood tomes range from tell-alls, to thinly-veiled memoirs, from cookbooks, to children books. To celebrate National Novel Writing Month, we created this game that will test your reading skills — kind of. See if you can guess which of these famous females is also an author and start playing now!
Have you ever read a book and related so much to the female characters that you forgot they were created by a man? I know I have, and I'm intrigued especially by male authors who choose to write about the female coming-of-age experience. In this National Novel Writing Month author interview we spoke to novelist K.M. Soehnlein about his process for developing female characters. The character in his first novel, The World of Normal Boys, is a gay teen growing up in the 1980s. In his third novel, Robin and Ruby, Soehnlein picks up with the same protagonist while making the sister Ruby a main character, too. Here's what he learned in the process:
TrèsSugar: How do you make your female characters authentic?
K.M. Soehnlein: When writing women characters, I do what I would for any character. I try to be truthful to the experience. And if that experience is different from what I have lived, I sometimes have to work a little harder. I also have people read my drafts to make sure I'm getting it right. I'm in a writers group that includes a few women. Plus, a lot of women in my life are my readers. They'll let me know if I got something wrong.
TS: Did having sisters give you an added insight?
KMS: Robin and Ruby is dedicated to my sisters, who have been incredibly inspirational for me. I would never say Ruby is either of them, but there are elements of both of them in that character. I have two sisters and no brothers and always had a lot of girls as friends. Along with my mother and other influential women in my life I think I always had a strong sense of female energy and empathy.
TS: What did you find to be the biggest difference between men and women?
KMS: Our minds are very similar whether you're male or female. Virginia Woolf said that the imagination is androgynous — the way we think, the way we experience the world is universal. But we go through the world in these bodies and the male body and the female body are very different. For example, when I was writing about Ruby, there's a point in the book where she gets her period, and that's not something I could imagine on my own. It just doesn't happen to me. Things that are very physical are hard to imagine, and that's when getting your best female friend to read a passage and tell you if it sounds truthful is very helpful.
Mark Twain said write what you know. If you're intrigued by the idea of writing a novel, maybe you'll start by using your life as inspiration. In our latest National Novel Writing Month author interview, Randa Jarrar discusses how she developed the story of an Arab-American childhood for her debut novel A Map of Home. The book follows a young Muslim girl, born in the US, but raised in Kuwait. At 13, she must leave with her family when Iraq invades, and during the occupation they live in Egypt until they relocate to Texas. While it's far from a memoir, Randa did base some of the plot and many of the book's lessons on her past. If you're thinking about starting a novel during November, Randa can provide some insight.
TrèsSugar: How did you decide what to write about?
Randa Jarrar: I basically realized that nobody had written about a young Arab American in a way that I approved of or liked. So I wanted to write about it in a way that pleased me. Also, I felt like my background was too rich and cool to not tap into. I thought it would be a cop out to not write about my past, so even though the book is fiction, it calls on a lot of historical and personal experiences.
TS: Why did you choose nonfiction over a memoir?
RJ: I can't write nonfiction. My book is made up. Maybe 20 percent is nonfiction, but the rest is totally made up stories. My mom's not that sassy, and my dad's not nice — he's just an a*shole. There are things I had to do to make the characters relatable and likable and if I had written nonfiction my book would have been a lot shorter, more brutal, and less funny.
TS: What did you hope to achieve?
RJ: I didn't have a political message because I really hate didactic fiction that has a political message. I just wanted people to be entertained by it and I wanted them to maybe recognize their own childhoods in it. No matter what that person's background is. So if they were also Arab American I wanted them to recognize their own childhood, and if they weren't Arab American I wanted them to recognize their own childhood and think, oh wow I guess Arabs have childhoods too! You can say that's political, but I think it's just what literature does.
Nom de plume, pen names, pseudonym — author aliases go by various labels. For National Novel Writing Month, let's play a little trivia! See if you can match the made-up identity to the author's legal name. And don't forget to check out our Guess Who's a Celebrity Author game.
Source: Flickr User Tom Banwell