My NaNo Survival Kit

I figured with NaNoWriMo drawing ever closer, I’d share my own list of items that I’m collecting for my November survival kit. Some are ready to go, some I still need to get ready.

1. Laptop – The laptop itself is ready; in fact, I have a new one this year. It’s a work laptop, which comes home with me, and it’s very nice. The keyboard is a little frustrating though. I can’t say exactly why, but when I type my normal speed, I end up skipping letters way more often than I do on my desktop.

My writing space around my laptop is what I still need to work on. It’s piled high with papers and notebooks, related to both work and writing. I have a wooden filing cabinet near my desk that I plan to use to start organizing work papers, and go from there. That’s on my to-do list for the rest of October

2. Outline – I keep starting on this, and keep running into questions. I may need to stop worrying so much about a physical outline, and at least think through all of the broad points (it helps that I do have a timeline with key events listed out) to make sure there aren’t any more huge questions that need answered now, while I have more time. And this is just one plot thread I’ve been trying to outline. There will be another one, that I just realized yesterday might actually be a bigger thread than I thought, that I haven’t even started thinking about yet. So yeah, lots of work left to do on this, and I have how many days left?

3. Timeline
timeline Vin
I may not have an outline yet, but, as I mentioned, I do have a timeline. Because my 2017 NaNoNovel encompasses several other books, with some intertwining characters and plot points, I had to get this timeline set up a long time ago. Events have moved around a lot since then, even a lot just in the last couple of weeks, but I think it’s set now. And if I don’t end up with much of an outline, this will at least be something.

4. Notebook, pencil, & eraser


And believe me, I has all the notebooks!

I still love the tactile feeling of writing by hand. I don’t do it much during NaNo, because it’s just…so…slow. But I always have at least one notebook with me when I leave the house during November, in case I have a chance to write, or even just a stray idea to jot down.

4-b. Thinkink Pen
fidget pen
The pen is metal and bendable, and comes with attachments that are either magnetic, or at least metal. It’s a fidget pen. I’ve noticed a tendency to take apart mechanical pencils when I’m in a meeting, or when I’m writing and have to stop to think. I’ve broken more than my share of pencils that way. This thing has been great!

5. Leftover Halloween candy & other snacks – It’s become a tradition for my husband and me to go out on the day after a major candy holiday (mostly Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter) and get a few bags full at half-off. It’s really the only times we buy candy, and then we split it between the 4 of us in our family, and make it last as long as we can. I tend to stress eat when I’m writing. It’s not a good habit, but one I can’t seem to shake during NaNo.

6. Full stock of coffee – For me, this is about more than the caffeine. I enjoy coffee, cappuccino, or hot chocolate when I’m settling in for my writing time simply for the taste. And the warmth, since it tends to be cold here during November.

7. Thumb drive – Somewhere I have a thumb drive with my writing backed up on it. It’s probably 2 years out of date, since there’s no way I was organized enough to back anything up during last year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ll have to dig it out, catch it up, and then use it to store my writing on. I tend to go back and forth between my laptop and desktop, because the laptop is upstairs in my bedroom where it’s quiet, but sometimes it’s nice to be at my desktop–more comfortable, amongst the people (downsides there, of course), and usually warmer.

8. AlphaSmart Neo

I did an entire blog post on this already, so I won’t go into much detail here. This will be my first NaNo with it, and I am really looking forward to it. I’ve already gotten quite a bit of use out of it during prep time. In fact, after using it for 3 days to “interview” one of my main characters as a way to break through some blocks, I had transferred the writing to my computer, and tried to finish it there. But it just wasn’t the same, and I couldn’t quite focus. This thing may transform the way I do NaNoWriMo. Or it may just be a fun toy. (Though if nothing else, it will definitely come in incredibly useful for writing away from the house.) Either way, I’m hooked!

What’s in your NaNoWriMo survival kit? Are you prepared for November 1st?

Tools for NaNoWriMo: Neo


(Disclaimer: Just like most of my posts on my NaNoPrep tips page, this isn’t specific to NaNoWriMo; it’s just a good time to break out tips like this.) A few years ago I came across a crowd-funding campaign for a portable, electric typewriter called a Hemingwrite. It provided a way to connect to your computer and retrieve what you wrote, but while using it, you would be free of distractions, because there was just a little screen for the words to go into–no browser, no social media, nothing that might normally pull you away from your writing. I really liked the idea of it, but it was quite pricey.

I don’t remember exactly how I first came across Alphasmart. I may have read an article about alternatives to the Hemingwrite (by this time called the Freewrite). But I did a little research and found out that the Alphasmart Neo was everything I might want in a portable, distraction-free word processor. The research told me that Alphasmart no longer produced new items, but that used Neos (and other Alphasmart items) could be found for sale on places like Amazon. Sure enough, I found several for an average of $30 a piece.

I dropped the hint to my husband that it would make a great Christmas present (I think it was during November last year that all of this happened), and he came through.

Just like the reviews said, this keyboard is exactly what I would want it to be! It can store separate files, saves as you go, has (from my experience so far) great battery life, and it runs on AA batteries. It has a small screen, which can be helpful in making sure you don’t see too much of your text at a time, distracting yourself while writing. But there are 5 options for font sizes so you can go from 6 lines with very small font all the way to 2 lines with really big font.

When you’re ready to transfer your writing to a computer, it’s a simple procedure. There’s a cable that plugs into the Neo, and then plugs into a USB port (if the cord doesn’t come with the Neo, it can be purchased separately). You open whatever program you want the text to go into–Word, Google Docs, Scrivener, etc–make sure you’re on the right file, and then push the “send” button. It’s not a simple file transfer; it “types” the text onto your computer. The more text you have in the file, the longer it takes. You definitely want to do this when you aren’t going to need your computer for a few minutes, because it transfers it to the active program. If you click away to something else, it will continue transferring, trying to type into that other program. That is one of only 2 downsides I’ve found with the Neo so far.

The other downside is that some of the keyboard shortcuts take a while to get used to. (Note: I’m a PC user, so I don’t know how this is for Mac users.) If you’re like me, and used to using “end” and “home” buttons to quickly navigate your text, you will have to relearn some new commands. “Home” takes you to the beginning of the entire document, not just the beginning of the line. Some shortcuts and commands are on the underside of the keyboard, but I did end up looking up a manual online to find more (mine didn’t come with a manual).

Speaking of commands, the Neo has a built-in spell checker, word count function, find & replace, and other things that can be helpful for writers of all sorts.

I have plans to sew up a sleeve for it, because it will fit into my Handbag of Holding for when I want to take it places (or a laptop bag or tote bag), but I don’t want it to get dirty or hurt. I am really looking forward to seeing how it helps my NaNoWriMo next month; it’s already been of great use so far. I haven’t had much occasion to take the Neo away from home to write, mostly because it’s not as imperative to write wherever I am outside of NaNo. I have used it, though, for writing practice, outlining a story over the course of a couple of days, and I’m even writing this blog post on it. It’s more convenient than a laptop if I even just want to go sit on the couch to write, and as much as I enjoy writing by hand, it’s faster (I do still write by hand though).

How about you? What portable writing devices do you use–whether a laptop, tablet, paper & pencil, or anything else? Does the Neo look appealing to you?