Well my fellow writers, this is it: In just a few short days, NaNoWriMo 2017 will begin, and many of us will be spending more-than-usual amounts of time in front of our computers, typing away until our fingers hurt or we realize we need to eat something.
Writing 50,000 words in thirty days is not an easy task. I can’t speak completely from experience, since all of my NaNoWriMos in the past have allowed me to customize my goal, but the number is daunting. Fortunately, however, it’s not impossible. All you need are the right tools.
Using my own experience, and consulting a few of my friends that are NaNo veterans, I’ve compiled a list of things to include in your NaNoWriMo “Survival Kit.” Hopefully these will be applicable whether you’re a plotter or a pantser (read this post for an explanation), or whether this is your first time or tenth time.
Here’s what I recommend for your NaNoWriMo Survival Kit:
You might be thinking, “the less liquids I drink, the less I’ll have to take bathroom breaks, and the more time I’ll have to write,” which is technically true, but don’t do it! Your body needs to stay hydrated so you don’t fall over by Day 5 of NaNoWriMo or – I shudder at the thought – get sick. Also, I know many of you love caffeine, but don’t go drinking a ton of it during NaNo. Yes, it may energize you, but you can’t just run on coffee or Red Bull alone; you need water too to stay healthy.
Snacks (Healthy and Unhealthy)
This goes with hydration, because surprise, your body also needs to eat! It would be nice if we could shut off our normal physical needs during NaNo, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. So before NaNo begins, gather up your favorite writing snacks (Goldfish crackers are a favorite of mine) for when you get hungry during your writing sprints. Make sure you eat “real meals” too, not just microwaved ramen. And finally, reward yourself with your favorite sweets from time to time, but also make sure you’re eating healthy food. Again, we don’t want you to go into a sugar coma by Day 5.
Music to Fuel You
Not everyone likes to write with music, but for many of us, it can be very energizing and can keep us motivated during long stretches of writing. If you don’t like music with lyrics, try soundtracks from your favorite movies, TV shows, or video games. Even better, you can make a playlist of songs that fit the genre or mood of your story. Whatever you do, music can tune out distractions and keep you motivated, so give it a try!
A Support Network
Indulge my geekiness for a moment: I’m part of a Pokémon Go group on campus called GoCast, which is basically just a big group chat for us to tell each other about rare Pokémon and meet up to play together and whatnot. It has almost nothing to do with writing except that it’s a good example of a support network. For example, when one of us catches a rare Pokémon, we’ll share it with the group and there’s always congratulations (and sometimes crying emojis too). I suppose it might seem silly, but the point is, find people who are going to encourage you and support you in your accomplishments, no matter what they are.
A Reward System
Sometimes, bragging rights just isn’t enough motivation, which is why I think it’s a good idea to set up some kind of reward system to help you reach your goals. That might mean that every time you reach you daily word goal, you watch an episode of your favorite TV show or read a chapter of your favorite book. Or you could do something like I did and give yourself rewards when you reach certain milestones. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s motivating!
Something Non-Writing to Do
“But Maggie,” I hear you say, “Every free moment of my day MUST be spent writing! I’ll never reach my goal otherwise!”
First of all, if you go into this with a pessimistic attitude, there’s no way you’re going to reach your goal anyway. Second, if you spend every waking moment working on your novel, you’re going to burn out very, very quickly. Don’t be afraid to take breaks and recharge your brain between writing sprints – just don’t let it turn into an 8-hour marathon of Stranger Things. Taking breaks can also help you stay inspired, which leads me to my next point…
A Road Map
I don’t mean an actual road atlas (although if you’re writing a story with a road trip, that would be useful). What I mean is you should have some kind of plan of action before beginning your novel. For people like me, that means having a detailed outline, writing down exactly which roads to take and which turns to make. For others, that means knowing Point A and Point B, but not the route you’re going to take to get from one to the other. A loose plan is better than no plan!
This can take many forms, like Pinterest, reading, video games, movies, TV shows, drawing, or whatever interests you. Try to take at least a few minutes to remind yourself why you started this novel and engage in activities that will inspire you. For me, Breath of the Wild was a huge inspiration for my novel, so whenever I’m feeling unmotivated, I have a feeling I’ll find myself exploring Hyrule.
A Notebook to Carry with You
Inspiration can strike anywhere and anytime, and that includes times when you’re not at your computer. Obviously, you don’t want to lose your idea, so you make a note on your phone. The problem is, there are times when you can’t use your phone, either, like in class. The solution? Carry a notebook! It looks much less suspicious in the classroom, and it’s something you can take anywhere with you.