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Put Together A NaNoWriMo Survival Kit

by Jennifer on October 22, 2009

By Jennifer Blanchard

By now you’re in the process of plotting your novel, meeting your characters and getting your November schedule cleared for writing time.

But before November 1 gets here, you may want to also think about putting together a NaNoWriMo “survival” kit.

Here are some ideas for what to include:

  • A notebook–You’ll definitely want a notebook while you’re writing your NaNo novel so you can keep notes, write down ideas, do writing exercises to jog your creativity, etc. A notebook is one NaNo tool you don’t want to be without.
  • A few pens and/or pencils–You’ll need these tools to complement your notebook, obviously.
  • A computer or word processor–Unless you plan to write your NaNo novel by hand, you’ll need a computer, a type writer or a word processor. There are several pros and cons of each. Computers are usually your best option, but unless you have a laptop, you’ll have to do all of your writing in the same place. 

    Before I attempted NaNoWriMo three years ago, I purchased an Alphasmart Neo (NOT an affiliate link), which is a great word processor that runs on three AA batteries and lasts through about 700 hours of use.The reason I love this tool is because it is extremely minimal. The only thing it does is word process. You can’t connect to the Internet. You can’t check your e-mail. Because of this, you really can’t get distracted while you’re writing.

    Also, it’s super portable because it’s battery operated, and it’s very lightweight.

    The final reason I love this tool is because it only shows you up to six lines of text at a time, which makes it easier not to edit while you write.

    Best of all, it’s more affordable than a laptop (a mere $219) and worth every penny.

  • Notes, outlines, character sheets–You’ll want to have all the pre-NaNo work you put together near you while you’re writing. This will give you something to refer back to when needed.
  • Pictures–Of places you’re writing about, of people you’re writing about, etc. Having pictures to go off of while you’re writing will keep you from having to do research and allow you to use your imagination more. When I wrote my first novel, I had pictures of places in California spread out on my desk (since the book took place in Cali).
  • Your muse–Whatever your muse may be: a stuffed animal, a song, a photo of a person, etc., you’ll definitely want to include it in your NaNoWriMo survival kit. Your writing could suffer without it.
  • Reference books–As I’ve said before, NaNoWriMo is a time to avoid researching while writing, but it’s still a good idea to have some general reference books near you, such as a dictionary, thesaurus and the Elements of Style.
  • Lip balm–I personally love Burt’s Bees, but there are plenty of lip balms on the market. This is a good tool for everyday use anyhow, but also a worthy NaNo surivival tool.
  • A bottle of water–Since you’ll be spending a lot of hours next month writing, you want to make sure you stay hydrated. Having a bottle of water within arms-reach is definitely a good survival tool.
  • Snacks–If you’re like most writers, you eat while working. And NaNoWriMo is no exception. In fact, you may end up writing during meal times quite often. Having readily available (and delicious!) snacks on-hand is a great way to fuel you and keep you energized.

    As a health nut, I recommend snacks like nuts, dried fruit, yogurt, cheese, etc. But it’s also a good idea to have some snacks you absolutely love, like chocolate or, on occasion, cookies.Snacks will keep you writing, but you don’t want to spend the entire month gaining weight while you do.

  • Coffee–Some writers can live without coffee; most can’t. If you don’t have a coffee maker at home, I suggest you pick one up pronto. Walmart and Target have many affordable versions. At the very least, pick up a pack of Starbucks VIA Ready Brew, which you don’t need a coffee maker for.
  • An iPod/MP3 player/headphones–You’re probably going to want music to listen to while you write. You can easily put CDs into your computer and listen. Another option is the Web site Pandora, which is free and allows you to choose the music you like to listen to.And if you have an iPod or MP3 player, you can create several playlists to help you survive NaNo novel-writing time.
  • Earplugs–For those times when you don’t want to listen to music, earplugs are a good option because they block out most background noise, allowing you to really focus on the task at-hand.

    I highly recommend HEAROS earplugs, which I personally use. You can find them at Walmart or at any music-equipment store.

