What’s in your #NaNoWriMo survival kit?

It’s almost NaNoWriMo time again, and you know what that means: 30 days of wild and crazy novel writing for thousands of authors around the world!

This will mark my 11th year of participation in National Novel Writing Month, and with six wins under my belt, I’m aiming for lucky seven.

As someone with a lot of experience in the trenches, I thought I would share a few ideas about what to put in your NaNoWriMo Survival Kit in order to successfully navigate the highs, the lows, and the time-sucks that present themselves during the month of November. (Heads up: Yes, there will be some affiliate links in this post.)

First Up: The Basics

The Basics: Coffee, cocoa, favorite mug, chocolate, notebook, pens and highlighters.

You’ve got to have a few basics, and for most Wrimos this means setting up your Word or Scrivener documents on your computer.

If you’re old school, like to noodle around on paper before committing to the computer, or just want a trusty backup in case the power goes off, you may also want to grab yourself a notebook. Some Wrimos get fancy and buy a dedicated bullet journal to lovingly record all their thoughts. For me, a trusty $1 notebook from the Dollar Store fits the bill just fine. This is a SFD (Shitty First Draft), after all!

Along with your notebook, you’ll always want to have a favorite pen on hand – preferably one with a clip so you’ll never forget it at home when you grab your notebook for some writing in a new location!

I’m also partial to several different colors of highlighters, for color coding notes, marking up your outline, and of course highlighting key bits and pieces from your scrambled notes.

Once you’ve got all the necessities of writing together, you’ll also want fuel. My go-to writing snacks are chocolate, coffee and hot cocoa, and I’m picky about getting the good stuff. Not only can these keep me going on a tough writing day, they also serve as rewards for when I’ve finish a certain number of words. So, yes, Ghirardelli, Lindt, Ritter Sport, Toblerone, and even the occasional Godiva splurge can be found stashed in my writing desk. For hot cocoa (and the occasional mug cake): now that I’ve tried Guittard cocoa powder, I’ll never go back to those inferior store brands! For coffee: I have a variety of different brands that I cycle through, depending on my finances and the store I’m at when I realize I’m low on beans, but my favorite go-to these days is Intelligentsia’s El Gallo Breakfast Blend.

Next Level: Pro Printables

In addition to the basics, there are also a few tried-and-true printable items I like to keep on hand to help me track and review my progress.

The most important item of all is my outline, which I like to print on paper so I can check things off as I go. I also keep a copy in my Scrivener file, for quick reference, but having the paper copy is also great for when I’m stuck and need to brainstorm in my notebook. I’ll mark it up with my highlighters and pens, checking off scenes that are finished and calling attention to stuff I’m skipping but need to come back to, and generally destroy the paper copy by the time November 30th rolls around.

Next up is the Boho Berry printable that I like to use for marking off my word count each day, and keeping track of my individual trajectory from zero to 50K. You can find a copy of this item in Kara’s Tribe Resource Library, and she updates them annually just for NaNoWriMo.

Boho Berry printable, ready to rock and roll!

Finally, I also like to keep an official NaNoWriMo calendar on hand so I can record my daily word count progress and award myself stickers as encouragement to keep going. (There is something strangely motivating about seeing a bunch of gold stars lining up that puts me right back in grade school, eager to please my teachers – except this time the “teacher” is ME!)

Official NaNoWriMo calendar, color-coded for fiction and nonfiction writing days.

This year I’ve decided to tackle two different projects during NaNoWriMo: my Parisian Persuasion romance novel on the weekends, and a nonfiction project I’m calling Confessions of an Indie Editor during the week. I’m aiming for the full 50K for the novel, but only 25K for the nonfiction manuscript. I’m okay with not finishing the nonfiction book in November, but wanted to have a secondary project to turn to whenever I feel stuck with my novel.

Something New: Ancient Gadgetry

In addition to all of my Usual Suspects, this year I bought myself a used AlphaSmart 3000 on eBay as a birthday gift. I’ve heard good things about this device (and the Neo 2 version) – which is a super basic laptop alternative – from some of my writer friends. I wanted to see if it would help me with my focus, since distractions are the number one way I manage to lose my writing time each day.

The AlphaSmart has absolutely NO internet access whatsoever, which means I won’t be tempted to flick from my manuscript over to Google or social media sites where I normally waste time or fall down a research rabbit hole. It sounds kind of unbelievable, since we all have devices that are connected to the internet 24/7, but I actually love this kind of “downgraded” technology for simply getting stuff done.

My full survival kit, featuring my new AlphaSmart 3000!

The AlphaSmart runs on 3 AA batteries, and syncs up via TextEdit on my computer, so it’s super easy to use, I don’t have to worry about charging it up or plugging it in. It also has 8 different “files” I can write in, while I’m out and about, so that should be plenty of room to write for a few hours at a time.

Additional Options

In addition to my survival kit must-haves, here are a few items that others typically include in their NaNoWriMo survival kits:

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  • Noise canceling headphones (extremely useful when writing in coffee shops, libraries and at Write-Ins)
  • Noveling playlist (featuring your favorite tunes or a selection of lyric-free songs to inspire without distracting you from your work)
  • Wine (for those of us 21+)
  • Snacks (important during marathon writing sessions)
  • Rewards (important for taking a break after said marathon sessions!)


Want more NaNoWriMo tips?

Grab a copy of my NaNoWriMo prep workbook, A Novel Plan!, on sale for just 99¢ today only.