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 do. So have fun doing it.
If you’re doing the NaNoWriMo thing, feel free to buddy me; I’m Dabi71.