NaNoWriMo 2018: Noveling Survival Kit

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Well, friends, November is finally here. Week one has already come and gone and with it pages and pages of frantic prose have been scrambled through, coffee-stained, and cried over. As of writing this I’m sitting at a grand total of 11,543 words at the dawn of day eight.

While this isn’t exactly where I wanted to be, I’m proud. I’m proud because I’ve had one of the most hectic beginning weeks to NaNoWriMo in my eleven-year participation streak (and that includes senior year of high school and all my years NaNo-ing in college - combined!). So, sure, I’m not quite where I want to be, and I’m still a little disappointed about that. But I’m still on track. I’m writing every day, and I’m meeting minimum word counts, and I’m inching my way towards 50,000 words (and, hopefully, beyond!). That’s a victory.

And it hasn’t been accomplished alone!

Every writer has their own tools of the trade - the things we can’t live without, the things that make our craft possible. They might be little motivators, they might be the rewards we use, they might consist of towers of coffee beans and a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones. It’s all fair game! Personally, I have a mixture things that seem to rotate in and out of vogue every year. For 2018, I’ve found that these five things are my Top Five Most Important Most Inspirational Most Necessary Survival Kit Must-Haves to get through this wild month of non-stop noveling:

1. COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE. (& SOMETIMES WINE).

You know those signs you see in home-goods stores and souvenir shops? “Coffee keeps me busy until it’s time to drink wine”; “AM: Coffee / PM: Wine”. Well, that’s literally my life. My hot drink of choice seems to change year by year. Sometimes I’m a tea all day, every day girl. Some years I just want endless supplies of hot cocoa. This year, I’m all about the coffee. I can’t start writing without at least one cup in my system and one on deck (aka: on my desk getting cold and subjected to multiple trips to the microwave to keep it drinkable).

A few evenings a week, I’ve also found that indulging in a glass of wine is a nice way to both unwind and inspire a more laid-back writing style in order to meet my daily goals. I joined Winc (not sponsored! I just found them through Wine & Crime and really love their selection. but if they want to partner up, I won’t say no!) and ordered a few reds to try. I also started hosting #NaNoWineO chats on Twitter this year, mostly to increase my community participation, but also as an excuse to pop open my Winc bottles with some other writers.

2. THRIFTBOOKS. ABEBOOKS. BOOKOUTLET.

I tend to change up what my writing rewards are each year, if only to keep myself motivated. Sometimes it’s getting to go to movies every 10K words, sometimes it’s watching an episode of Netflix & Marvel’s Daredevil after 5K, sometimes it’s getting to go to a pop culture convention. This year, I’ve decided to reward myself with books! Cheap books, yes. Discounted used books, to be exact. But books nonetheless!

I’ve been using online discount book services since a college professor had mercy on her English majors and told us to order our texts from AbeBooks. Another professor was kind enough to grant us the gift of Thriftbooks, and BookOutlet and I found each other during a Shakespeare stint at the end of last year. Now all three show up on my Google homepage because I stalk them to intensely. Which is a good thing! Because for every 10K words I write, I’m allowing myself to order one book. My first 10,000 words earned me a UK edition of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies, and I’ve got my sights set on The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson when I hit the 20K mark.

Do I really need to be adding to my overstuffed bookshelves? Probably not. But is it keeping me motivated? Absolutely! And having so many deals available on thrift sites virtually erases the guilt at buying a new book every few thousand words.

3. A LITTLE BOOK OF BIG POEMS.

While we’re on the topic of books, let’s talk about how hard it can be to keep up with reading while NaNoWriMo is in session. The answer: it sometimes feels impossible.

I tend to stick with poetry during November. I find that reading poems can both inspire my work and serve as a reprise from my frantic, rambling, scrambling prose. It also allows me to keep reading without getting overly influenced by another writer’s style, structure or voice while I’m in the heat of a first draft. I’ve found that reading fiction can push me so far into another book’s world that sometimes my own work slips inside, so poetry is a great way to keep my reading goals in play while avoiding this realm-hopping phenomenon.

This year, I opted for Cheyenne Raine’s bilingual collection Lemon Acuarelas. It’s a beautiful book, and reading in two languages is keeping me in the head space to write the bilingual dialogue of some of the central characters in my main NaNo project. It’s a lot easier to make their speech fluid when I’m filling my spare time with their second language!

4. PODCASTS, PLAYLISTS, & STREAMING - OH MY!

Spotify is my best friend during November.

Usually, I’m a strictly music-only kind of writer. I’ll shove a whole bunch of songs into a playlist for my novel and listen to the whole thing non-stop throughout NaNoWriMo (or whatever I’m working on, really; this process isn’t NaNo-exclusive). This year, I’ve found myself further intrigued by podcasts and the odd documentary as well. I have two primary plots that I’m working on for NaNoWriMo, and both of them are heavily crime-based. They include criminals, vigilantes, crime journalists, police officers and government agents, so on and so forth, and I’ve found myself getting in the mindset of these characters with true crime podcasts and documentaries. Even if all the cases don’t quite line up with what I’m writing, hearing the terminology and getting a taste for the cases covers helps me set the tone for my work.

My current favorite is And That’s Why We Drink! The paranormal element ties in with the second half of one of my plots, so this show is the perfect mix to set the stage for particular story. I’ve also been into Wine & Crime, and I’ve just started dabbling in hits like My Favorite Murder. For documentaries, I’ve been focusing heavily on HBO specials including Beware the Slenderman, Mommy Dead and Dearest, and There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane as well as Netflix hits like The Staircase and season two of Making a Murderer.

5. THE NANOWRIMO COMMUNITY

This one is a little abstract.

It’s not an object. It’s not something tangible. It’s not something you can pull out at a moment’s notice, when you’re strapped for inspiration or you’re feeling drained or you just need a pick-me-up. It’s something that’s around you - something that you feel rather than touch, but this technicality doesn’t make it any less important.

One of the things that has kept me coming back to NaNoWriMo, one of things that has pulled me through almost eleven years of this madness, has been the community. These incredible writers are the backbone of the challenge. The word sprints, the forums, the Twitter chats, the postcard swaps - everything! WriMos are a unique breed of people, let me tell you. They are kind and encouraging and supportive even when they themselves are feeling frazzled and unsure. You can’t get through a challenge like this without people like them, and I’m so grateful to be a part of this crazy, wild, worldwide community!