Put Together A NaNoWriMo Survival Kit

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.

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