The Obligatory NaNoWriMo Survival Kit Post

As zero minus NaNoWriMo approaches, it’s important to take inventory of what you’ll need to get you through the Month of You Questioning Your Sanity. This is called the NaNoWriMo Survival Kit, and you can add whatever you choose you think will help you through. Your survival kit will likely consist of the following tools:

  • Laptop – mine is a Samsung RV511, which is starting a show a little wear and a bit slowness of foot, but it’s still a fine laptop.
  • Pens and notebooks – always keep a few notebooks (I favor Composition-style notebooks, simply because I write left-handed) and several dozen of your favorite pens – mine are PaperMate Ink Joy 700RTs, in black ink – handy, wherever you are, wherever you go.
  • Your favorite Word Processing software – I love Scrivener. If you’re using it, you’re already in love with it. So much you want to marry Scrivener and make babies with her. If not, you’ve already fancied something else. That surely works for you. Again: whatever works for you.
  • Books – For me, books serve one of two purposes: one, they’re books that inspire me – for example, Slaughterhouse-Five, American Gods, and Watchmen were books that I’d turned while working on my last WIP – and; two, they’re essential tools for writers. Stephen King’s On Writing is essential reading for writers everywhere. Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing is an excellent collection of essays on the craft of writing, and it’s also essential reading. Outlining Your Novel is the best books I’ve read on the art of outlining and plotting, and it’s a fun read, too. The 3AM Epiphany offers more than 200 writing prompts that will take you out of your comfort zone. I turn to it for a quick inspiration when I need a writing push.
  • Music – If you prefer to write in silence, your name must be Jonathan Franzen.
  • Caffeine and snacks – also your call. I love Starbucks and peanut butter. I also enjoy bourbon. I’m also insane.
  • Totem – something tangible to hold on to, a security blanket. Mine is this mug below, the greatest piece of advice ever dispensed:

 For some of you, this will be your first attempt at NaNoWriMo. You’re feeling the butterflies, eager to do good, yet so desperate not to fail. For others, you’re now salty veterans at this. You know the tricks. If you nail the 50K, awesome. If not, what the hell. Some of us have really geared ourselves up for this. Some of us have decided at the eleventh hour. Hell, you might be reading this, and be on the fence, and decide, “Why not? I’ll give it a go.”

The good people at NaNoWriMo will tell you this is the most wonderful time of the year. They’ll shower you with pep talks and tons of cheerleading and how-to’s and all kinds of crucial caveats to help you land your target numbers. They’re absolutely right, because writing is a discipline, and if there’s a way to help you maintain that discipline, well then, you best listen. But it ain’t the most wonderful time of the year, that’s fo’ sho’.

I mean, let’s face it: November is a SHITTY TIME OF THE YEAR to actually do this sort of thing. For us Americans, at least; we miss at least four, count ’em, FOUR days of quality writing, with the Thanksgiving holiday. Think about it: either family’s come over to visit for the weekend, or you’re trekking to visit the family, and chances are your Aunt Martha and your Uncle Lou, who haven’t seen you in twenty years, really, really, REALLY want to spend lots of time regaling you with details on their cruises to the Caribbean, and all their chat is gonna cut into your quality writing time. That’s 6,668 words, at the very least, you’d  miss out on writing. Unacceptable! Wouldn’t another time of the year be a better time to do this. Yeah, they do the Camp NaNo in July, but, frankly, everyone ramps up to do this in November, even if November’s a shit time of year to be embarking on something serious like this.

Oh, wait…this really isn’t supposed to be serious.

Yeah, you read right: this really isn’t supposed to be serious. The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to test yourself, to prove that, given a specific set of parameters – 30 days x 1,667 = 50,000 words – you can write the first draft of a manuscript. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to make sense. It can be 50,000 words of complete gibberish. The point is, it’s supposed to all be fun.

Because after all the pep talks, after all the useful advice on how to properly prepare for NaNoWriMo, chances are you’re not going to be satisfied with what you’ve written. Chances are you’re going to sweat your totals. Chances are you’re going to write some truly quality material, but you’ve only churned out 27,000. No matter: none of that makes you a failure.

Of course, I could be wrong. And I probably am.

This survival kit will also come in handy to remind me that while I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year, my goals aren’t as lofty as they were last year, so I won’t pull my hair out when I only have 22,718 words written, and it’s November 27th.

Because unlike you, I really don’t think I’m going to nail 50,000 words in 30 days. And I’m perfectly fine with that. What I’m not fine is not getting my project off the ground. If this is the month to get your writing going, then that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to bend the rules a bit, because, frankly, I like breaking the rules. Knowing what the rules are helps me to better appreciate what the rules are as I’m breaking them. Call me a rebel. So be it. But I will be writing this month. As will you.

And we’re going to have fun doing it. dammit. Even if that means forcing you to laugh at my lame jokes. I mean it.

Okay, maybe not.

