October 22, 2015

Toolbox by florianric (CC)
Your NaNoWriMo toolbox

November is closing in, and so is National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short. With that in mind, I forbid you to read this post before your outline is done. Seriously, do you have your outline under control? Yes? Good, then you may read on. Otherwise, come on, October is rushing by, time really is limited, so get outlining already.

Deal? Deal.

Right. So, other than the outline, what do you need to complete NaNoWriMo? Not a lot, honestly. Like most writing, the only thing you need is what’s in your head, and some means of actually writing. That being said, it’s good to come prepared, so let’s take a look at something resembling a toolbox-cum-checklist for NaNoWriMo.

First, you need time. Yeah, boring, I know, but if you’re going to hammer out 1,667 words every day for a month, you’ll have to manage your time. Maybe you’re already great at doing that, maybe you suck at it. Whatever. Schedule time to write, every day. Stick to that schedule. Seriously.

Second, you need a space to write. Maybe you’re one of the few who can actually write well at a coffee shop, maybe you need a room of your own, and maybe it’s the bathroom at the truck stop with all those phone numbers on the wall that you’ve been itching to call just to see what’d happen. It doesn’t matter, the only thing you need is your own space. You need to close the door to the rest of the world when you write. That might be done with an actual door, if you’ve got the space for it, or it might be your Headphones of Blocking +4. Whatever works, whatever you can get.

Third, yeah, something to write on. Parchment and quills are cool and all, but I recommend a digital writing device. It could be a laptop, a tablet, or even a phone. Just make sure that your writing device is ergonomically correct – you’re going to be writing for a lot of hours after all – and that you can backup your work easily. Yes, emailing yourself is a kind of backup, Dropbox isn’t (it’s a sync, and sync means data can be ruined from another location). I’m inclined to use my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard, and my MacBook, depending on the situation, but you might prefer something else.

Fourth, use writing software that work for you. If that’s a word processor, go for it. If it’s Scrivener or Ulysses, then that’s fine too, possibly even better. You can use minimalistic text editors such as iA Writer, but if you do, make sure you have a plan for how you’re going to work with your outline (it’s done right, the outline?). You could also use online services, such as Google Drive or BlankPage (which has simple outlining features built in), if you like to work in the web browser. The point is, make sure it’s something that makes it easy to just write, and – again – to backup.

Fifth, warn friends and family that you’ll turn into a frothing wordslinger for a month. You don’t have to become a drunk, nor brew word-teas, or gulp coffee by the barrel, but there’s no proof that those things don’t work. Except word-teas, that’s just hippie nonsense.

Finally, the sixth thing in your toolbox is your mindset. You might fail. You might not hit your word count goals every day. You might be hungover or sick or sick from being hungover, and fall behind. You might realize that there’s no way in hell you’ll hit 50,000 words in November, or – worse/better – that you fucking hate writing because it’s like having homework every day. All those things can happen, and a lot more, and that’s fine. Be ready for it, by which I mean, keep your guns locked away, and cover sharp surfaces. Writing is hard, and things happen. Failure is always an option, there’s no shame in failing something like NaNoWriMo.


Look, there are a million posts and books and crap that tells you how to write. What to use. How to organize. Who to emulate. Forget all that, fuck all that. Fuck this pile of words too. In the end, writing is just something you do. The only things you really need, are the things you need – the magic word being you. Not me, not Chuck Wendig, not Neil Gaiman, not Stephen King, not your English teacher from elementary school (she was nuts anyway).

Figure out what you think will work for you, decide on how you’re going to use whatever it is you’ve decided, and then, come November 1st, just do it. When you’re out of the gate, don’t experiment, don’t fiddle, and don’t read more stuff like this.

Just write.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.