Make your own NaNoWriMo survival kit
This is how I prepare for the craziness that is writing a novel in 30 days
My favourite autumn activity is writing a novel. I know, I'm such a geek. NaNoWriMo, which takes place in November, is the highlight of the year for me. A whole month of absolute madness. The lines between imagination and reality absolutely blurred, since you need to live in both worlds at once.
As soon as the leaves start falling off the trees I feel the familiar butterflies in my tummy. I start looking for the perfect notebook and a new pen, and everything else that belongs in my annual novel writing survival kit. This is a box of things that will help or inspire me in the month to come, and which I can not open and use until midnight 1. November.
So what exactly do I include in my NaNoWriMo survival kit? Oh, and what exactly is this strange thing called NaNoWriMo anyway? Read on and find out!
What is NaNoWriMo?
A 50,000 word November miracle/ disaster.
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Yes, that's right. In the month of November, thousands of people all over the world throw all caution to the wind, their social life out the window and live on microwave dinners, in order to produce a 50.000 word novel in 30 days.
No, the idea is not to have a novel ready for publishing at the end of the month, but to have a very (read: extremely) rough first draft to edit and build on.
Sounds insane? That's because it is. Completely insane, absolutely mind blowing and worse than any last-minute paper you have ever had to write in high school. But it's so much fun!
Click the photo below to read more and sign up (it is 100% per cent free)!
First thing to go into my survival kit: - A new notebook!
There is something so promising and inspiring about a perfectly new, perfectly perfect notebook. That first blank page shining at you as you open the stiff covers of your newest treasure. The thought of putting your pen to that paper for the first time and create that first word/ sentence/ paragraph - all those words that will eventually make our your novel!
I buy a new notebook every year. I know this might seem a little decadent, but I also suspect most writers understand me. I choose a notebook once I get a certain idea what this year's story will be about. The notebook will then reflect something in that story. A colour, an emotion, a symbol.
My favourite coffee mug
I hide this in my survival kit box sometime in early autumn. It is hard for me to do, but anticipating the joyful reunion upon opening the box on November 1 helps me through it.
Why it is my favourite mug I couldn't tell you. I've only been to Birmingham once, and only for half a day. I don't remember much of it. The mug was bought because I am obsessed with souvenir shops. And coffee mugs. And because I got this idea I would start collecting love mugs from all the cities I visited.
Photo: my own.
The NaNoWriMo guide book
Chris Baty is the man behind this challenge, and this book is his motivational speech to all who dare sign up.
I bought it my first year of NaNo-ing, and it is always part of my survival kit. For obvious reasons. By now I know it almost by heart, but I still open it now and then and read for motivation and a good laugh. Yes, it's that funny!
- my writing totem
I first wrote about this striped bunny in a different article, and mentioned how much I would like one. My boyfriend (now husband) then bought him for me as a Valentine's Day present, and since then he has been my writing totem. Meaning that he sits next to me whenever I sit down to write. His name is Bunny. Very original, I know...
The idea of a writing totem is probably alien and silly-sounding to a lot of you. But let me explain how it works for me. When Bunny is present it is a reminder that I need to get serious. It is writing time. He is someone that looks at me but doesn't disturb me. I can tell him my ideas out loud, without the fear of judgement and worse - fake excitement. You can read more about using stuffed animals as a writing aid in the above-mentioned article.
I don't put Bunny in the box. He sits on top of it, so I can use him for inspiration also before the event.
Photo: My own.
Get your own Bunny
Because he is ridiculously cute. Because he actually helps. Because he has stripes and long ears (who doesn't like a striped, long-eared bunny?). But most importantly - because you can't have mine!
What about you?
Do you use a writing totem?
What else goes into my survival kit?
Oh so many things! But mainly things that will in some way aid me on my way to becoming a novelist.
- A scented candle. Sounds weird, I'm sure. But I have come to enjoy a scented candle by my side when I'm writing. As soon as I light the candle and its scent start spreading around the room, I start feeling inspired and my fingers itch to start writing.