Alright, remember: THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN. SO MAKE IT FUN. If you hit your daily targets, reward yourself with something fun. A cookie. Your favorite TV show. A nice cold beer. A shoulder rub from your honey. Porn. Whatever. Just don’t beat yourself up if you’re several hundred or several thousand words short. Word counts don’t mean shit if there isn’t something quality somewhere in between the lines. So make each word count, even if that means going for fewer words, and ramping up as each day goes by.

Make it fun.

Don’t beat yourself up.

And no porn.

Ready? Yeah, you’re ready. This isn’t your entrance exam to Harvard, after all. This is something you want to doSo have fun doing it.

If you’re doing the NaNoWriMo thing, feel free to buddy me; I’m Dabi71.



25 thoughts on “The Obligatory NaNoWriMo Survival Kit Post

  1. Love your mug! The coffee mug. LOL Countdown. I haven’t had time to write my own blog about NaNoWriMo. i wonder how I”m going to find time for NaNo #4. Love your post and I totally agree…make it fun.

  2. Well that put me at ease a bit. Thanks, Gus! This will be my first crack at NaNoWriMo, so I’m petrified. But excited, too. And less petrified now. Great post! Oh, and that mug is every kind of awesome 😀

    • Hey EJ, glad I could I help settle you down. I flopped miserably in my first attempt, but my second attempt, I nailed the target. It helped to have a good support group giving me that push, especially during the final stretch. But remember it’s all in good fun, so don’t get too hard on yourself if you’re not hitting your targets.

      Feel free to buddy me on – Dabi71. And good luck!

      • Thanks again, that’s good advice! I’m aiming to have fun with it for sure. I’ll have a slow start because I’m still finishing off assignments til next Thursday, but I’ll be strong from thereon! I’ll find you on NaNo for sure. Cheers, and all the best with yours too!

        • I’m a little behind, too, what with finishing edits to the previous novel and running a re-election campaign for our local school board. But I like Gus’s attitude, and I’m trying to stuff my inner over-achiever into a box and ship it to Timbuktu so I can just enjoy writing the hell out of this thing this month.

    • Glad to see you two hooked up. Told ya Gus is awesome. He has decent taste in music too.

      Hey Gus, good luck this year. Sounds like you have an excellent attitude going in. Not doing NaNo, (give up porn? Never!) but I’m still looking forward to your pep talks.

      Oh this is RoS/Christy–I set up a secondary blog for the weekend series. Hope you’ve been doing well. Get writing! -c

  3. I was on the fence and when I woke up this morning, bright and early at 4:00, I thought, what the hell, let’s give it a shot. But then I read the “no porn” rule and I quit, so thanks a lot, Gus, for ruining NaNoWriMo 2013 for me! My problem is I can’t make it fun. Yeah, writing is fun and coming up with ideas is fun but trying to write 50k words in a prescribed amount of time is more like a challenge to me than something fun and I wouldn’t be OK with anything under 50k words. Plus I have no idea what I would write about. Maybe I’ll focus on 30 blog posts in a month or something like that. At least I can do that and keep my porn.

  4. I must be Jonathan Franzen, because I much prefer writing in silence. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with anything but a touch of ADHD or something. If the music is on, I’m listening to it, not writing. I’m going to have to think about what goes in my survival kit. Definitely both notebooks and keyboards, and my espresso maker. At this point I’m stuck with MS Word, because I’m not going to undertake to learn Scrivener while writing 2000 words a day or whatever I’m going to need to catch up. (I may write the first page today just to say I’ve started, but I really have to work on the outline a little more and CLEAN THIS EFFING PIGSTYE I live in! Maybe a tidy space is my security blanket? I don’t have a cool mug like yours.

    • Nah…Jonathan Franzen is a self-absorbed, hyper-opinionated, crotchety schmuck. Silence to me is deafening, so I need music – or a podcast – to act as either sonic wallpaper or well-timed inspiration.

  5. Great attitude.

    November 1 is my mom’s birthday, so last year I devoted the day to her and didn’t work on NaNo at all. Even missing that day didn’t hinder me from reaching the goal. This year, I wasn’t sure how I’d handle the day. The memories of her were overwhelming, and although I wrote on a couple of posts, again didn’t put anything down for NaNo.

    Nice survival kit. You need to package and sell them through the Office of Letters and Light. Good luck!

  6. Reblogged this on Wanna-Be Writer and commented:
    Here is, in my opinion, an essential must-read if you’re going to be participating in NaNoWriMo (or half-assing it like myself). One of my favorite bloggers, Gus Sanchez from Out Where the Buses Don’t Run, presents his NaNoWriMo Survival Kit.

  7. Pingback: Bloggin’ Recap: October 27th to November 2nd | The Day Dreaming, Candy Eating, Red Headed Bookworm

  8. Pingback: Bloggin' Recap: October 27th to November 2nd | The Day Dreamer and Candy EaterThe Day Dreamer and Candy Eater

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