In just a few short weeks, I will once again be taking part in the insane challenge that is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those who are unfamiliar, half a million people from across all seven continents take part in a personal challenge to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. I discovered NaNoWriMo just three short years ago, and I’m proud to be the head (Municipal Liaison) of my local region in West Virginia. This competition has done so much for me, from breaking down my own personal writing barriers to introducing me to a core group of local writers I now call my friends. But before I get all mushy about how much I adore NaNoWriMo, there’s a harsh truth that you should know… NaNoWriMo is HARD. Seriously! It takes dedication to push yourself to write at minimum 1,667 words of your novel each day. There are plenty of days where I just want to wave the white flag and hurl myself back into the comfort of my bed, far, far away from that daunting document on the computer screen.
That’s why I come prepared. While I’m still perfecting my NaNoWriMo Survival Kit, there are a few key elements that have remained a constant, and I’m willing to share them with you so that you can develop your own necessities to get you through the month of November. My Survival Kit includes:
1. NaNo Prep Materials
A lot of little items could fall under this catagory, but these are the things that I need well before November starts. Depending on how you prepare for NaNoWriMo, you will be known as either a Planner (you plan your novel in advance) or a Pantser (you “fly by the seat of your pants”, no planning, you start fresh November 1st with zero preconceived ideas for your novel). I’ve tried both methods, and though, while I “won” the year I was a Pantser, I ended up hating my novel entirely and never touching it again. I generally feel more confident in my ideas when I’ve planned. Therefore, you’ll note in the picture the large journal (for recording any sudden bursts of inspiration and outlining my scenes. This is much easier to carry around everywhere than the laptop I actually write on, and it makes it easier to refer back to my notes while writing.). There’s also an assortment of pens (can never have too many), post its (for outlining scenes so that they can be rearranged), tabs (for sorting character, plot, and setting outlines), and highlighters (so I can easily find the important bits!). You might also note my investment in munchies (Can we talk about how delicious goldfish crackers are for a minute?) and coffee creamer (Pumpkin Spice Err’thang! Don’t judge.) Our region’s first Plot In happens next week, so I’ll definitely be putting all of these items to good use by then, and I’m sure they’ll continue to serve me through the wild insanity that is November.
2. Ample Amounts of Caffeine and my Super-Official Mug
I adore this mug, given to me by one of my region’s Wrimos, and I use it far more than any other coffee mug I own. Why? Because it proudly proclaims what I’m doing. For many years, I struggled with the question, “When can I call myself a writer?” The word itself is subjective. Does a published manuscript make you a “writer” any more than the person with a hard drive chock full of stories? Not really, no. It’s having the drive to create and perfect your craft. Calling myself a writer has given me more confidence in my actual writing, so I like having this mug as a subtle reminder of that. I recommend finding a fun mug that fits you, and using it often throughout November when you are in dire need of that caffeine break. I keep copious amounts of coffee and tea on hand, not just because they are both delicious nectar of the gods, but because I find I’m more productive either at the crack of dawn or the wee hours of the night. A little boost during those times can keep me powering through my daily wordcount.
3. An Enthusiastic Support System
You’re about to embark on a rather trying and difficult journey. The more people who know about what you’re doing, the better. These are going to be the people who hold you accountable. Tell your husband, wife, kids, boyfriend, girlfriend, aunt, uncle, cousins, boss, coworkers – TELL EVERYONE. Proclaim to all of social media that you ARE going to write 50,000 words in the span of 30 days! Sounds terrifying, right? When no one knows the challenge you are undertaking, you feel less guilty when you fall short and give up. By telling everyone, you will have people pushing you to succeed, guaranteeing you don’t give up on your project. If your region has in-person write-ins, GO! If you can’t make the in-person events, be active as an online presence; whether it’s NaNo forums, a regional Facebook page, or just the #NaNoWriMo on Twitter. You’re sharing this wild experience with half a million other people. If anyone is going to understand the struggles you now face, it will be them, so use that to your advantage! Cheer each other on to the finish line.
This has been a personal tradition for me. I tend to always have a pair of fingerless gloves around during our Write-Ins – A) Because I hate being chilly in the least & B) Because they just look so cool. I’ve gone from a pair I crocheted myself, to just regular compression gloves that help my not-so-old-lady arthritis, to these beauties. My TARDIS gloves were a recent gift from a fellow Wrimo and Wicked Wordsmith, and I just adore them. Be jelly.
Not in the YOLO sense, but what’s better than NaNo swag items? Nothing, that’s what. This is an added benefit of attending in-person write-ins. Usually, your region’s ML will dole out awesome NaNo themed items or prizes. I like to give out official items direct from Office of Letters and Light, like our yearly NaNoWriMo stickers, but I also like to include my own items to motivate my Wrimos. This can be ANYTHING. This year, I’ll have merit badge buttons made up for different achievements – Little achievements to work towards and strive for as my Wrimos push towards the ultimate goal of 50k. I also keep a prize bag full of random prizes, everything from flash drives to Rubik’s cubes, to give out during our word sprints. I’ve found that a lot of Wrimos like to use these prizes as their personal motivators or mascots. Last year, I’d purchased a glass paperweight shaped like a squirrel for fifty cents from a Goodwill, and it surprisingly became one of the most sought after prizes at our Write Ins. While I worked on last year’s novel, I had a stuffed vampire mascot that would sit beside me whether I was writing at home or at one of our write-ins.
6. A Spiffy Calendar
This year, I’m using this one, found on deviantart. I set it to my computer’s background. That way, even when I’m not on the NaNo site, I can still be reminded of where my wordcount should be for the day. It also serves as a nagging suggestion to keep off of social media and other distractions until my count is met. The inspirational quotes are an added plus to this one.
That’s all I really need. I gather my Survival Kit, and on November 1st, I’ll open a new document on Scrivener and it’s ready, steady, GO. Feel free to buddy with me on NaNoWriMo – you can find me at earthsnake89. And remember… the most important rule to having a successful November, is to HAVE FUN. That’s all it takes!