I love a good list, as you all probably are aware by now. On Wednesday, I hit publish on my NaNoWriMo guide which I’m so excited about. (If you haven’t already, you can download a copy here. It has a few basic worksheets to help you get ready for NaNoWriMo!)
Today, I want to switch gears, but keep it on NaNoWriMo: let’s talk what you need when November comes around. I’m talking the tools I use, the programs that help me function, my favorite coffee cups… you name it, it’s probably an essential. (Ok, I won’t include “my favorite coffee cup”, but you get the drift!)
One thing I want to talk about first though is why NaNoWriMo is so important to me—and why I think you’ll love it too. Whether you’re a young professional or a new mom (or a mom who has been momming for a while now), it’s easy to take on too much and get burnt out. So isn’t NaNoWriMo in that same universe?
I suppose for some, it might. But I know so many women my age, or just a bit younger or a bit older, are looking for something to pour their energy into. They are frustrated at work for whatever reason (even if they love it!) and/or they feel like everything revolves around their kids. It’s nice to do something that is just for you. As well, so many women who read this blog (yes, you!) are creative, inspiring, and have stories to tell. I’ve spoken with so many of you; I’ve seen your Instagram posts and your jokes on Twitter; you are as good a writer as any published author, I promise you. So if you’ve always wanted to write, but are intimidated by the big writing community (I have a lot to say there), NaNoWriMo is a great way to get some words on the paper and find a community where you are nurtured without anyone making you feel less than.
Now, without further ado: let’s talk essentials.
1. Google Docs
I know some people don’t like putting intellectual property on Google, but… there really is no better way to write online than Google Docs. With Google Drive, you can write on your laptop, your work computer (shhhh!), your phone, your tablet, whatever. You don’t have to always be in the same spot with one singular device. I also personally love the Google Doc tools: simple word counts, good grammar and spelling checks as you type (still in Beta, but honestly, very good), and a basic interface.
The only downside is that you require an internet connection to use Google Docs (unless you turn on offline editing, which is kind of a pain to use)—and an internet connection, as we all know, has a high potential to be abused.
Some people love Scrivener or Novlr to write online. However, I’m not in the habit of buy subscriptions to products that literally already exist for free. (No shade.)
2. A Good Playlist
Writing requires background noise. Just enough background noise so you don’t get bored, but not too much background noise that you get distracted by it.
I have a few playlists on Spotify that I swear by. Everyone’s preferences for background music vary, but my one big piece of advice is that if you’re at home writing, don’t use headphones. Play music on your computer, your phone, or via a Bluetooth speaker. If I use headphones while I’m writing, I’m categorically not going to pay attention, plain and simple.
Another good option is to pick a few movies that are just boring enough to listen to in the background. My go to movies at the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy. I’ve seen them enough that I’m not distracted, but they are pleasant enough to hear in the background. Plus, if I need a moment, I can step away and basically go into the movie without feeling like I’ve lost anything.
3. A Supportive Team
If you’re planning to do NaNoWriMo, one of the best things you can do is find a few friends who are also doing NaNoWriMo so you can support each other. There is nothing like being up early or up late writing and having someone to text, to bounce ideas off of, or to simply commiserate with.
4. A Few Good Distractions
“But Michelle, November is only about writing!”
Oof, yes. But if you spend all your time writing and thinking about your story, you’re going to get so burnt out.
Download that show you want to watch
Buy the movie you have been looking forward to
Make plans with friends
Take out a few books from the library
Write down a few good recipes to try
Whatever floats your boat, make sure to indulge in other fun activities during November so you don’t suck all the joy out of writing. This is really essential.
5. A Place for Notes
Aren’t you glad I didn’t put something hokey like “lots of coffee hyuck”? The writers and coffee trope exhausts me to a certain extent (and I do love coffee).
But also, so does the “get a notebook!” trope too.
When I say a place for notes, it can be whatever you want: treat yourself to a new notebook. Or start a word document just for NaNoWriMo notes. Or use the notebook your carry around either way. Often when I’m writing I will think of something I want to include in a future scene. During NaNoWriMo, I try to stick to my outline and not write scenes out of order; it’s just easier for me. So, I will often take notes on anything I think of as I’m writing—such as a line of dialogue I want to come up again in the future. Sometimes I use in-app notes for this (like comments in Google Docs), but usually I just jot it down in my planner or notebook.