OK, not always. But sometimes.
OK, so I just like the smell.
- Leftover Halloween candy. I try not to reward myself with food, but it does seem to be the most effective incentive to get me through the writing of the day.
And we all know sugar and caffeine give the inspiration a bit of a boost. What I need to remember is that it doesn't last long and the inevitable sugar crash is bad. Really bad.
- A new pen. Not necessarily a fancy and expensive one, but I always try nearly all the pens in the shop before settling for one I like. It needs to glide easily across the paper, not bleed ink, and have a nice colour. The last few years I mostly go for black or blue, but my first novel was drafted almost entirely in green ink.
- A knitted poncho. I have a gorgeous (store bought) knitted poncho that I somehow started associating with NaNoWriMo, and therefore now goes in my kit. It is perfect for when the nights start getting chilly but I'm too lazy to turn the heater up.
- Fuzzy socks. Because they're fuzzy. And they go on your feet.
A book of names - The (not so) secret ingredient!
This is so useful when trying to come up with names for characters! Here are more than 10,000 names collected in one book, including the origin and meaning of each name.
Next time you need a new character name, just grab this book and open up to a random page. Or use it to do more extensive research for those times when a character's name needs to be just right. I keep a copy close to me at all times during NaNoWriMo, as I don't want to waste precious time trying to come up with a name from thin air.
Oh, and another thing: this can be used to freak out your parents or your partner! Have fun! (or you can search Amazon for a name book with less photos of babies on the front - but this is really the best one out there, if you ask me).
Random goodness for my NaNoWriMo care package:
Colourful post-it notes are a must! As I write I often come up with little subplots or ideas for character traits. I need to quickly scribble these down somewhere other than in the notebook or computer, so I keep post-it notes all over the place. I colour code them with one colour for plots, one for character ideas, one for settings etc.
I give myself a gold star in my diary every time I reach my daily word count goal. A little juvenile, a little embarrassing, and a whole lot awesome!
Yes, you will need to eat. No, you may not feel like cooking. This is why I always stock up on quick and easy instant meals.
One thing you are pressed for in this challenge, is time. Especially if you're in school, have a full-time job and/ or have kids. At the moment I do have a job, but no one else to rely on me, so I don't feel bad for making loads of instant foods. But I always try to have something healthy now and then.
- Granola bars and protein bars. For the times when you just. can't. get. away. from. the. computer.
- A wide variety of instant soups. Ahh, the pure genius of mugs, powder and a kettle...
- Oatmeal! I love a hot oatmeal porridge with honey and grated ginger on top. It is quick, easy to make and - bonus! - healthy!
- Dry pasta and ready-made pasta sauces from the supermarket. Or you can pre-make your own pasta sauces from scratch and freeze them until you need them.
- I also buy lots of fresh fruit for a quick and healthy snack. But this doesn't go in the kit, but on the kitchen counter.
- The year I did this challenge in Australia, it was obviously nearing summer, not winter. So I stocked up on iced teas and froze some coffee in ice cube trays to put in a glass of vanilla soy milk for a variation on iced coffee.
Don't forget to back up your novel. Regularly. I usually end my writing sessions by backing the day's writing up to a USB bracelet. A bracelet like this makes it easy to carry around with you, which is especially handy if you have to use different computers.
This one is 16 GB and will store your whole novel and so much more you might need - and not need - for your writing adventure.
Sure, coffee gives me both energy and inspiration, but the sad truth is that I can't drink it in the evening without lying awake half the night with twitchy legs and bulging eyes. So at some point during the day I switch to tea.
There's just something about having a steaming mug next to the computer that feels so reassuring.
And I love tea, so that's fine. My favourites vary, but I always come back to herbal teas. Drinking a tasty herbal tea feels like I'm giving myself a comforting treat.
Novelist At Work - Enter at own risk!
Let others know you are not available while writing with this 12" x 8" sign from Amazon. Mount on the door or simply lean against your laptop or monitor.
Then remove when happy to be distracted...