NaNoWriMo – How to Survive the Month
Yeah, we’re going to need you to sign this form.
While this seems like a trivial exercise, remember that you are signing a contract with yourself to allow your creativity to flow unhindered for the month of November. You are allowed to produce bad writing, flat characters, uninspired dialogue and any number of potential writing sins. It’s okay, we promise. NaNoWriMo is about quantity over quality, and we are going to hold you to that promise. This contract also reminds you of your looming deadline (November 30th!).
Print this document out, sign it, and post it in your writing space as a daily reminder.
You are going to need some supplies before you set out on this manic journey but first, you are going to have to kiss your loved ones goodbye. You are going to have to cut back on the time you spend out and about with your friends and family. Our solution to this problem is to obviously trick them into participating in NaNo with you; however, this venture is not for the faint of heart so don’t be surprised if they laugh at your proposed November activity.
That doesn’t mean they won’t be useful during the month though! Recruit friends and family to hold you accountable over the month. Humblebrag far and wide that you will have a completed novel in 30 days and in doing so you can bet your loved ones will hold you to that claim. The most common phrase you are going to want them to repeat to you this month is “Shouldn’t you be writing?” – chances are you probably should.
Tools, or What You Need In Your NaNoWriMo Survival Kit:
Decide how you want to log your words. While there is something romantic about a fountain pen and a roll of parchment or trendy about the travelling typewriter, both are impractical for NaNoWriMo. There are WriMos who choose to use both of those tools, but we recommend a word processor. Choose whatever software you are comfortable with: Word, Pages, Open Office, Scrivener, each have their own pros and cons.
Though we just mocked doing it the old fashioned way, do keep a pen and notebook handy at all times. Inspiration, as a rule, strikes when you are trying to do anything but write. Authors have reported plotting whole chapters in their heads while taking a bath, coming up with the best character while skydiving, or thinking of some majorly epic dialogue while driving. Use whatever tools at your disposal to get those ideas down. Scribble down your ideas on whatever is available, and if your hands are not free, use your phone to record your notes.
You will also need a reference book. Here at Anansi we use The Chicago Manual of Style. You could also use an online reference, or pick up your favourite book and look to it for answers on formatting or style (we recommend Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder).
In his guide to NaNoWriMo, Chris Batty recommends you have a writing totem, and we agree. A writing totem is an item you bring out when it’s time to get down to serious business, and it is the most fun when it is an article of clothing or something you can wear on your person that will not inhibit your ability to write. For example, our marketing intern wears her R2-D2 socks when it’s time to put words to a page. Your totem could be something as simple as socks or as elaborate as a Viking helmet, or a cape, or a wig, as long as it makes you feel powerful and creative like a writer.
You are going to need to eat at some point over the month, and in times of stress you are probably going to want to eat a lot. Take a trip to your local bulk food store and stock up on snacks that are easy to reach for while typing. Prep your veggies ahead of time so you just have to pop to the fridge to be in snack city. Above all try to make meals that will yield a lot of leftovers so that all you have to do is quickly warm up something and spend less time cooking and more time writing.
While we are on the subject of consumables, you are probably going to want to arm yourself with the caffeinated beverage of your choice. Be it coffee, tea, something sugary and carbonated, you will need it in mass quantities.
Murdering your Inner Editor
One of the most important steps in preparing yourself for the month is plotting the perfect murder. Unfortunately we are going to need you to kill off that nagging voice inside of you that haggles you when your sentences are not perfect or flogs you with self-doubt. This person is your inner editor and it wants to waste your time this month fiddling with sentences or making sure things are grammatically correct. Ain’t nobody got time for that. You have to write 50,000 words in a month, there is no time to continuously go over what you’ve already written and try to beautify it. Press on! So do whatever you have to do to get rid of that little voice for the month (we won’t turn you in we promise); there will be plenty of time to resurrect it in December when it is time to edit.
We’re sorry we didn’t leave you much time to prep this month, but the supplies for NaNoWriMo are not difficult to amass. All you really need is your imagination and a way to write. For more inspiration check out what others include in their survival kits.
In the next blog post we will get into writing methods (plotting vs. pantsing) and which one you should go with this November.