The NaNoWriMo Survival Kit is a classic post in the arsenal of seasoned and would-be Nanoers. I’m not going to lie, half the fun of NaNoWriMo is the excitement, and a lot of that manifests as preparation. That’s where Preptober came from, after all.
And it’s a big undertaking. Writing 50 thousand words in a single month is a lot of work, especially when you have school and work and the holidays are just around the corner (Or on your doorstep if you live in the United States).
Being prepared is just a smart thing to do. And we’re social creatures. NaNoWriMo has become a huge event for writers because it’s community-driven and offers many chances to connect with other writers, and Preptober is much the same! Maybe that’s why it has become ubiquitous to the NaNoWriMo experience.
But I digress. I’m not trying to justify the existence of yet another NaNo Survival kit post, but instead have an actual discussion about what and how you need to prepare. After all, 30 days is a long time, and writing a novel is a big endeavour. There are lots of potential ways to prepare yourself, so I’ve decided to list a few.
The essence of Preptober and probably the most obvious method of preparation, but certainly not for everyone. Pantsers, for one, are not going to be big on the outlining, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to get yourself ready for writing on November 1st once you’ve picked your idea. Writing prep can be anything that helps you write the actual story, like:
- An outline
- A map (I have a tutorial on how to make your own if you’re interested!)
- Character sheets
- Plot or chapter summaries
- Notes on story structure
Maybe you assemble your notes in a notebook or a word document. Maybe you print it all out and organize it in a story binder (or story bible). Or maybe you commit it all to memory. Point is, when you have a better idea of the story you are writing, the easier the writing will be. It’s as simple as that.
This is typically what the classic ‘nano survival kit’ entails. Physical things that help make you more comfortable or make the whole process easier and more streamlined. It could be a comfy pair of sweatpants or a cozy blanket. Extra coffee or tea, or your favourite writing snack. It could be a lightweight laptop or tablet you take with you to the library for a writing session. That usb stick you use to save back up copies. You might consider:
- Meal prep
- Stocking up on any essentials – not just food but things like soap or toilet paper
- Setting up your word file or scrivener document
- Making sure you have a working pair of earphones on hand
- Cleaning up your desk
- Setting up a cozy writing space
- Getting a notebook and some fun pens to keep track of writing sprints, or jotting down thoughts that come to you while writing
- Setting up your bullet journal
- Displaying outlines, aesthetics or inspirational quotes on the wall
As much as I wish it weren’t true, we all have lives to live and responsibilities to deal with – we can’t just hole ourselves up in our writing caves and spit out words whenever we feel like it. Real Life™ is a thing we have to deal with, but I have some suggestions to make it easier:
- Letting friends and family know what you’re going to be doing in November
- Create a list of nearby libraries/coffee shops/creative spaces to prep (and later write) if you find it too hard or distracting to work at home
- Add livestreams and word count goals to your calendar
- Making sure you schedule things in advance where possible
- Take a good hard look at your calendar and schedule writing time
Tip: If you’re planning a trip, or you know there are certain days where it’s going to be hard to write because of work, school, family events, etc., then don’t count them as viable writing days. If you’re going to be gone for four days, then assume you’ll only have 26 days to reach that 50k, and your daily word count goal should be 1923.
I don’t care how many times you’ve done NaNoWriMo. You could be a veteran or this could be your first time. This will be my eighth year doing NaNo, and though I feel more comfortable than most and I know what to expect, it doesn’t change the fact that NaNoWriMo is NOT EASY. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be really hard. And you need to prepare yourself for that.
Of course, it’s also a lot of fun – you’re writing a story and connecting with other writers, after all! It’s exciting and there is a lot of hype around it. But make no mistake, if you’re serious about winning, you need to be serious about writing because it’s not easy to maintain that enthusiasm and commitment for a solid 30 days. There will always be low points to go with the high, and moments where you’re struggling so much you’re not sure you’ll ever be able to finish that novel. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, it’s just a part of the creative process. Prepare to struggle, and prepare to be tested.
Here are a few suggestions to make the bad days more manageable:
- Do some of the other things I’ve got listed here – when you’re more prepared, you’ll be far less stressed
- Find some inspirational quotes to inspire you
- Write down why you are so excited about your story, seal it in a letter and save it for a bad day
- Creating a list of rewards for getting to the end or hitting milestones
- Find buddies to talk to when you’re struggling – on social media or on the NaNo website (my username is alyssaflynn, if you need a buddy!)
- Take care of yourself – drink water, eat three meals a day, stretch, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep
What everyone needs is really going to depend on the type of person, and the type of writer that you are. You might find that you can only write at night, with a fresh cup of tea, with candles lit and the right ambience playing in the background. Or maybe you like it simple, and you can write any time, and any place, as long as you have a notebook and pen.
What matters is that you find what works for you, figure out what you need and then prepare it. It’s going to be a crazy month, but you can do it!
What’s in my survival kit?
I’m trying to keep it simple this year. It’s going to be a pretty crazy month, and I don’t want the hassle of lighting candles and other ceremonies. I’ve parsed my ‘survival kit’ down to the bare essentials:
- My laptop – I do 99% of my writing on my laptop, so that’s a must
- My phone – It’s the one thing I always carry with me, and I often use it to get some writing done when I have a spare moment and NaNo is no different
- GoogleDocs – my word processor of choice for NaNo 2019
- My Samsung Galaxy Tablet – I’m currently in the middle of my Digitial Notebook Experiment, so I’m using a tablet in place of a traditional paper notebook and pen
- Headphones – I need my soundtracks and my ambient tracks
- Water and/or coffee
That’s everything, apart from a bag to carry it all in. And it’s refreshing to see such a short and lightweight list. I’m at a point in my creative journey where I just don’t need a lot of excess to get my writing done, and that in itself brings me peace of mind.
I’ll also be posting regularly on Instagram – you can follow me over @alyssalostinspace and we can support each other! You can also find me on the NaNo website under my username alyssaflynn. Let’s be buddies!
Will You Be Joining the Novelling Adventure this November?
Are you prepped and ready to go? What’s in your NaNoWriMo survival kit? Let me know in the comments below!
And if you found this post helpful, consider supporting Alyssa Lost in Space by purchasing its caffeine-dependent writer a Ko-Fi!
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