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Your Nanowrimo Survival Kit

The best way to win Nanowrimo is by maximizing inspiration and minimalizing distractions. A Nanowrimo survival kit helps you do just that. It ensures that you have everything you need nearby and keeps you from running off on lengthy store trips. The ideal Nanowrimo survival kit contains something to meet all your needs, preferably things that can easily be kept in a box beside your desk.

Some of the things you’ll need to survive this novel writing madness are better off in places like the fridge, but try to keep as many of the essentials by your desk as necessary so you don’t have to get up as often. Butt in chair is the most important part of any writing challenge, and by keeping all the essentials within arm’s reach, you eliminate excuses to remove your butt from its chair.

So what should you put in your Nanowrimo survival kit? Here’s what I try to keep in mine:

1. Snacks/Refreshments. Nanowrimo’s extraordinarily well timed for snacks. Halloween candy is on sale and there’s pumpkin flavored stuff everywhere. If you’re like me, that means you’re in snacker’s heaven. Buy a big box of Halloween chocolates, get some pumpkin spice tea and fill your fridge with pies. It’s also a good idea to get a case of your favourite pop so you don’t have to go thirsty. These things will help you stay happy and inspired–or at least will keep you from being miserable and dehydrated.

2. Paper/pens. It’s always good to have a variety of notebooks, pens and sticky notes in easy reach during November. This way you can take note of turns of phrase you’re especially proud of, jot down new facts about your world and characters, and write down important tasks that you can’t do now but must do later. It also helps to have these things on hand in case you get stuck, so you can brainstorm or free write until the words flow again.

3. Stickers! Stickers are great. They should be kept on hand any time you’re working on a big writing project, and they make a perfect reward during Nanowrimo. Buy yourself some stars, skulls or whatever your favorite kind of sticker is. You might even want to buy different stickers for different goals, say stars for every thousand words and kitten stickers for every ten thousand words, and something completely different for when you finish. Put them on your calendar or somewhere where you’ll see them every day to keep you inspired. Last year, I put a kitten sticker on my laptop for every 5, 000 words. Every time I see my laptop, I’m flooded with happy memories, and that’s just how it should be.

While there are dozens of other things you might include in your Nanowrimo survival kit–effigies of your characters, sculptures representing your personal writing demons, mindless distractions to keep your brain working–the three things I’ve listed here are the essentials. Without these things, you’re likely to spend much of your time uninspired and on unnecessary trips to the store. So get out there today and stock up.

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Creating a Nanowrimo Survival Kit

Every year in at least one of the Nanowrimo forums you’ll find a thread talking about people’s Nanowrimo survival kits. A Nanowrimo survival kit is a big box full of items that will help you through Nanowrimo. Unlike most kits, not all of it will be in a box. Some of these items are better off in the fridge or cupboards around your home. Some should be carried with you all the time. Today I’ve created an example Nanowrimo survival kit, which contains many items most Nanoers find useful during the month of November.

  • Ramen Noodles- Mr. Noodles are a quick, simple meal to make when you’re deprived of sleep and chained to your computer. Picking up a big box of these noodles is a good idea. Even if you don’t eat them all in November, they’re good to have around when you’re tired and sick. Think like a college student–not a lot of time, not a lot of money. Embrace the noodles.
  • Stickers- These are for your calendar to mark key achievements. Some people have different kinds of stickers for when they hit different word goals: one kind for their daily word goal, one kind for their weekly word goal, and others for major points like halfway and of course 50, 000. Usually these go on a calendar or a chart of some sort for the month.
  • Spiral Notebook– This is to carry around with you everywhere, and to keep beside your desk. Use it when you have an idea that doesn’t have a place in the story you’re working on for Nanowrimo. Write down little things you hear people say on the subway that are particularly interesting. Collect dares from the forums that you can use in your Nanovel. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t go anywhere without your notebook next month.
  • Pens– These of course go with the notebook. You should have a couple in your writing space at all times, and you should bring at least one with you everywhere you go. I don’t like to leave my house unless I have at least two pens, even when it’s not Nanowrimo season.
  • Sugary Treat of Choice– Some people like chocolate bars. Some people like hot chocolate. Some people, who may or may not be freaks, prefer strange gummy candies to chocolate. Whatever your favourite sweet thing is, make sure you have a stash for next month. These will be used both to reward hitting massive word goals, and to inspire you in moments of complete desperation.
  • Caffeinated Beverage of Choice– Some people don’t like caffeine at all. Most Nanoers aren’t those kinds of people, so don’t forget to grab an extra box of tea or coffee for next month. You’ll need to load up on caffeine if you’re going to write 50, 000 words while working or going to school, and time spent going to the store could be better spent writing.
  • Dried fruits– And of course other food items which will aren’t going to rot too quickly. It’s convenient to have a stash of healthy snacks. Try to pick ones that won’t grease up your keyboard. When November hits, keep a bowl of healthy snacks on your desk so you don’t end up just eating crap while typing up your novel.
  • Story Totem– Some people have several of these. I sometimes don’t even have one. Creating a totem for your novel–an object of some sort which represents your story–is a good idea. It’s something physical that you can hold in your hands and play with when you get stuck. It’s a great way to keep yourself inspired.

There are dozens of other things you can include in your own personal Nanowrimo survival kit. I haven’t included all of the items in my list, and there are probably things you’ll find incredibly helpful that I haven’t listed here. But this is a really, really good place to start. Remember, Nanowrimo is all about creating a novel in a month, but you’re going to need some things other than a story to make it easier on yourself.

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What’s in your Nanowrimo survival kit?