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

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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?

Daily Writing Check-in: October 4, 2017

Words/Time:  1 hour setting up a broad outline in Scrivener for a story that needs rewriting. I’m working toward figuring out what I want to write for NaNoWriMo. I have 3 options, near as I can tell.

  1. Write the story that comes after the novel that I have so-far called “Pursuit of Power,” which itself is still in 1st draft form, and which I have realized is likely going to be book 1 in a sequence of 2 or 3, and that the entire sequence would be more aptly titled “Pursuit of Power.” I have sketchy ideas of what should happen in the next book, and I could spend the next 25 days fleshing that out.
    • Pro: I’ve started to have more ideas about what happens to Alexander after the first story ends, so I’m looking forward to delving into this completely uncharted territory.
    • Pro: It will easily be 50k words, so no worries there.
    • Con: I’m afraid I may have to tear “Pursuit of Power” apart a bit, take out the scenes that relate more to the over-arcing storylines than they do the specific plot of the first book, and knowing that is ahead of me might make it really hard to plot the next story.
    • Con: We’re talking huge, world-altering things that happen after the first “Pursuit of Power” book, and I’m not sure I’m ready to write that yet.
  2. Rewrite “Outcast,” which still only exists in original fanfiction form. Up until recently I thought I could simply revise it into my original world, but I don’t think that’s going to work anymore. And even if it did, I think I would be foolish to do it that way, since I have grown so much as a writer from when I wrote it. Because I still consider the story itself to be one of the best I’ve ever written, I have a hard time remembering that the writing could be better.
    • Pro: Because I love the story so much, and one of the main characters is my favorite of all my characters, that could make the writing easier.
    • Pro: The story is really well outlined, because I took the original story and wrote the basic idea of what happens as scene headers in Scrivener. (Same basic plot, but allows for details to change.)
    • Con: Because it’s a work I’ve written before, I may have a very difficult time writing it new, rather than trying to rewrite the scenes exactly as I remember them. I had the same problem at first when I rewrote “Pithea” from its original fanfiction form. That could definitely slow me down during NaNo, which is not preferable. On the other hand, I rewrote “Pithea” during NaNo in 2013, and it turned out very well.
    • Con: The original version of the story is only 45,000 words, and I don’t have a lot I plan to add…if anything I may have some places that will be shortened. It’s possible that in the next few weeks (or in the course of the writing), I’ll discover some new plot points for the story, but I can’t say for sure.
  3. Spend the rest of October brainstorming ideas from scratch–throw out ideas I already have, maybe even throw out the world I normally write in, and just see where the next few weeks take me.
    • Pro: Starting fresh might be fun for a change, especially if I am starting with an idea that isn’t in the same world I’ve been entrenched in for years, with the same rules.
    • Con: That is exactly what I thought in 2015 when I decided to write a novel that I planned throughout October, and it was set in modern, normal times (my group of stories are set in a futuristic, somewhat dystopian world). I finished the novel halfway through the month, painfully and messily, and then proceeded to finish the month with a story set in my normal world, one that I had planned to write before setting it aside to try something “fresh” for a change.
    • Con: Though I’m getting back to my writing again, I do still work ~20 hours a week, and can’t even guess what the next 3 weeks will bring (my work tends to fluctuate greatly), so if I don’t end up with enough time to work out a new story, but also didn’t spend the time figuring out how to proceed with 1 or 2 above, I will have a terrible NaNo.

I do believe I have talked myself out of number 3. I’m leaning toward number 1. I may work on “Pursuit of Power” (identifying any scenes that may need to be surgically removed) while also brainstorming the answers to questions I have about “Outcast,” which are related to how to make it work in my world. Hopefully sooner, rather than later, I’ll have an official novel to enter on the site.


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Plan Every Day: Our Frenemy, the Outline

dream plan write

Something else I learned in my high school creative writing class is that planning (or pre-writing) can be your friend. Thinking solely about research projects and essays, as much as I disliked doing them, writing an outline first always made the actual writing easier.

Cut to now, when I have no classroom to work in, no teacher to force me to do every tedious step of pre-writing, and no grade for my effort, or lack thereof. And you know what? I still do pre-writing, at least to some degree.

The debate of whether it’s better to be a plotter or a “pantser” rages on out there in cyber space. I’ve seen more than one comment of, “I’m not much of a planner. I write out broad plot points, but I have to give room for my story to go where it wants to go.” I have a response to that, but I’ve already ranted (jump to point 3) a little on that topic.

Planning might just help more than you expect. Don’t ever think that pre-writing locks you into anything. Very rarely do I even outline an entire story. Often, I outline to somewhere in the middle, then start writing. Sometimes when I get to the end of the outline, I’m on track. But more often than not, I derail before that point. Then I either just keep going or stop, regroup, and outline from there. Various sites call that a downside to being a planner, but is it really that big of a deal? Most likely, if your story has gone off-track from your plans for it, then there’s a reason, and you’ll likely be happier following the new path. Yes, you might have to write a new outline, or you might just pants the rest of the story (it’s okay to be a hybrid planner/pantser).

Have you ever had a story or scene rolling around in your head, maybe even playing itself out? There have been times that I feel like I’ve written half of the story before I ever put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). But when I do sit down to write it out, one of the following things happens: I’ve forgotten many of the important parts; what was playing through quickly in my mind takes a lot longer to write out and I can’t get it all done in one, two, or even several sessions, leaving me again in danger of forgetting what I don’t get to for a while; or I simply can’t figure out how to start.

So instead of going directly to writing, I make an outline. Then I can get a lot of story out before I forget it. Even aside from potential forgetfulness, outlining a lot of the story at once can let you see how it will go from a distance, which sometimes lets you catch mistakes or fill in plot holes before they happen.

One last note I want to be clear about–don’t think that in order to make an outline, you have to use the formal format.

outline

You know the kind, with the Roman numerals and all the indentation.

That’s great if it works for you. I tried it once, but I didn’t care for it. Normally I just write broad plot points one line after another, sticking in details when I think of them and want to remember. Here is an example:

outline

Plan for yourself: It’s not easy to practice or try out planning or writing outlines, but I do have a few ideas. And keep in mind, I’m not trying to convince you that planning is better than pantsing. If you already know you work better without an outline or much forethought, then you should feel free to skip this whole thing. However, if you’ve never really given it a try, now’s your chance. If you’re like me, you have at least one story idea rattling around in your brain, waiting to be given form. Take some time now, even if you weren’t planning to write that story now or even soon, to start planning that story. Write out the key plot points, make a sketchy outline, and get it out on paper before it disappears into the void.

Another option, if you’ve written a story (or part of one), have characters you’ve created, and don’t have other ideas just now, is to take those characters and the world they live in and just think up a new situation for them. Something unrelated to the story they’re already in (or it can be related too), even something crazy that you know wouldn’t happen. Outline a scenario, long or short, and see how it feels. The idea is just to see how outlining can feel, with just a random scenario that doesn’t have to have any further purpose. Though who knows, maybe this will spark a more solid idea simply because you’re pushing yourself for a new idea. But even if not, get a feel for the outlining and see what you think. You may like it, you may not.

Of course, if you do write an outline for a story that interests you, the next step would be writing from that outline. You can’t fully evaluate whether you’re a planner, pantser, or hybrid, without going past the outline. But the actual writing is a subject for another post.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the great debate, or anything you produce from the above ideas that you’d like to share.