  • A cozy sweater or sweatshirt–As someone who is always cold, I couldn’t write (or live) without my favorite sweater. It’s a good idea to have one of these in your NaNo survival kit for those buildings, cafes, libraries, etc., that keep the AC pumping at all times. And, if you live in a cold climate, you’ll definitely want one!
  • A timer–For those writers who use the block-writing method, a timer is a necessary tool. It’s also a good idea to time your writing sessions so you make sure to take breaks. This will keep you from burning out.

Now remember, these are just suggestions. You can get through NaNoWriMo without any of these tools (aside from a computer, notebook or word processor, of course!).

But over my years attempting NaNoWriMo, these items have helped me to not only survive, but continue to thrive while writing.

What tools are you putting in your NaNo survival kit?

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year and would like help staying motivated throughout the entire challenge, be sure to sign up for my 30 Days of NaNoWriMo Tips for Procrastinating Writers e-mail newsletter.

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brittany October 22, 2009 at 5:09 pm

I need a muse, and I’ll probably use a stuffed animal. This is a great list, and I’ll definitely use it.

I don’t usually eat when I write, because I don’t want to get greasy/salty fingers on my laptop. 🙂 I haven’t tried writing with music on yet, but I probably will.

2 jmartinlibrarian October 22, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Wait. I thought chocolate was the officially sanctioned NanoWriMo survival kit snack.

3 Susie McCray October 23, 2009 at 10:51 am

Can an Ipod be considered a muse? I hope so because I just bought a new one.

4 Monica October 23, 2009 at 3:34 pm

These are fantastic. Great help. Thanks so much.

Oh, maybe one to add would be eye drops. After unending hours staring at the computer, your eyes will appreciate them.

5 jblan October 23, 2009 at 5:44 pm

@jmartinlibrarian It is officially sanctioned by NaNoWriMo. I was just suggesting healthier alternatives.

@Susie McCray Sure! Anything that inspires you can be considered a muse 🙂

@Monica Yes, eye drops are a great addition to the list. Thanks for suggesting!

6 Sandra S Richardson October 25, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Gosh! I hadn’t thought of needing a survival kit, but now that you mention it . . .

I like the eyedrops idea myself. I’ll try to stick with healthy, but I’m sure some chocolate will be there too, after all, a little each day is now considered healthy.

I’m really getting nervous. If this were a fanfic piece I was doing I’d be OK, I think, but with this being something I’m hoping to work into a story I can submit for publishing, it really is scary.

7 Aravis October 27, 2009 at 9:59 am

I know I need coffee, and my glasses. I keep a binder full of planning pages I try to keep next to me while I’m writing and Music’s always good. Applesauce is a very good snack, especialy the ones they put the extra vitamins or minerals in.

8 Trina October 27, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Hi Jennifer,
That is a nice NaNoWriMo survival kit. I’ll have to add a Yoga Mat to that survival kit. My legs get numb, my arms get tired, and my entire body generally gets stiff from sitting and writing all day. Starting Nov. 1st, I’m posting some Yoga/Stretching moves on my blog for my fellow NaNoWriMo authors.
I also add a couple of nice, warm cups of herbal tea. Rooibos & White Tea are my favs.
I must add my darling little Yorkie Romo who unselfishly provides his back for me to rub when I get stuck or start staring off into space.

9 Trina October 27, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Oh…I’ll need my glasses, my Denver Broncos sweat shirt, and DB house slippers. Yoga tips specifically for writers will be at http://www.leisurelivingblog.com starting Nov. 1st.

10 jblan October 27, 2009 at 7:29 pm

@Trina I’m excited for your yoga tips!

11 Qrystal October 29, 2009 at 8:28 am

For music, I find http://somafm.com to be wonderful, because most of it is instrumental and completely different from what I listen to for the purposes of relaxing. This is because it is mostly electronic, and I’m not much of a fan of the genre… except in this case, where it reminds me of video game background music, and the game is my life. (Whoa, where’d that come from?!)

12 jblan October 29, 2009 at 10:23 am

@Qrystal Thanks for recommending that music station! I’m going to check it out.

13 Lily November 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Wow. I already have all of that. I started on the Juniors program with 20000 words. So I have been working pretty hard. I had writers block because I was tired but then, last night i told myself to get cold water. It works. Oops, should get to writing. I think im shutting down my internet.

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